Happy National Ice Cream Day! I’m here to report that ice cream need no longer be limited to the occasional cheat. In fact, you can have ice cream every single day of the year and still look and feel good. Just make sure you choose one of these healthy ice cream brands.
During my brief stint on the Atkins diet, I’d sometimes “treat” myself to a half gallon of Breyer’s Carb Smart ice cream. It didn’t taste like much, but when you’re as deprived as I was back then, it’ll scratch the itch. That was about 15 years ago. At the time, Carb Smart was probably one of the few sugar-free or no-sugar-added ice cream options at the supermarket, along with a very similar product made by Edy’s.
Sure, you could go to your local ice cream shop and ask for the one sugar-free flavor that’s been accumulating freezer burn in the back of the store for who knows how long, but sometimes you just want to sit on your couch and proceed with your mini-binge free from public scrutiny.
Fast-forward a decade or so, and the healthy ice cream section of the freezer aisle has metastasized, and now those products actually are healthy. That means you can find physique-friendly ice cream made with real ingredients, absent of the artificial flavors and assorted chemical preservatives that comprised previous incarnations. There are almost too many to choose from and the decision can seem overwhelming unless you have a defined set of criteria with which to assess these products.
You don’t have to be on a ketogenic or low-carb diet to appreciate my three picks. Considering that the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar per year, and knowing that the sweet stuff dramatically increases the risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, it’s not a tough sell to convince us of the need to cut back.
A low-sugar diet no longer means deprivation, however, and assuming you’re moderately active and eating a balanced diet, there’s no reason that the right kind of ice cream product can’t be a regular fixture in your diet.
It’s been estimated that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance, and many of those folks are unaware. If you’re one of them, now you know why you’re always running to the bathroom after a few bites of Ben & Jerry’s. While there are many dairy-free ice cream products out there, nearly all of them are loaded with sugar.
So Delicious uses natural sugar alternatives like monk fruit and erythritol, which contribute zero calories and won’t spike your blood sugar. The base is coconut milk, and the texture is creamy—once you’ve let it sit out for a few minutes and can actually penetrate it with a spoon. If you’re familiar with sugar-free ice cream, you know that it’s rock solid when you take it out of the freezer. No big deal. I’ve been known to nuke mine for a few seconds when I’m really salivating.
I love the So Delicious brand and I use many of their other products but my only disappointment is that they haven’t released a new flavor of their no-sugar added ice cream in years. But that’s OK because the four that are currently available cover most of the bases. Here’s how I rank them, in order from kick-ass to meh:
- Butter pecan
- Mint chocolate chip
2. Keto Pint
This one’s been generating a lot of buzz lately. You may have seen it in Forbes magazine or on delish.
The texture of Keto Pint is spot-on, probably because it’s made with cream and egg yolks. So the products do contain cow’s milk, but the company gets the cream from small family farms whose products are free from antibiotics and growth hormones. Keto Pint is sweetened with a combination of stevia and monk fruit and naturally colored with ingredients like spirulina.
Flavors include mint chocolate chip, cookie dough, sea salt caramel, and my favorite, peanut butter cup. Keto Pint recently added a line of bars in some of the same flavors. An entire pint of this stuff will only contribute nine net carb grams to your daily allotment.
All Keto Pint products are gluten-free and soy-free. I’ve seen it at various Whole Foods locations and you can certainly order it directly from the company if you’re willing to spring for the dry ice. Word on the street is that Costco make be carrying Keto Pint bars, though not in my area. The company has only been around since 2019 so you can expect Keto Pint to start showing up in more stores soon. This brand has staying-power to be sure.
Rebel is my favorite among the healthier dairy-based ice cream products on the market. It gets the slight edge over Keto Pint, mostly because of its more extensive flavor list, which includes some slightly exotic options, such as Cherry Chip and Black Raspberry. My favorite, though, is the Cookies and Cream, with Cookie Dough being a close second.
Rebel uses the natural plant-based sweetener erythritol in place of sugar, keeping the carb count under 10 grams—for an entire pint! According to the manufacturer’s website, Rebel is available at large retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Publix.
What Didn’t Make the List
Apologies to any fans of Halo Top and Enlightened. While I applaud these brands for having pioneered the healthy ice cream industry, their products taste like…well, diet ice cream. And don’t get me started on Artic Zero, which uses water as its base. You can eat the whole pint and still not feel satiated. Then you start looking for something else and your weight loss goals go out the window. That’s the problem with “light” and low-fat ice cream products made with skim milk. Not only is the taste a total letdown but skim milk spikes insulin quite dramatically, putting you in fat storage mode.
Heavy cream, on the other hand, has a glycemic index value of zero! This is also one of the reasons that the ketogenic diet is so effective for fat loss, in addition to the fact that the foods you’re allowed to eat while on it are so much more filling that you often can’t even finish your serving, particularly if you eat this way full-time.
These three healthy ice cream brands make products with the same mouth-feel, texture, and creaminess you want in a frozen treat but without the guilt. Each uses natural ingredients, no Splenda, no maltodextrin, no corn starch, no nastiness. The term healthy means different things to different people, but we have a chronic disease crisis in this country and sugar is implicated in every single one of those conditions. Sugar, not fat.
It’s 95 degrees today here in Massachusetts and I plan to cool down later with some ice cream. I may eat the entire pint, knowing that I can entertain my taste buds while also being a good steward of this one body I’ve been given.