The truth about frozen treats
Everyone loves frozen treats in summer, but if you’re watching your diet, you might be wondering about their impact on your health. Can you sneak in that bowl of ice cream or give your kids a popsicle on a hot day? Jennifer Steele, a registered dietitian at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, weighs in on your most burning (or freezing!) questions about frozen desserts.
“There is room for all foods in a healthy diet,” says Steele. “That said, desserts generally do not fall into the category of ‘healthy,’ per se. In the overall diet, sugar should be minimized, as should saturated fat–ideally to 7g or less per day. If you compare the nutrition labels, you’ll find a significant amount of sugar and fat in ice cream per ½ cup serving, and most people consume more than just a ½ cup. Dairy-based popsicles have a fat content similar to ice cream. Juice-based popsicles have fewer overall calories due to their zero fat content, but often make up for what they lack in fat with added sugar to increase taste.”
While “healthier” alternatives exist, Steele says to read the labels with a grain of salt.
“Always consider what ingredients are being traded out,” she says. “For example, in the increasingly popular Halo Top brand, you’ll find less fat and sugar, but also the addition of sugar alcohol. Other brands use artificial sweeteners to make up for lower sugar content. While these sweeteners contribute minimal calories, they can cause stomach upset when consumed in high amounts. Frozen yogurt is another common alternative, but many brands add more sugar to make up for the naturally tart flavor.”
Is it still a good idea to opt for these “healthier” alternatives? Steele says not necessarily.
“People often forget that these alternatives are still dessert and should be consumed in moderation,” she explains. “Dessert is meant to be enjoyed, so if ice cream is what you really want, go ahead and eat it. Otherwise, you’ll probably just be unsatisfied by the ‘healthier’ alternative and could wind up consuming an entire pint of Halo Top, which, at 370 calories, amounts to roughly the same thing as if you’d just eaten that ½ cup serving of regular ice cream. If you prefer the taste of frozen yogurt or Halo Top, go for it. You can get added benefits like probiotics and less overall fat content. But keep in mind what will agree with your body and what will not (i.e. whether sugar alcohols upset your stomach, etc.).”
Above all, Steele says to remember that word: moderation.
“Indulge in the foods you truly enjoy eating, but on an occasional basis,” she says. “Consuming ice cream or other desserts two or three times per month is not likely going to wreck your normal eating patterns, but restricting yourself from ever enjoying those foods might.”
So have that occasional frozen treat, but also remember there are many other ways to beat the heat.
About the Author
Sophie Mark, health enews contributor, is a Public Affairs Intern at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. She is also a student at Loyola University Chicago, where she is completing her degrees in Advertising/Public Relations and English. In her free time she loves reading, baking, and exploring the city.