Can Ice Cream Be Healthy?


A question for the ages.  Like most everything, it’s a question of perspective.  If you try to avoid ice cream, some of the alternatives can be unhealthy as well.  And portion control is also a factor.

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.  Here are her 5 Ice Cream Do’s and Don’ts that may help you in your quest for frozen satisfaction:

DON’T: Try to Trick Your Taste Buds 
Frozen yogurt may be lower in calories and fat than hard ice cream, but just one cup of fat-free soft-serve frozen yogurt packs about 40 grams of sugar, the amount in 4 (single-stick) frozen popsicles or 10 teaspoons of table sugar. That sugar can actually stoke your sweet tooth, and if you don’t feel satisfied, you may eat twice as much, which means even more calories – a half-cup of ice cream is about 250 calories, but a cup of frozen yogurt is about 350 calories.

DO: Keep It Real
If you’re going to go for the real deal, look for homemade-style brands made from simple ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, eggs, and flavorings like vanilla bean (not ingredients like corn syrup or mono and diglycerides). To curb the calories, stick to a half-cup serving, about the size of half a tennis ball, and pump up your portion by topping it with a cup of fresh berries or grilled in-season fruit like peaches, plums, or apricots.

DON’T: Forget About Non-Dairy Options
There are a few amazing brands of coconut milk ice cream on the market now, my personal go-to when I need an “ice cream” fix. Coconut milk ice cream packs about the same number of calories as cow’s milk ice cream, and it’s high in fat, but studies have found that coconut fat may actually aid weight loss. That’s because the type of fat coconut contains, called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), are metabolized differently than other fats. MCTs have also been shown to help raise “good” HDL cholesterol and coconuts provide antioxidants similar to those in berries, grapes, and dark chocolate.

DO: Foolproof Your Portions
Instead of buying a pint, which contains four servings, but can easily be polished off in a single sitting, head to an ice cream shop and order one scoop. Or soften up hard ice cream, fold in fresh fruit, and transfer it to popsicle molds.

DON’T: Be Afraid to Make Your Own
For around $25, you can buy an ice cream maker, which allows you to control what goes into your treat. Or you can make a mock. In my newest book, S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim, I included a few mock “ice cream” recipes made from mixtures of nonfat organic Greek yogurt or a non-dairy yogurt alternative, toasted oats, fresh fruit, dark chocolate chips or nuts, and natural seasonings, like citrus zest, ginger, or mint. Just mix it all up, freeze, and enjoy – you may be surprised how satisfied you feel without the added sugar.


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