Light and Luscious Ice Cream (cont.)

The Scoop on the New Technologies

Enter the new churning technologies, which enabled manufacturers to use the same ingredients as in full-fat ice creams while still reducing fat and calories.

In 2004, the largest ice cream manufacturer in the United States, Dreyer's (Edy's on the East Coast), introduced its top-secret method of blending. Its trademarked Slow Churned process allows the company to produce a premium-tasting ice cream with half the fat and one-third fewer calories.

"Our Slow Churned blending process pushes the fat molecules through a very small space, stretching them out so the ice cream tastes like it contains more fat," says Dreyers' Kim Goeller-Johnson. "In essence, a little fat goes a long way, allowing for the taste and texture of full-fat ice cream in a lower-fat product."

The process occurs at very low temperatures, which helps reduce the size of the fat and ice crystals. Thus, Dreyer's/Edy's can now make ice creams with around 5 grams of fat taste as rich as ones with 15 grams of fat. Today, the company offers more than 30 flavors in its Slow Churned line.

Other companies have since developed their own blending technologies. Haagen-Dazs uses "a proprietary European process of low-temperature blending" for its light ice creams, while Breyers' process churns the ice cream twice for a creamier texture. Breyers' Double Churned Extra Creamy products include regular as well as light flavors.

Read the Small Print

Even when purchasing one of the new light ice creams, it's important to read the small print on the label to determine how healthy the product really is, dietitians say.

"By looking at the first five ingredients on the list of ingredients, you can get a good feel for what is contained in the product," says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, a cookbook author and WebMD's "Recipe Doctor."

Her review of the ingredients on a carton of Edy's Slow Churned mint chocolate chip (listed in order of volume) found the product contained milk, skim milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup, among other things. Going a step further, she checked the nutritional facts panel to learn that this flavor has 120 calories in a half-cup portion, with 43% of the calories from sugar and 34% of the calories from fat.

"I give it thumbs-up because it is lower in fat and calories, tastes great, and uses good ingredients," Magee says.

Many of the plain flavors of light ice cream, such as chocolate and vanilla, are around 100 calories per half cup, while flavors with add-in goodies may be 120 calories-130 calories per half cup. Breyers' Double Churned No Sugar Added vanilla has only 80 calories per serving, and also includes 4 grams of fiber (which can help keep you feeling full).

It's important to note that, even among the "healthy" ice creams, some products --- including some Haagen-Dazs light flavors -- contain as many as 250 calories per half-cup serving.

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