I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for… “The Ice Cream Equivalent of O’Doul’s”

What do bad days, break-ups, and summer time all have in common? You got it! Ice cream makes them all better. Whether it’s the flavors, the temperature, the creaminess, or an insatiable, inexplicable need, ice cream is the friend of many and the foe of few. How much is too much? Well, considering it’s well-known that the dessert stomach is completely separate from the meal stomach, some people can very well polish off a measurement some would generalize as “a tub.” For most people who don’t have quixotic, self-loathing goals, a pint would be considered “a tub” and for many people too much… for others though, it’s doable.

As published recently in The Wall Street Journal, a new breed of ice creams have entered the scene in recent years. In the article, Eric Koenreich, a gym owner, refers to them as

“the ice cream equivalent of O’Doul’s.”

While people may have mixed opinions about these lower calorie ice cream desserts, there’s one thing that’s undeniable: they’re definitely lower in calories. So is it okay to eat a whole pint?

First, let’s look at why they’re so much lower in calories. In looking through the ingredients lists of big brands such as Halo Top, Ben & Jerry’s Moophoria, and Breyer’s Delights, there are 2 things that stand out. One is that skim milk or water is the first ingredient instead of full-fat cream. The second is that sugar is not the predominant sweetener. Instead, erythritol and Stevia leaf extract are used (aside from Ben & Jerry’s, which is notably more calories).

When it comes to thinking about the healthiness of these things, it’s important to realize something, which breaks my heart to say out loud: ice cream is not actually a necessary food group. Knowing that, if you’re faced between choosing regular ice cream or one of these lower calorie options, the choice is yours. It’s true that they are significantly less calories, but they also contain more ingredients that don’t pass the “easy-to-pronounce test,” a test I refer to as being able to easily recognize all the ingredients in the ingredient list… a crude measure of processed foods. For some people, that matters more than the calories.

“easy to pronounce test…” a crude measure of processed foods

What’s for sure is that this is not a substitute for meals. Make sure not to use up your meal stomach with desserts since you’d be missing out on a lot of recommended nutrition! After all, like age, calories are just a number and don’t reflect what types of foods they’re coming from. Lower calorie doesn’t mean healthy and higher calorie doesn’t always mean unhealthy. Eating a whole “tub” of ice cream, regardless of what kind though – as much as we want to believe this isn’t true – is probably not a good thing.

 

Have questions about your heart health? Ask here!

Published by: Mark P. Abrams, MD

I'm an Internist, Educator, and Cardiology fellow in training. As the Director of Patient Engagement at Heartbeat Health, my goal is to make trustworthy information easily accessible and more available so that people can become more active members of their healthcare teams. By joining together, we can work toward keeping more people healthier, happier, and living longer fulfilling lives.

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