by SELF Staffers
photo: Romulo A Yanes With warm weather in full swing, ice cream is on the shopping list as a treat for hot days. There is certainly no lack of options in this department of the grocery store but which is really the best for you and tastes good?
Since taste is high priority for these treats, we can throw fat-free and sugar-free ice cream right off the list. They just don't compare in flavor or texture to the real thing and often times aren't as healthy as they sound. If they eliminate fat, they often add more sugar, which is slightly lower in calories but not necessarily better for you. They also have to add more ingredients to get the same creamy mouthfeel when they take the fat out. If they cut sugar, they use alternative sweeteners which are usually less satisfying and also require the addition of other less natural additions to allow for proper thickening and freezing. Both options are less like ice cream and more like a science experiment - not comparable options to the real thing!
That leaves us with frozen yogurt and slow-churned ice cream as our "healthiest" alternatives. Both have less fat and calories than real ice cream does but still taste good.
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Frozen yogurt is usually made from nonfat milk as well as a sweetener (sugar or corn syrup), flavoring and of course, active cultures (like all yogurt contains). There is also a thickening agent but often times it's a natural one like egg yolk. Sometimes you'll see a little cream in the ingredient list to add some body and mouthfeel to a naturally fat-free product. Overall most of the brands I have seen try to keep frozen yogurt as a healthy, natural product that might not quite compare in texture to ice cream but has good taste and isn't overly processed. In a 1/2 cup serving of vanilla you'll get approximately 120-180 calories, 1-2.5 grams of fat (1 gram saturated), 22 grams of sugar and 9 grams of protein. Depending on the brand, you might not actually save many calories with frozen yogurt, but you will always be taking in less fat and saturated fat.
Slow churned ice cream has become a big seller in recent years. It is made using a combination of nonfat milk and milk, sugar and flavorings. The calories are about 1/3 less and fat is 1/2 of what you'll get in real ice cream because cream is not the primary ingredient. In order to compensate for the removal of fat, rather than adding gums and starches as thickening agents they simply churn the ice cream in a different way which eventually leads to a nice thick texture without really any other manipulation needed. Slow churned ice cream has the taste and texture of real ice cream for about 110 calories, 3.5 grams of fat (2 grams of saturated), 16 grams of sugar, and 3 gram of protein.
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When it comes to taste and texture, I prefer slow churned- it can trick people into thinking it's real ice cream!
That being said, remember you are not comparing two equivalent products. They both are better than ice cream nutritionally but in different ways. Frozen yogurt is lower in fat than ice cream but not always calories. Slow churned is lower in fat and calories than ice cream, but not as low in fat as yogurt is.
There are plenty of brands to choose from and a variety of flavors (try to stick to simple flavors so you don't drive up the calorie count with chocolate and peanut butter swirls). I love Breyer's and Edy's but there are lots of others so try what you have available at your store the next time you are looking for a cold treat that is less indulgent than ice cream is!
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by SELF Staffers