A little research (and label reading) is in order if you want to keep ice cream as a regular part of your diet. Here's what you need to know.
Indulge in a Better Ice Cream
While ice cream does contain bone-building calcium, you're better off getting calcium from other food sources since ice cream contains about half the calcium as an equal serving of milk, which is lower in fat and calories. Don't fool yourself into thinking you're eating healthy by getting calcium from Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s—both of which can pack more fat per serving than a fast food hamburger!
Some ice creams, especially "light" varieties are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead. Using artificial sweetener in place of some or all of the traditional sugar can reduce calories, but these sweeteners aren't for everyone and may cause stomach upset when eaten in high quantities.
In general, regular (full-fat) ice cream contains about 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Besides the fat content, premium brands pack more ice cream into each serving because they contain less air—they are denser and harder to scoop than regular brands—meaning more calories, fat and sugar per serving. Low fat or "light" ice creams weigh in at about half the fat of premium brands but they still contain their fair share of calories thanks to the extra sugar added to make them more palatable.
Toppings such as chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles send the calorie count even higher, and don't offer any nutritional benefits. Choose vitamin-packed fruit purée (not fruit "syrup"), fresh fruit, or nuts, which contain healthy fat, protein and fiber. While chocolate does have some health benefits, most choices like chips and syrup are usually full of fillers with very little actual chocolate. If you want extra chocolate, use a vegetable peeler to shave dark chocolate over the top of your serving.
If animal-based products aren’t part of your diet or you can't stomach dairy, you can choose from a wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts such as soy, coconut or rice "cream." These desserts cut the saturated fat because they don’t contain milk or cream, but can derive around 50% of their calories from fat (usually by adding oil to the product for smoothness or “mouth feel”).
So what should you look for when you want to indulge in a creamy dessert but not go overboard? SparkPeople dietitian, Becky Hand, recommends checking the nutrition label and choosing a frozen dessert that meets these guidelines per 1/2 cup serving: