When the weather gets warm, we’re all looking for ways to cool down, including in what we eat. A time-honored, classic treat is ice cream, but generally speaking your Hagen Daas or Breyers just don’t fit the bill when it comes to sticking to a healthy routine. So what are our options for satisfying our sweet tooth without suffering all the guilt? Lucky for us, health and well being is the forefront of many conversations in todays world, so there are some great healthy ice cream alternatives.
We’ve done some research into which types of ice cream and/or frozen treats are the coolest and which ones aren’t worth the freezer burn. Hopefully by the end you’ll have a better understanding of which options might be best for your health journey and which ones will melt away. See these top 5 favorite healthy ice cream alternatives & how they measure up for a healthy routine.
Healthy Ice Cream Alternatives
1) Homemade Italian Ice
Italian ice can be a great healthy ice cream alternative when you need a sweet, cool treat, but the trick is to DIY at home to keep it healthy. Generally, Italian ice from the grocery store is comprised of frozen fruit, added sugar, lemon juice, and most likely preservatives. While it may be fat-free and lower in calories than its cousin ice cream, the amount of added sugar is alarming. You may still be eating up to 30 grams of sugar per serving – not great for your blood sugar levels.
There are tons of clean-eating, healthy Italian ice recipes that can be found with a quick internet search. The beauty of making this treat at home is that you are able to choose what goes in, customize, create, and experiment with ingredients. Overall, making Italian ice is pretty easy too with very few ingredients, very few steps and it’s really ready in no time at all.
We love this easy Italian Ice recipe by carbmanager.com. The recipe replaces added sugars with stevia and honey to help keep sugar content in a healthy range. By choosing fresh or frozen fruits and a sweetener that wont skyrocket your blood sugar levels you’ll be right on track with your healthy diet goals. Italian ice check all the boxes when it comes to a healthy ice cream alternative.
2) Avocado ‘Ice Cream’
Yes you read that right, avocado ice cream. It is a thing and tasty, healthy thing at that; it makes for a very unique, cold, sweet treat that you should give a try. As we all know avocados are a powerhouse of nutrition. One-half of an avocado, which is about 100g, contains 160 calories, 2g of protein, 8.5g of carbohydrates, and 14.7g of fat. Avocados contain healthy, monounsaturated fats; these healthy fats help lower other unhealthy fat levels which have been found in some cases to decrease your risk of stroke or a heart attack.
You may not find this ice cream alternative at the grocery store, but making it at home is fairly simple. With just a few ingredients like ripe avocados, coconut milk, sweetener of choice, lemon juice, mint, maybe cocoa powder, vanilla… you name it, you can blend yourself up a quick creamy, cool treat. Try this simple avocado ice cream recipe by feelgoofoodie.com
While avocados provide tons of nutrition they do come with a higher calorie count due to their higher (healthier) fat content, so keeping to normal portions may be best for your over all diet goals.
3) Banana ‘Nice Cream’
Banana is a great base for a healthy ice cream alternative. One medium size banana contains 450 mg of potassium, 3 grams of fiber fiber, 15 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat, and about 110 calories. Additionally they have smaller amounts of vitamin b6, manganese, vitamin c, and magnesium – all important nutrients for health and proper body function.
While the overall nutritional profile of banana is great, they do come with higher amounts of sugar than other fruits and may spike blood sugar levels. In comparison to your average ice cream, gelato, and standard frozen yogurt though, banana ‘nice cream’ is certainly the healthier, guilt-free choice.
As with the previous healthy ice cream alternative option, freezing and blending bananas with additional ingredients to make your own custom creation is the deal. This DIY, two ingredient banana ‘nice cream’ by asweetpeachef.com is super quick, super-rich, and hits the spot on a hot day. Try adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to ‘up’ the protein and flavor.
4) Fat-free Greek FroYo
Chances are you’ve driven past countless frozen yogurt shops and most likely even stopped in for a “healthy” treat only leave with a mound of frozen, sugar-filled froyo covered in syrups & toppings. We’re saying skip the local froyo shops and DIY at home to actually stay on point with your healthy diet. We know (and you know) things can easily get out of control when you have a couple dozen sugar-filled options when building-up your dessert.
Plain, fat-free greek yogurt is an amazing option to use as a base when making ‘ice cream’ at home. One cup of plain, fat-free greek yogurt contains around 130 calories, 23 grams of protein, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 0 grams fat.
Greek yogurt, in comparison to regular yogurt, is strained of its whey more than regular yogurt giving it a denser, creamier texture which is ideal for a healthier ice cream alternative. Greek yogurt’s denser concentration is also the reason as to why it has more protein than regular yogurt. Fat free greek yogurt is also great for those sensitive to lactose, the extra straining-off of whey also makes greek yogurt lower in sugars and carbs therefore lower in lactose.
Using fat-free greek yogurt is a great way to add tons of protein to your diet in a dish that you typically wouldn’t be getting much nutrition from normally. Try this sugar-free, fat-free vanilla froyo recipe from thebigmansworld.com.
5) Coconut Milk ‘Ice Cream’
Coconut milk whether its full-fat or reduced-fat both make great bases for healthy ice cream alternatives. Not only does coconut milk add a rich, tropical flavor to sweet treats, but like a few of the previous alternatives its vegetarian-friendly.
Coconut milk is the liquid extracted from grated coconut flesh of a mature coconut after its been soaked in water. Coconut milks richness is due to its high-fat content and therefore it is a calorie-dense food item, so a little goes a long way. In addition to being mostly made-up of fats, coconut milk as a base for healthier ice cream does provide more nutrition than your average scoop.
In about one cup, coconut milk contains about 550 calories, 57 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, 13 grams carbs, 5 grams of fiber, 110% of your RDI of manganese which is necessary for a healthy metabolism, bone health, and much more. Coconut milk also includes smaller amount of iron, selenium, copper, magnesium, potassium, folate and vitamin c.
Because it is a calorie-dense food item higher in fat, portion control is something to keep in mind or by choosing reduced-fat or lite coconut milk you can indulge a little more without guilt. If you’re looking for a healthy ice cream alternative thats a little more indulgent than the previous 4 but not quite as unhealthy as dairy-based ice cream, then coconut milk is your go to. Try this keto-friendly coconut milk based ice cream recipe from prettypies.com.
Is your every day ice cream healthy?
A combination of water, sugar, milk, and air, ice cream is made when the ingredients are slowly churned together as they cool. Because of this combination, ice cream is a bit dense in calories and not too dense in nutrition. In a half cup portion, ice cream contains 140 calories, with not too much else to show for it. It holds 10% of your daily calcium intake, but also 20% of your daily fatty acids. The sugar adds a ton of empty calories to ice cream.
This can vary by flavor. Ice cream producers that use real fruits in their strawberry ice cream, for instance, might have some other nutritional value to them. But flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough will have more carbs and calories, with even less nutrition. And adding toppings adds up quickly. Adding two tablespoons of Hershey’s caramel ice cream topping almost doubles the calorie count; a whopping 110 calories, with no nutritional benefits.
While ice cream by itself isn’t the worst snack in small portions, it can easily turn into a nutritional nightmare when we consider added flavorings and toppings.
Is frozen yogurt a healthy alternative to ice cream?
Ice cream’s healthier cousin, frozen yogurt, fairs a bit better. Frozen yogurt is made with cream, sugar, flavorings, milk, and a live bacterial culture, just like regular yogurt. This live culture helps ferment and create the different flavor and texture that frozen yogurt has compared to ice cream. While frozen yogurt tends to have a bit more sugar than ice cream, it has twice the protein and typically is lower in both calories and fat. The live culture, if still present in the final product, also gives you some gut health improvements, although there is some debate into how effective frozen yogurt’s live cultures are. Some frozen yogurts don’t have a live culture in the final product, but they’ll often advertise if they do on the label. There’s also a decent amount of calcium found in frozen yogurt. However, the kind of yogurt base utilized will ultimately change what kind of nutritional value you’re getting.
Regular frozen yogurt, for example, has slightly more calories than fat-free frozen yogurt. However, they’re closer than you’d think. Because fat has flavor, fat-free frozen yogurt adds 7 grams more sugar than regular frozen yogurt in an attempt to add in flavor lost from the fat. There’s also Greek frozen yogurt, which has lots more protein and the least amount of calories compared to regular or fat-free frozen yogurt. We’ve made a chart for you to compare each type.
Also, remember that different flavors and different companies might make slight alterations to their recipes, which will most likely create variations in the nutrition values. Keep that in mind when shopping for different flavors of frozen yogurt.
Is gelato ice cream healthy?
Gelato and ice cream are extremely similar. They both use the same main ingredients: sugar, dairy, and incorporated air. What makes them different is in what proportion those ingredients are added. After the dairy and sugar are mixed, manufacturers measure the overrun, or amount of air that will be incorporated. Ice cream has a high overrun, meaning that lots of air is added in, giving it more volume and a lighter taste. Gelato, on the other hand, has a low overrun, meaning that less air is incorporated.
Another difference is ice cream’s addition of egg yolks, which is rarely an ingredient in gelato. Because of this, gelato tends to have a lower fat content than ice cream. However, because it is more dense, gelato holds the highest calorie count on this list, sitting at 160 calories per half cup serving. However, because significantly less air is incorporated into gelato, it tends to be a much more filling dish, meaning that you probably would feel filled with a smaller serving.
Our conclusion on healthy ice cream alternatives
Ultimately getting creative in the kitchen and making your ‘ice cream’ at home will always almost be the best, healthiest way to go when indulging in frozen treats. It allows you to choose ingredients to fit your unique healthy routine and diet needs.
If you’re looking for higher nutritional value with your cold, sweet treat alternative, any of the 5 healthy ice cream alternatives listed above are great options. When counting calories just be weary about the avocado and coconut milk options due to their higher-fat content and calorie density.
If you’re not able to indulge in your healthier ice cream options at home and need to make a choice while out – we say go with frozen yogurt. Frozen yogurt definitely has the most nutritional benefits in comparison to regular ice cream and gelato. Ultimately, all three aren’t necessarily unhealthy choices, but only in moderation. Don’t give-up on frozen goodies because you’ve started your healthier routine, be sure to give these 5 healthy ice cream alternatives a try before you sweat off ice cream forever. Life is happier and can be healthier with a little bit of ‘ice cream’.