In what is surely the best sentence we’ll write this year, you absolutely can eat ice cream for breakfast and have it RD-approved to boot. In fact, according to Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert and co-author of Sugar Shock, the right ice cream recipe could actually be a great way to introduce some much-needed nutrients into your body. “Only 20 percent of people get the recommended one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half cups of fruit per day, so a fruit-based ‘ice cream’ can be a fun and delicious way to get some extra fruit in your diet,” Cassetty says. “The antioxidants in fruit also help protect cells from free radical damage that can initiate inflammation and diseases like heart disease. Plus, fruit contains fiber, which nourishes your gut microbiome, aka the collection of bacteria that regulate inflammation, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, mood, and immune functioning.” (Sold yet?)
Of course, pureed fruit alone does not an ice cream (or a well-balanced breakfast) make. To that end, Cassetty recommends adding some other wholesome ingredients that can also lend that telltale creaminess that ice cream needs. You can blend your fruit with nut or seed butters, as these foods are plant powerhouses that supply vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and other health-supporting bioactive substances. You can also add in Greek yogurt or kefir for some gut-friendly probiotics, and shower the dish with toasted nuts or chia seeds. As an added bonus, all of the above options are packed with protein, which is a super important nutrient (along with fiber) to include in your breakfast. "Starting your day off with plenty of protein is key, especially because breakfast is your first opportunity to repair muscle tissue that breaks down overnight during your body’s natural maintenance process," Cassetty says.
And while you could (of course) use these recipes to make ice cream for any time of the day, Cassetty strongly recommends starting your day with a filling, nutritious meal. “One reason breakfast is often cited as the most important meal of the day is that it’s much harder to meet your nutrition needs when you skip it,” she says. “For instance, a study comparing breakfast eaters to skippers found that 74 percent of people who skipped this meal did not meet two-thirds of the RDA for vitamins and minerals, in contrast to the 41 percent of breakfast eaters who didn’t meet their nutrient targets.” Moreover, the American Heart Association suggests that skipping breakfast is associated with a greater risk of heart disease, as breakfast skippers are more likely to have high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.
To help you make the most out of your morning meal in any weather, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite nutrient-rich breakfast ice cream recipes below. Best part? None of the above require an ice cream maker—you'll just need a blender or food processor to whirl up these recipes.
6 breakfast ice cream recipes packed with protein and gut-boosting benefits
1. Banana Cherry Ice Cream
This vanilla-scented cherry banana ice cream recipe comes from Cassetty herself, who often turns to this dish for breakfast. “I like to think of breakfast ice cream as a cousin to a smoothie,” she says. “You’re going for the same balance of ingredients, but the consistency is closer to soft-serve ice cream.” The added bonus of this delicious, protein- and fiber-packed bowl: It includes caffeine. (Truly, what else do you need?)
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen cherries
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup canned and rinsed chickpeas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cold coffee
Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend on high. Scrape down the sides and continue to blend until smooth. Scoop into a bowl and enjoy!
2. Vegan Peanut Butter Ice Cream
This recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie pulls protein from both your milk of choice and peanut butter, and you can opt to add bananas, nuts, or other power ingredients for extra textural contrast. Topping it with toasted peanuts (or warm peanut butter—the ultimate ice cream topping, IMHO) is a power move. Not into peanut butter? Swap it for almond butter, sun butter, or cashew butter instead.
Get the recipe: Vegan Peanut Butter Ice cream
3. Tahini Chocolate Banana Soft Serve
Tahini, or sesame seed butter, is packed with fiber, protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals. Add to that cacao powder, a great source of antioxidants, pitted dates, a dash of maple syrup, and sliced frozen bananas, and you’ve basically got the dreamiest, creamiest vegan soft serve recipe in the books. (Thanks, Minimalist Baker.)
Get the recipe: Tahini Chocolate Banana Soft Serve
4. Mango Basil Ice Cream
You need just four ingredients to make Camille Styles' fabulous mango basil ice cream that is arguably the *most* refreshing way to start your day. Full fat coconut milk has anti-inflammatory properties, while mango has plenty of antioxidants and vitamin C. Feel free to also drop in some fresh or frozen watermelon chunks if you have any lingering in your crisper drawer.
Get the recipe: Mango Basil Ice Cream
5. Chunky Monkey Banana Ice Cream Bowls
Thanks to the walnuts, peanuts, and bananas in this recipe, you’re staring at a protein- and fiber-packed breakfast ice cream recipe that can more than jumpstart your day. Toasting the walnuts and peanuts ahead is a major flavor-booster, but if you're short on time, this nutritious take on chunky monkey from Food Faith Fitness will taste incredibly rich and delicious regardless.
Get the recipe: Chunky Monkey Banana Ice Cream Bowls
6. Healthy Blender Raspberry Ice Cream
Thanks to a heaping serving of Greek yogurt and plenty of fiber-rich raspberries, this protein-packed ice cream from Primavera Kitchen is a super gut-friendly way to start your day. The raspberries and bananas are loaded with antioxidants, and if you want to up the protein even further, opt for dairy milk, soy milk, or pea milk rather than almond.
Get the recipe: Healthy Blender Raspberry Ice Cream
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