Eating Well With Kim: Ice Cream

By: Kim Beavers Email
By: Kim Beavers Email

As a mom and a dietitian, I do try to have healthy foods in my home.One indulgence, though, is ice cream.

Maybe this is because I remember eating ice cream with my grandmother on many nights or the excitement of homemade ice cream on her porch or just the fun carefree days of summer and popsicles. Regardless of the memories, frozen treats are particularly wonderful in the summer.

This is a fairly comprehensive review of frozen treats you can find in our local stores, along with some nutrient guidelines to keep your cool in the summer and on the scale.

The nutritional content of ice cream varies, depending on the brand and flavor. It is important to remember that a serving size is only half a cup (think two golf balls or half of a tennis ball). For example, one pint of ice cream contains four servings and many people will eat the whole pint at one time. Put the pint down!

Premium: Wow, this is the good stuff, but is it heavy or what? Even if you are able to stay within the half cup serving size, you are looking at about 300 calories and 10g saturated fat. This is definitely an occasional food.

Regular ice cream: OK, this is lighter than premium but still on the high side, especially if you want a serving every night. Regular ice cream averages about 150 to 200 calories a serving, with about 4-7g saturated fat.

Light ice cream: OK, here we have a little more wiggle room, so to speak. Portion size is still important, of course, but each serving will only cost you about 120 calories and about 2.5g of saturated fat, depending on brand.

Fat-free ice cream: Food technology has come a long way. The thought of fat-free ice cream used to make me cringe but now they have added some polydextrose and use a double churning method that leaves the reduced fat and fat-free ice cream still tasting creamy. Calorie range: 70 to 100. Saturated fat range: 0g

No-sugar-added: Keep in mind this does not mean sugar-free or carbohydrate free. It does usually mean less sugar and generally, this class of ice cream is lower in fat as well. These usually contain a combination of artificial sweeteners. Calorie range: 90 to 130. Saturated fat range: 0g to 4g.

Frozen yogurt: Frozen yogurt has a few nutritional benefits not found in ice cream; for starters, it has live active cultures. In addition, many of the frozen yogurts have more calcium than ice cream as well. Calorie range: 100 to 190. Saturated fat range: 0 to 2g.

In addition to ice cream, there are many other bars, ice cream sandwiches, cups and fruit bars gracing the shelves in the ice cream aisle. The good thing about some of those items is that they are individual portions, which helps keep portion size in check … that bad thing is that some of these are just as high -- if not higher -- in saturated fat than ice cream AND some of them are more than one serving! There goes the portion help.

Good choices include:

  • Fudgsicle (no sugar added)
  • Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Fudge Lites
  • Skinny Cow Minis, Low Fat Fudge, Skinny Cow Truffle
  • Kroger or other store brand fudge bars
  • Klondike 100 Calorie Sandwich
  • Skinny Cow No Sugar Added Sandwiches
  • Healthy Choice or Weight Watchers Sandwiches
  • Skinny Cow or Weight Watchers

The bottom line is: When you eat ice cream, do so in moderation and of course, enjoy whichever variety you choose. If you choose lower-calorie options, you can work them into your diet more often but portions always matter! Look for ice cream bars and novelties with 150 or less calories and 3g or less saturated fat

Fruit bars and popsicles:

  • Eddy’s Fruit bars (some flavors come with all-natural color and flavor)
  • Private selection (some flavors come with all-natural color and flavor)
  • Popsicle (Dora the explorer) brand actually comes with no artificial flavor or color as well
  • Dreyer’s or Eddy’s Fruit Bars No Sugar Added
  • Breyer’s Pure Fruit
  • Whole Fruit Sugar Free
  • Kroger Private Selection fruit bars
  • Ciao Bella Sorbet Cup
  • Plain old popsicles (you know the liquid kind in plastic that you toss in the freezer?) ... They are sugar and artificial color, so not healthy per se, but they do usually come in under 50 calories, so they can certainly fit into the diet as a summertime treat.

Frozen Dairy Alternative desserts (serving size: half a cup):

Rice milk frozen dessert: This is a non-dairy alternative, which is good for people with kidney disease (low in potassium, phosphorus, and calcium). It is also good for those who wish to avoid dairy for allergies or for food practice reasons. Generally, these are not low in fat but are low in saturated fat.

Frozen soy desserts: As the name implies, these are made from soy milk and are usually low in saturated fat as well. Some have more fat than others.

Frozen coconut milk dessert: This is the dairy alternative product with a saturated fat content that rivals some premium ice creams. However, the saturated fat in coconut milk is medium chain fat and therefore acts differently than the saturated fat found in animal products.

Sherbet and sorbet: Most are fat free; however, some are higher in sugar than others. Sorbet made with chocolate and coconut milk are the only ones with a significant amount of fat. Calorie range: 110 to 200. Saturated fat content: 0.5g to 6g.

Bottom line: Keeping portions small and limiting ice cream to special occasions are the best ways to keep ice cream consumption moderate. If you do wish to include it in your diet more often, continue with the portion control and then look for ice cream containing 2.5g saturated fat or less per serving.

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