Whether it's time to celebrate or you've simply had a long day, ice cream is often the dessert of choice! In fact, Americans consume roughly 20 pounds of ice cream each year according to the International Dairy Foods Association. That's equivalent to about 4 gallons per person!
While we know that ice cream is a decadent and sweet treat that should be consumed in moderation, it can be hard to know exactly what we're consuming. Pint sizes are smaller and are easy to eat in one sitting but they can also come with astronomical amounts of calories, fat, and sugar. Plus, there are so many brands to choose from. How can we enjoy this sweet treat without overindulging or choosing an incredibly unhealthy option?
If you're looking to enjoy ice cream without consuming excessive calories and nasty ingredients, we've rounded up 4 of the most unhealthy ice cream brands to avoid. We're also including a few tips for finding healthier brands the next time you shop. Here's everything you need to know!
Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's are known for their decadent and unique pint flavors. With varieties like Everything but the…, New York Super Fudge Chunk, and Chubby Hubby, these pints include more than just ice cream. Each one comes with some combination of candy, nuts, or other creamy additives.
While all of their creative combinations are delicious, this brand of ice cream usually comes with another sneaky additive: Saturated fat. Their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor includes 65% saturated fat along with 380 calories and 34 grams of sugar per serving. Keep in mind that there are 3 servings in each pint! It's easy to see how these numbers can stack up rather quickly.
To keep your portions in check, consider purchasing their mini cups instead of the pints. This allows for portion control and keeps the calories, sugar, and saturated fat from reaching excessive amounts. If you're truly a Ben & Jerry's lover and want to find a few healthier options in this brand, Eat This Not That ranks each of their flavors by nutrition as a helpful guide.
Another popular brand on the market is Haagen-Dazs. This brand offers rich, creamy, and decadent flavors like White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle and Dulce de Leche Churro allowing it to position itself as a higher-end ice cream brand on the market.
However, with these rich flavors comes a lot of sugar and saturated fat. Haagan Dazs' Coffee Chocolate Brownie ice cream pint has 360 calories, 12 grams of saturated fat, and 31 grams of sugar per serving. While there are only 2.5 servings in one pint (which is less than Ben & Jerry's) consuming the entire container means indulging in 900 calories and nearly 78 grams of sugar!
Blue Ribbon Classics
While Blue Ribbon Classics may seem like a healthier option than Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Dazs due to its simplicity and less-decadent flavor options, this brand doesn't have a great ingredient list. Each of their recipes includes thickening agents and artificial flavoring which can alter the flavor and make it difficult to digest. Their containers also refrain from saying ice cream and instead say “frozen dairy dessert.”
However, this brand does have a slightly lower calorie count along with less saturated fat and sugar. Their classic Cookies ‘N Cream flavor has 160 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 17 grams of sugar in every 2/3 cup serving. But be wary of the ingredient list. Blue Ribbon's Homemade Vanilla recipe includes thickening agents like cellulose gum, guar gum, and cellulose gel. Other flavors include artificial dyes like Red 40.
Blue Bell Creamery
While Blue Bell Creamery has been in operation for over 100 years, its ice cream lacks simple and whole ingredients. Not only are some of their recipes like Homemade Vanilla missing natural ingredients, but they've also replaced sugar with high fructose corn syrup. Other additives like cellulose gum and vegetable gum take away from the flavor and make the taste feel like it's artificially created.
One of their flavors, Pecan Pralines ‘n Cream, brings back a few natural ingredients like milk, cream, and sugar, but this increases the calories and fat. If you were to eat an entire pint of this flavor, you could indulge in 750 calories, 21 grams of saturated fat, and 82 grams of sugar. That's the equivalent of drinking two 12-ounce cans of Coke!
Ice Cream Ingredients to Watch Out For
When we choose to enjoy ice cream, we know that we'll be indulging in a sweet treat that will be higher in calories, fat, and sugar than whole foods. The tricky part about ice cream is that when you choose a “lighter” option that feels healthier, it often comes with yucky additives and processed ingredients.
To help you in your ice cream purchasing journey, here are a few ingredients you can avoid to make a healthier choice:
- Emulsifiers like cellulose gum which can be difficult to digest.
- Artificial colors like Red 40 and Blue 1.
- Partially hydrogenated oils which have a high level of trans fat.
- Sugar alcohols or zero-calorie sweeteners, which are often found in brands trying to reduce calories or use the label “no sugar added.” These sweeteners can disrupt digestion and increase sugar cravings.
- Artificial flavors and oils like soybean and cottonseed.
How to Choose a Healthier Ice Cream Brand
While we know ice cream isn't a healthy food, there are some brands that use more whole and natural ingredients. Keep in mind that just because a brand or flavor has fewer calories, doesn't mean it's necessarily the healthiest for you. Be sure to check the ingredients list and choose which option is best for you.
Additionally, what is quantified as healthy for one person may not be for another. Your overall health goals will come into play when you decide to choose which kind of ice cream to purchase. Whether you're trying to eat organic or you're simply trying to reduce calorie intake, each ice cream brand has its own pros and cons.
Here are a few brands that offer a slightly healthier ice cream experience:
- Jeni's Ice Cream for its whole and natural ingredients.
- Alec's for its certified organic ingredients like A2 dairy which can be easier to digest.
- Tillamook with recipes that don't contain artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, or high fructose corn syrup.
- Halo top for less calories and sugar and higher protein amounts. Keep in mind that this brand does use artificial sweeteners, though.
While ice cream is most definitely a delicious treat, it helps to be mindful of healthier options available on the market today. Keep in mind that we are not registered dietitians and cannot recommend what's right for you. But we hope these tips will help you to make a healthier choice the next time you celebrate or need a pick-me-up after a crazy day.
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