Ice Cream as Food

Ice Cream as Food

Recently, I was watching a food segment on a popular television talk show, and was surprised to hear the guest, a diet expert, proclaim that ice cream is a “superfood!” Wow! I hadn’t heard that one before.

In case you don’t know, a super food is a food that has nutritional and health benefits above and beyond what would be considered normal food. Some foods that have been designated “super foods” include, blueberries, green tea, turmeric spice and pomegranates.

Click here for more information on Super foods.

While it is true that ice cream may have some nutritional value, especially if it is homemade from fresh ingredients, or a commercial brand that uses quality ingredients, calling it a "super food," creates uncomfortable visions of people consuming large scoops on a daily basis.

In addition, many commercial brands of ice cream are loaded with sugar, fat and additives that are definitely not super good for your health.

MY TWO CENTS about Ice Cream as Food

I must say here, that ice cream is absolutely my favorite dessert! I could be the person they were referring to when they coined the cute phrase, "I scream! You scream! We all scream for ice scream!"

I can justify including ice cream in my diet because, in addition to its great taste and texture, it can be a source of nutrients such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin A and Vitamin D.

I know there are better sources of these nutrients than ice cream, but none that are quite as tasty! I believe that part of a healthy eating lifestyle is choosing foods that you really enjoy that are also healthy for you. Ice cream certainly satisfies the first requirement and, though marginally, may satisfy the second.

Having said that, I am careful about what kind of ice cream I choose and also, make sure that it is an occasional treat, eaten in appropriate portion sizes, and not a regular habit. The sugar and fat content are what make it a "dessert" and although it is super tasting, it is not, in my opinion, a "superfood!"

A while ago, we purchased a "Yonanas" machine which uses frozen bananas and other fruits to make a soft-serve type dessert that is supposed to mimic soft-serve ice cream. For real ice cream connoisseurs, this will not be the same. However, it may be useful as a way to cut down on ice cream consumption with a healthier replacement.

Here are some tips for choosing and consuming ice cream as food:

It should have ingredients that you recognize as food.

When you are looking at food labels ingredient lists, keep in mind that the healthiest foods generally have ingredients that you recognize. If the list reads like a chemistry lab experiment, you may want to look for a product that contains more real food and fewer chemicals. If this is not always possible, at least be aware of the limitations of these “unnatural” foods with regard to your health, and use them consciously and sparingly.

Keep it simple

Generally, the simpler versions of a food will contain fewer additives. For example, if you like to go out for ice cream, a dish of vanilla ice cream will generally have fewer additives than when it is enhanced with toppings and flavorings. The same applies if you buy ice cream at the grocery store. You will need to read the label to be sure, but look for plain flavors such as vanilla in a good quality brand that uses basic ingredients.

Also, keep in mind that you can buy the plainer flavors and then add your own high quality toppings at home. In my experience, low-fat and no-fat versions are loaded with additives to compensate for the loss of flavor and texture when the fat is removed. This can also be true of low or no-sugar versions. It might be better to eat less of the unadulterated versions than to risk your health with an additive-laden alternative.

Make your own with healthier ingredients.

In the “olden days,” making ice cream at home was an occasion. You can recapture the fun by breaking out the hand crank freezer or the more modern electric crank or frozen canister versions. You will find that ice cream you make yourself tastes better and because it requires time and planning, it will not be something you do every day, making it unlikely that you will overdo.

Make sure you know about portion size.

The serving size established by the USDA for ice cream is ½ cup. You need to be aware that this amount and only this amount of ice cream (which is not much by most people’s standards!) will supply the calories, fat, etc. that are listed on the rest of the label.

Just once, take a half-cup measure and see what a serving really looks like in your bowl. Then you will know, for future reference, if you are eating more or less than the “serving size” listed on the label. You should only have to do this one time, and then you will be able to choose your portion wisely.

Plan ahead.

Going out for ice cream is often part of summer festivities with family and friends. You can be part of the fun and still be healthy, if you decide ahead of time what you will have. Many ice cream stands have a web page that will tell you what is in their products, but failing that, you know you are pretty safe if you keep it simple by choosing a small vanilla cone or a scoop of chocolate or strawberry ice cream in a dish. In this way, you can satisfy your desire to stay healthy without missing out on a great American tradition!

If you are one of those people who can't resist overeating when you have ice cream in the house, then don't have it in the house. Limit yourself to going out for ice cream, occasionally, and then it won't be calling you from the freezer or replacing the nutritious foods you need in your healthy diet. You may also find that if you don't make it a "forbidden food," you will be able to eat it in moderation and without guilt.

Ice cream as food: Wise behavior versus likely to happen

There are a number of health experts that will tell you that ice cream as food doesn't ever work.  While there is some wisdom in this more extreme position, most people are not willing to go that far.  It is for this reason that I have given you some ways to make ice cream as food a more viable concept. 

If you want to make the most of ice cream as food, watch your portions, be more choosy and even make your own!

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

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