But I Just Want Some Ice Cream!?!

by in Healthy Tips, July 3, 2009

Ice Cream
It may seem like it’s “bad for business,” but I’m a dietitian who absolutely loves ice cream! Working at an ice cream shop for years not only helped pay for my education, it made me a connoisseur of the creamy cold stuff. Since I’m a firm believer that no food should be completely off limits, it’s okay to indulge in ice cream — just keep these tips in mind.

The Cold, Hard Nutrition Facts
A half-cup serving of vanilla ice cream can range from 140 to 230 calories and 7 to 14 grams of fat per serving. This isn’t so bad if you can keep that portion to just a half cup. This is why I always urge my clients to order the smallest size available (usually a kid’s size) or to measure out portions and then put the container out of sight. If cookie and candy-filled ice cream is more your style, be especially careful as a half cup of cookies and cream or cookie dough might go as high as 270 to 300 calories and 17 to 20 grams of fat. Calorie and fat content varies significantly from brand to brand, so check the labels on your favorites to get the most accurate info.

Ice cream does contain calcium (about 10 to 15% of your daily needs per serving). But you’re better off getting the majority of your calcium from lower-fat, less sugary options like skim milk and non-fat yogurt — they have closer to 30% per serving.

Shop Around
Rather than just buying from the grocery store, find a local ice cream shop where they make their own (this will help you indulge less often). I was shocked to see how much junk and preservatives go in to many store-bought ice creams, too. There are some decent brands out there, but they are few and far between so check ingredient labels carefully. I like some of Ben & Jerry’s flavors, and Häagen-Dazs just came out with a line called “Five” — it only contains five simple ingredients (and you’ll recognize everyone of them).

If you really want to control what’s in your ice cream, try making your own. Electric ice cream makers make it easy, and they don’t cost much more than a few family trips to an ice cream parlor. All machines operate a little differently, so check the directions on your machine. Choosing vanilla or fruit flavors and going light on the “mix-ins” will help keep the calories on the lower end of the range — check your machine manual for recipes, too.

Tips for Ice Cream Bliss
Frozen yogurt and light ice creams are a reasonable option. They are often lower in fat but do still contain a decent amount of sugar and calories. Amazingly, some flavors may have a similar calorie count to regular ice cream. Soft-serve varieties also tend to be lower in fat and calories because they aren’t as creamy. What about gelato? This Italian version of ice cream has gotten trendy in the States recently. It’s made a bit differently and has less air churned into it. Gelato has amazing flavor and super-creamy texture (and there are so many flavor options), but the calories and fat are very similar to regular ice cream so don’t overdo it.

Of course, there are times when only the real thing will do. But if a half-cup portion just isn’t going to cut it, look to the yummy add-ons. Trade high-calorie, high-sugar toppers — cookies, fudge and whipped cream — for a small amount sprinkles (a.k.a. “jimmies” or “shots”), nuts or fresh fruit. A refreshing and fizzy ice cream soda made with sparkling water is another great option, too.

TELL US: What’s your favorite ice cream treat?

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Comments (20)

  1. Krikri says:

    Ice cream seems to be everyone's favorite but little did many also know that a mere substitution of fresh fruit with fat laden topping will enable them enjoy their favorite delicacy without weight troubles. Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt is something many can do if they are hard pressed for time and want something simple. In combination with chocolate chip, the ice cream looks great.

  2. I love just taking a scoop or two of vanilla frozen yogurt and mixing in some fresh cut-up cherries. Yum!

  3. Russ Lane says:

    I don't trust my ability to behave with most "lite" ice creams/frozen yogurt — in losing the 250+ pounds, I found in the long run I'm better off going to a great Gelato shop in the French Quarter and getting a small serving of the real thing. Turns out far cheaper, to boot.

    That's a strategy I use often: look for high quality with built-in portion control devices called "travel time" and "price" and "small/by the slice."

    A quick fix at the house is taking some good quality plain nonfat yogurt (Yoplait or Fage) and spiking it with vanilla whey protein, about 1/2 tablespoon dutch process dark cocoa, a pinch of cinnamon (or Cayenne for a Latin twist), dried cherries and crushed pecans/walnuts/Fiber One. It's more a pudding than an ice cream, but either way it tastes like pure sin.

    As an aside, I find it dismaying that so many have to apologize for the things they like to eat when there's no reason to. There's no reason. Anyone expecting, or trying to be "the Patron Saint of Health" is setting themselves up for either disappointment or a ice-cream-headache-inducing dose of hypocrisy. Way I see it, it's all about cost/benefit and choosing what's really important to you in invigorating your life — on your own terms.

  4. katie says:

    I tried some goats milk ice cream over the weekend…still contains sugar but a bit less fat and is easier on the belly for those that cant digest cows milk well! Also…tart yummy flavor similar to goats cheese! Another of my favorites are chocolate, soy ice cream sandwiches…you can find some for less the 100 calories and no artificial sweeteners (Trader Joes has one of my favorites).

  5. Emily says:

    I love making homemade ice cream but I haven't been able to replicate a decent low-fat version at home. All the recipes that I've had success with makings in my Cuisinart machine are sinfully indulgent and are mostly custard-based, therefore with many egg yolks and lots of cream! I always replace whole milk with low-fat milk, but if you take away too much of the fat it doesn't come out right. I feel like you really need some kind of industrial equipment and thickening agents to make lower-fat ice cream that tastes like the real deal. Does anyone have any good recipes for low-fat ice cream, not just frozen yogurt? I looked at the low-fat chocolate ice cream recipe above, but as soon as I saw the first ingredient ("chocolate flavor instant pudding") I shuddered and closed the window immediately- yuck!

  6. Lynne says:

    My husband and I have discovered non-fat frozen yoghurt and are quite pleased with it. Granted there is some sugar, but the calorie content is less than half of regular ice cream and the flavor is excerllent. We use Blue Bunny brand or Dreyers.

  7. Leigh says:

    Just to support the point of the article: Everything in moderation. Enjoy real ice cream!

    Ever notice that the first bite always tastes the best when you're satisfying a craving? Ever notice that when you eat a small bit of something rich that the flavor lingers on so you're enjoying it even after you've swallowed it? Sometimes just a little bit of the real thing is the better than switching for a lower-cal lower-fat lower-sugar substitute filled with chemicals or so "lite" that you're not satisfied even after eating a full cup of the stuff.

  8. George says:

    Have you tried icream made with splenda ? I have and I like it and you don't have to worry about the sugar. Just the cals.

  9. Mary Joan says:

    Trader Joe's has a nonfat, plain frozen yogurt that has an interesting tart flavor and tastes rich and creamy. If you pair it with raspberries or any fresh fruit and a 1/2 tsp ground nuts sprinkled over top – yummy! A half-cup serving contains 100 calories, 20 g carb, 0 fat, 3 g protein, vit A, vit C, calcium, and iron.
    It would be great with peaches or any summer fruit. When softened, you can use it in place of whipped cream/topping on top of a fruit crisp. I was thrilled to discover it.

  10. Mary Joan says:

    A great sauce for the T.J.'s frozen yogurt in my previous comment is to take fresh blueberries, microwave a pint for 2 minutes (some will turn into a syrup, some will remain whole), with splenda or whatever sweetener you'd like – a drizzle of honey is good. Then stir in some freshly grated lemon rind and set aside to cool. Use the syrup warm or cold over plain frozen yogurt. Slice on some strawberries for a patriotic dessert.

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