The Scoop on Finding Healthy Ice Cream

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Ah, ice cream — it’s the creamy and satisfying frozen treat that’s always a crowd favorite. But pint-by-pint, it’s easy to go overboard, especially in July, which happens to be National Ice Cream Month. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) points to ice cream as a major source of added sugars, which account for an extra 13 percent of calories on average per day in the standard American diet. Here’s how to indulge in the classic summer dessert without bingeing on excess calories, sugars, or saturated fats.

If You’re Craving a Creamy Treat…

There are many healthy alternatives to your standard scoop of cream, milk, eggs, and sugar. You can easily achieve the same creamy consistency of frozen ice cream by blending a batch of avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, or even spinach until smooth and letting the mixture harden in your freezer. Many of these healthy fruit and vegetable substitutes are also great for anyone who is lactose intolerant (swap in nut milks) or following a vegan diet (swap in alternative sweeteners like dates). To boost flavor, you can use fresh herbs; pure extracts like vanilla, mint, or lemon; and toppings like fresh berries, cinnamon, cocoa powder, flavonoid-rich dark chocolate chips, or unsalted crushed almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, which are good sources of fiber and minerals.

If You Want to Buy a Skinnier Ice Cream…

Don’t be fooled by the diet ice creams in the frozen aisle touting a better-for-you low-fat and low-sugar delight. Oftentimes, they’re loaded with added sugars or artificial sweeteners to make up for the missing fat content that’s responsible for the richness of traditional ice cream. The artificially sweetened diet ice creams can fool your body into overcompensating for missing calories since your body develops a resistance to the overproduction of the hormone leptin, which should signal to your brain that you’re satiated, so you may end up eating more than you should. Go ahead and pick old-fashioned, full-fat ice creams and brands that boast the least amount of chemicals and filler ingredients. When it comes to frozen yogurt, stick to these five tips to enjoy in moderation.

At the end of the day, a bowl of ice cream is not at all bad for you, but no matter which ice cream you choose, pay attention to portion sizes. A good rule of thumb is to limit each serving size to a half cup, the perfect size for a cone or cup.