Summer Eating: Weight Loss & Ice Cream, Lowdown (cont.)
"The predominant, overriding factor of choice is calories since most people are choosing these products to maintain a healthy weight," says Jackson. "It has nothing to do with how many carbs or how much fat is in it."
Depending on your health status, other nutritional factors to consider may include how much saturated fat, sugar, cholesterol, and sodium the product contains.
"Oftentimes, if you get a product that is fairly low in calories and fairly low in saturated fat, all the other things fall into place," says Jackson.
Dorfman, a registered dietician who lives in Miami, knows a thing or two about beating the heat as a marathon runner. She says when choosing between an item that's low in fat but high in sugar and one that's low in sugar but high in fat, it may be safer to splurge on the one that's higher in sugar and lower in fat if you want to cool off without piling on the pounds.
"The fat is going to stay with you because you're not using as much energy. You move more slowly in the hot weather," says Dorfman. "Fat takes time to use. You've really got to be out there burning away to use a fat source."
"You want to eat easily assimilated food that's easy to metabolize and digest, which means food high in carbs," says Dorfman. "Sugars digest the fastest, that's why they're called simple sugars."
"If people following a low-carb diet are going to eat sugar at any time, summer is the time to do it," Dorfman tells WebMD.
Testing the Treats
But a treat is not a treat unless it tastes good and satisfies your cravings.
So in the name of science and relief from the summer heat, WebMD's editorial staff conducted an informal taste test of a variety of low-carb and low-fat ice creams and frozen yogurts.
The test revealed that low-carb ice creams earned praise for their creaminess, no doubt thanks to their much higher fat content. But some found the taste "a bit off."
The low-fat items got lower marks for texture and mouth feel, but redeemed themselves with their sugary sweetness.
Jackson warns that some people may be sensitive to the sugar alcohols, such as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and other polyols, that are used in producing low-carb ice creams and can cause diarrhea or bloating.
"With sugar alcohol molecules, part of the molecule is going through your system undigested. Some people are sensitive to this and should use high caution when they see sugar alcohols listed in the ingredients," says Jackson.
Put the Freeze on Portion Control
One of the biggest issues in preventing an occasional cool treat from derailing your diet is portion control.
Contrary to popular belief, a pint of ice cream -- no matter how healthy it may be -- is NOT intended to be eaten at as a single serving in front of the TV. Those nutrition facts printed on the side are based on a single, half-cup (4-ounce) serving, which translates to four servings per pint.