The Best of the Light Ice Creams
Ready for a healthier treat? Here's a guide to the best of the new light ice cream products.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
Americans love their ice cream - and have ever since Thomas Jefferson brought the recipe for it home from France more than 200 years ago. The combination of sweet taste and creamy texture is in a word, magical. The good news is that you can now find most any flavor you might desire in a low-fat version. And the even better news: Many of these "light" ice cream brands are great-tasting!
All sorts of product lines are now using the new churning technologies, which allow manufacturers to use the same ingredients as in full-fat ice creams while still cutting fat and calories.
You can also find plenty of ice cream treats in which manufacturers have reduced the sugar by adding sugar alcohols. (But keep in mind that sugar alcohols can cause intestinal distress for some people - especially those with irritable bowel syndrome -- if they consume too much of them.)
Do Fat Grams Matter?
Some of the well-known premium (that is, higher-fat) ice cream brands, like Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's, are now making "light" ice creams, too. Of course, their light ice creams can be nearly as high in fat and calories as other brands' regular ice creams.
Do these richer light ice creams, which have around 8 grams of fat per serving, really taste much better? Well, I've got to say, there are some awesome flavors out there with only around 4 grams of fat. It depends partly on the flavor and the brand, but overall, I don't think you get that much more satisfaction by taking the calories and the fat up a notch.
Some might really enjoy the Slow Churned yogurt blends like Dreyer's/Edy's Cappuccino Chip (with 110 calories and 3.5 grams of fat per serving). Others might be drawn to the Dreyer's/Edy's Loaded Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup (140 calories and 6 grams fat per serving). Both of these taste so good, that I can't imagine that it would that much more enjoyable to eat one of the premium ice creams, with 15 or more grams of fat per serving.
Reading the Label
There are five main things to look for on the label of an ice cream treat. It's not all about fat grams! Per half-cup serving (the standard serving for scoop ice cream), your best bets will have:
More Fiber Than Whole-Wheat Crackers?
You might be surprised to learn that some ice cream bars actually have more fiber than a serving of whole-wheat crackers. It seems that 3 to 4 grams of fiber per serving is becoming the nutritional norm in this dessert category. It might help make your serving seem more filling.
There are also a few types of ice cream that have 2 grams of fiber per serving. They include Starbucks Lowfat Ice Cream, Ben & Jerry's Lowfat Frozen Yogurt Strawberries & Cream, and Dreyer's/Edy's Loaded Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup.
Best of the Light Ice Creams
The light ice creams and light ice cream bars in the table below are "best bites" because they had most of what you should be looking for nutritionally. (Those that also were lower in added sugar -- 15 grams or less per serving -- have an asterisk before their names.)BEST BITES (ICE CREAMS)