It sounds like something out of a fantasy world: ice cream that is actually good for you. These reduced-calorie and low-sugar treats are beloved by many and are marketed as the “healthy” way to enjoy ice cream. But are these “healthy” ice creams the real deal – or too good to be true? Let’s dig our spoons in a little deeper and find out.
What makes them different from regular ice cream?
Regular ice cream is made with milk, cream, and sugar. These other frozen desserts typically have a longer ingredient list including water, some milk (usually skim) and other ingredients like whey protein, milk protein isolate or concentrate and added fibers.
When sugar and fat are removed, something needs to be added to make it taste good and to give it a similar mouthfeel as regular ice cream. It varies depending on the brand, but many of them have erythritol – a sugar alcohol – as well as stevia or monk fruit (sugar-free sweeteners). Many brands use different gums like carob gum and guar gum to try to mimic the consistency and mouthfeel of full-fat ice cream.
Ok – but are they really healthy?
The ingredients of these products – water, skim milk, monk fruit, stevia, gums – are not “bad” for you per se, but they also don’t provide any health benefits either. Yes, these “healthy” ice creams are much lower in calories, sugar and fat. But is this a good thing? Not necessarily.
One of the big problems with desserts that are marketed as healthier is that it leads to the idea of “it’s better for me, so I can eat as much as I want”. One of the leading “healthy” ice cream brands even boasts a tagline on their pints: “eat until you see the bottom”. This type of thinking can cause you to lose sight of your body’s signals because instead of responding to your body’s feelings of fullness and satiety it becomes “I’m going to eat it all because I can”.
The other issue: healthy ice creams are never as satisfying as the real thing. The taste and texture are different, and the lack of fat means that our hunger-suppressing hormones aren’t triggered. If you are craving ice cream and try to eat one of these instead, chances are you won’t be satisfied and you will continue to search and graze on more foods to try to find that feeling of satisfaction. So while you may have reached for a healthy ice cream in order to eat fewer calories, you may end up eating more in the long run than if you had just eaten the real thing.
The Bottom Line
The best thing you can do is to give yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want, including ice cream (and other desserts). Keep real ice cream in your freezer at all times. Yes, at first you may end up overeating it. But eventually you get used to it being there and your body learns to truly trust that it can have ice cream whenever it wants, so you won’t feel the need to binge on ice cream when you do eat it.
Have you tried these “healthy” ice creams? Share in the comments below.
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