“Healthier ice creams’ are big business right now. Brands like Halo Top, Breyers and Oppo are selling out as quick as shops can restock them and overtaking the big players like Haagen Daz and Ben & Jerries. These new brands boast statements like “only 280 calories per tub”, make the “Impossible Possible”, “Temptation you never need to resist” and they’re significantly lower in calories than traditional ice creams.
If you’re on a calorie deficit diet and are trying to lose weight, yep calories really do count. These lower calorie brands can help you enjoy ice cream which might otherwise send you over your calorie allowance. However, studies also show that you’re much more likely to over-consume lower calorie foods as you subconsciously allow yourself to eat more because they are lower in calories and ’thus healthier’.
BUT just because they’re lower in calories…does that mean that they’re healthier?
Wooooah controversial eh?
Before you start booing, I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat your favourite ice cream or should avoid these brands. As a nutritionist, i just can’t help questioning ingredients in foods and looking underneath some of the marketing ‘bumph’ that food companies use to sell to us.
So let’s look at the ingredients.
Real dairy ice cream is typically made up of 3 main ingredients cream, sugar, and eggs.
Big brand Haagen Daz uses fresh cream, condensed skimmed milk, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla extract in their vanilla ice cream. (216 calories per 1/4 tub).
Halo Top uses milk, eggs, sweetener (erythritol), dietary fibre, milk protein concentrate, cream, organic cane sugar, emulsifier (vegetable glycerin), vanilla flavour (1%), vanilla beans, sea salt, stabiliser (carob bean gum, guar gum), sweetener (steviol glucosides (stevia) in their vanilla ice cream. (280 calories per tub).
Haagen Daz contains a short list of familiar-sounding ingredients while Halo Top contains the usual cream, sugar, and eggs along with a list of processed ingredients added in place of the fat and sugar and to give it the added protein and fibre content it boasts.
I’m not saying that either one is better for you than the other here, it comes down to preference but personally, I like to know what’s in stuff so I can make an informed choice.
If you love the taste of Halo top – great! But if you’re just eating it because you think it’s ‘healthy’ and you really would prefer a few scoops of Haagen Daz that’s another story. You could still have 2 scoops/1/4 tub of Haagen Daz for 216 calories (and without the processed ingredients). At the end of the day, it’s all about balance and enjoying what you love in moderation.
One thing I do have an issue with is the message these new ice cream brands portray around portion control -labeling ice cream as a naughty food but that you can enjoy their brand ‘guilt free’. Gram for gram yes, these new brands are significantly lower in calories than some traditional ice creams. Hell, there’s only 280 calories in a whole tub. You can eat the whole tub, right?. “Indulge guilt free”.
If you struggle with portion control and have to eat a whole tub, yes these brands could help you minimise the damage by consuming only 280 or so calories instead of 1300+. However, if your overall goal is to lose weight, portion control is one big factor that you could look at as part of the bigger picture to help that weight come off a little easier and stay off long term.
So what’s the take-home message?
Don’t buy a food just because you’re told it’s healthier. Read the ingredients yourself. Find your own balance, pay attention to portion size, calorie balance and there’s no need to cut out, substitute or feel guilty about any of your food choices.