You’ve likely seen hordes of healthy ice cream options popping up in the freezer aisle, with labels that boast fewer calories, more protein, and less sugar. But are these treats as good for you as they seem? Registered dietician Tracy Lockwood-Beckerman took to Well+Good’s YouTube channel for another installment of You Versus Food to share her top tips on what to look for for a healthy-ish ice cream.
1. Prioritize fiber if you can
Beckerman recommends comparing the labels of your favorite frozen treats to see how much fiber is in each variety. “Fiber is great for lowering the ice cream’s glycemic index, meaning your blood sugar may not spike as much after you eat it,” she says. When your blood sugar is volatile, you’ll feel a “crash” after a sugary snack, and you’re more likely to reach for more sweet stuff to feel better. With fiber in the mix, she says your blood sugar is better able to self-regulate and stay stable.
2. Watch out for some sugar replacements
To cut down on sugar, lower-calorie ice cream brands sometimes use sugar replacements like erythritol, monk fruit, and stevia. While these are technically “healthy” ingredients, Beckerman notes that they can cause G.I. issues like bloating or gas in some people. If you know you have a sensitivity to a certain sweetener, be sure to check the label, and size your portions accordingly.
3. Skip super low-fat ice cream
It might seem like a great idea, but unless you particularly like a brand or flavor that happens to be very low in fat, don't feel like you have to prioritize it for better health. "If something is lower in fat, there's a higher risk you won't be satisfied after a serving, causing you to finish off the whole pint," Beckerman says.
4. Don't restrict yourself for no reason
If you’re following a specific eating plan or need to avoid certain foods for health reasons, check those ingredient labels. But if you don’t have any dietary restrictions, Beckerman says it's totally fine to just eat *gasp* regular ice cream. “This will leave you feeling more satisfied, and will likely reduce the need to snack after polishing off that bowl of ice cream,” she says. So don’t be so quick to throw away your rewards card for your local scoop shop—a dietitian said so!
TL;DR: Ice cream can absolutely be part of a healthy diet in moderation, Beckerman says. To see the five brands Beckerman compares, as well as her personal fave, check out the full video above. And remember: “Not having ice cream in your freezer? I declare it in-cone-stitutional!”
Vegans, it's your time to shine. We rounded up five of the healthiest (and yummiest) vegan ice creams around, for no mo' ice cream FOMO. And if you want to feel better about your milkshake habit, we found a healthy milkshake that packs in two cups of veggies. You're welcome.
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