If you’re like me, you believe that ice cream is always an excellent idea (regardless of the time of year...or even the time of day, in some cases). You may also be like me if you walk into the ice cream aisle at your grocery store and gawk in amazed wonder at the seemingly endless options…high-protein, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free ice cream with sprinkle birthday cake chunks!?
Keep reading if your first thought in these situations is, “Where do I even begin!?" In this post, we’ll cover 3 factors to consider before purchasing ice cream. We'll also review some of the most common ice cream/frozen dessert options available. After reading this blog, you’ll be on the right path to finding your perfect scoop.
- Satisfaction: will this ice cream actually taste good, or will it feel more like eating frozen cardboard? Although certain ice creams may be a “healthier” option, what’s the point of sadly scraping the bottom of a pint if it leaves you unsatisfied and wanting more? You might be better off opting for a more decadent option that requires less volume to satisfy that sweet tooth.
- Tolerance: can you physically “stomach” this ice cream? Many of us know that traditional ice cream causes digestive issues for those with lactose-intolerance (lactose is a sugar found in milk that is difficult to digest for certain individuals). It’s also important to note that some non-dairy or “light” options contain thickeners and gums that create a creamy texture but may cause an upset stomach. Other ice creams may also contain sugar substitutes or sugar alcohols that can also disrupt the gut. If your ice cream is causing digestive discomfort, it might be a good idea to seek out alternative cool treats.
- Lifestyle: do you avoid animal products for moral or religious reasons? Is it important for you to support smaller businesses? Nowadays, lots of grocery stores carry all kinds of vegan-friendly options (coconut, almond, cashew, and soy-based to name a few), as well as smaller, artisanal brands.
A review of most ice creams you’ll find in the store.
Note: no matter which option you choose, the most important thing to remember is that all foods can be a part of a healthy diet when enjoyed in moderation. The important thing I always stress about good nutrition is that it's all about the big picture- a scoop of ice cream here and there, no matter what kind it is, will not "ruin" your diet. In fact, click HERE and HERE to discover why indulging in dessert isn't necessarily a bad thing. Find your go-to, serve yourself a scoop or two, savor it, and move on with your day!
Traditional Ice Cream: a solid, classic option if you include dairy in your diet and can tolerate it (as a native Oregonian, I recommend Tillamook...#notsponsored)
Non-Dairy “Frozen Desserts”: there are so many options out there for those looking to enjoy a cold, sweet, creamy treat not made from cow’s milk. Different bases offer different qualities such as...
- Coconut milk: the creamiest, non-dairy frozen dessert that comes closest to the texture regular ice cream (in my opinion)
- Almond milk and cashew milk: can contain less fat than coconut milk varieties, which leads to a lighter, less creamy texture
- Soy milk: contains less fat and therefore has a less creamy texture than the above options, while still maintaining a sweet flavor
- Fruit-based: essentially frozen fruit that has been puréed with sugar and thickeners to create a smooth treat. Because these desserts are naturally fat-free, they’re a great option if you’re looking for a lighter, less decadent option
- Avocado-based: believe it or not, avocado, rich in healthy fats, is the perfect base for a creamy, indulgent treat. If you can get past the unconventionalness of this dessert, you may find you really enjoy it!
High-Protein/Low-Calorie/"Light" Ice Cream:
- Dairy varieties: with these desserts being higher in protein, lower in fat, and lower in calories, it’s easy to understand why many reach for an entire pint of these instead of a few scoops of traditional ice cream. When asked about these ice creams, my response is always, “If you enjoy it, keep eating it...but don't feel like it's your only option.” I also like to remind people that the thickeners/gums used to achieve the creamy texture in these ice creams may cause digestive issues. I don’t consider light ice cream better than traditional ice cream, because I know that different people have different needs and preferences, and the best option is one that you can truly enjoy in moderation. I personally enjoy light ice cream as a post-workout treat that’s a yummy source of quick absorbing protein and carbs.
- Non-dairy varieties: the same ideas I mentioned with the dairy varieties also apply to non-dairy varieties, although it's important to mention that these can be a bit more expensive. If you truly enjoy these ice creams and feel they're worth the extra few dollars, I won't hold you back.
What's your current go-to ice cream? Has this post inspired you to try a new variety? Whatever ice cream you choose, remember that you deserve to enjoy it with 100% satisfaction and 0% guilt. YEAH GIRL!
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