Today is National Ice Cream Day. Ice Cream is as American as apple pie. Ice Cream is a tasty, pleasurable treat. I’m sure we all have an all time favorite flavor. My favorite flavor is Rum Raisin, yummy. Also, I’m sure we all have fond memories of when we were children racing to the ice cream truck that would come bellowing down the neighborhood street on a hot summer day. We would jump in excitement wanting to be the first in line to get the tasty treat. All the while I’m sure our parents were wondering how much of a mess we would make as we gobbled up and sometimes spilled the tasty treats on our Sunday best. And of course, the licking of the sticky fingers is also a fond memory. Dare I say for some of us adults, we are probably still licking our sticky fingers clean.
Unfortunately, Ice Cream can pack on the pounds. It’s full of added sugar, unhealthy fats, additives and thickeners. The sugar rush is sure to give us a jolt of energy, but unfortunately that jolt of energy is quickly followed by a sudden crash. One serving of ice cream is roughly a 1/2 cup. That half cup can contain upwards of 250 calories, 14 grams of sugar and 7 grams of fat. How many of us eat only a 1/2 cup of ice cream?
No worries, we can still enjoy ice cream without the guilt and without packing on the pounds. Here are healthier alternatives:
- Frozen Yogurt: Pick unsweetened yogurt and flavor it with frozen fruits for flavor.
- Sorbets: Sorbets can be a great substitute as it’s primary base is frozen fruit and sweetened water. It is generally low in fat. Since it is made with sweetened water it’s important to know the sugar content if you are trying to keep the sugar in your diet low.
- Homemade Ice Cream: With homemade ice cream you are better able to control the amount of added sugar. Also, you can choose to use other natural sugar substitutes such as dates, maple syrup or honey.
Be mindful not to fall for ice cream that are disguised as being “low fat,” “light” or “sugar free” ice cream. Low-fat and light ice cream can be lower in grams of fat but food manufacturers make up for the lost fat by adding more sugar to make up for lost flavor. Also, low fat and light ice cream can be sweetened by artificial sugar substitutes such as aspartame. In addition, “sugar-free” options can be deceiving as milk naturally contains carbohydrates. But even more alarming “sugar free” ice cream may be sweetened by sugar alcohols which add to the total carbohydrate content. Lastly, because you think you are choosing a healthier alternative you are more likely to feel less guilty and end up eating more ice cream.
If you are going to eat regular ice cream try to stay at the recommended serving size and try to pick brands made with natural ingredients such as milk, eggs, sugar or fruit.
The bottom line read your nutrition labels. Know how much carbohydrates you are consuming and what type. This can be especially important if you are trying to lose weight, trying to maintain your weight or you are a Diabetic that has to monitor your blood sugar levels. Eating ice cream is fun and it tastes good, so enjoy it, just eat it in moderation.
by Marjorie Binette, MD