Healthiest ice creams

In her favourite edition of Supermarket Sweep, dietitian Jemma O’Hanlon reviews icy treats that claim to be healthy.

There’s a new breed of ice cream for the health conscious. Whether it comes with prebiotics, a higher protein content or without sugar, some of the offerings just seem too good to be true.

So do the health claims really stack up, and how do you know which ice creams are the best for you? I’ve happily done all the research for Fitness First magazine. Here are my picks of the bunch.

Overall winner: Halo Top Vanilla Bean

Per 100g, Halo Top’s vanilla ice cream comes in at 392kJ, with 8g of protein and 8g of sugar. It uses stevia as a sweetener and has some prebiotic fibre as well as milk protein concentrate. The texture is a little denser than other ice creams, but that’s to be expected with its higher-protein ingredients, including eggs.

Highest protein: FroPro Chocolate

Now don’t get me wrong, the best sources of protein come from whole foods like lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and milk. But if you’re looking for an ice cream that might also tick the protein box, FroPro wins the race with 10.4g per 100g. FroPro is also sugar-free and sweetened with stevia.

Best flavour: Over The Moo Dream Team Cookies ‘n Cream

Made with coconut cream, it’s no surprise that one of the highest-kilojoule ice creams of the bunch delivered the best taste. I loved the creamy “coconuttiness” of this ice cream and the texture of the cookie chunks. Just don’t be fooled by the health halo, as a dairy-free label doesn’t make it healthier.

Best portion control: Skinny Cow Vanilla Caramel Ice Cream Sundae

Being individually portioned, you only eat what’s served in front of you and there’s no temptation for just one more scoop (which, let’s be honest, often becomes 10 scoops!). The vanilla caramel sundae is just 435kJ per serve (88g). Taste-wise, you can’t compare it to a rich and creamy full-fat ice cream, but it does give you that feeling of having a treat without the temptation of a large tub.

How healthy are they, really?

What we need to remember is that ice cream is ice cream. It’s not a fruit or vegetable and you can’t pick it off a tree. It’s a highly processed food that just happens to be incredibly delicious, especially on a hot summer’s day. So rather than getting caught up in all the nutrition claims and a bit of extra protein here or there, my advice is to enjoy ice cream in small portions and in moderation. Keep it as a sometimes food and make it a real treat when you have it. It’s a little more difficult to eat ice cream mindfully because it melts so quickly, and most lower-kilojoule products melt even quicker because they contain more air!

If you’re worried that having ice cream in the house will cause you to overindulge, then the simple solution is to get rid of it. If it’s there, chances are you’re going to eat it. Even as a dietitian knowing all the tricks of the trade, it was incredibly hard not to overindulge having so much deliciousness in one place. And it doesn’t come down to willpower. It’s the science of combining the sugars and fats in the right ratios that sets our brains on fire and makes us scream out for more.

So instead of stocking up on ice cream at the supermarket, make it a tradition to grab an ice cream with your family when you’re on holidays at the beach. Or when you’re out on a special date night, why not grab a small tub of gelato after dinner and share it between the two of you? Don’t get caught up in the health hype with ice cream – you’re far better off considering ice cream as a food to enjoy on a special occasion.

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