Ice cream and other frozen desserts are mainstays in more than 90% of American homes, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. Sales in the U.S. totaled $20.5 billion—64% of which was regular ice cream—in 2002. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food consumption data for that year show that Americans ate 16.7 pounds of ice cream per person compared to only 6-1/2 pounds of lowfat ice cream, 1.1 pounds of sherbet and 1-1/2 pounds of frozen yogurt.
Two scoops, or one cup, of regular ice cream contain 300 or more calories and about 10 grams of saturated fat (half of a day’s recommendation for a 2,000-calorie diet) which raises blood cholesterol. Premium ice cream has about twice as much fat and calories. Extras like nuts, syrup, hot fudge, candy, cookie crumbs, coconut, whipped cream, chocolate coating and cones add even more calories.
Tennis, anyone? You can offer frozen desserts with no more than 150 calories, five grams fat, two grams of saturated fat and 20 grams sugar in a half-cup serving. One scoop is about the size of a tennis ball. For the health-conscious consumer, “low carb,” “no sugar added,” “sugar-free,” “reduced fat,” “low calorie,” and “added calcium” frozen desserts are available.
Following are summaries of nutritional content for popular frozen desserts:
Ice cream. Brands vary in calorie, fat and sugar content. According to food label regulations for ice cream, one-half cup serving of “lowfat” ice cream contains three grams of fat or less. “Nonfat” or “fat-free” has less than half a gram of fat per serving. “Reduced fat” has at least 25% less fat than regular ice cream, while “light” ice cream contains at least 50% less fat.
By federal standards, ice cream must contain at least 10% milk fat. That translates into about 50% of the calories from fat in regular ice cream and 60% in premium ice cream. Light versions of premium ice cream contain about the same amount of fat as regular ice cream.
Gelato may seem lower in fat, since skim (non-fat) milk is the first ingredient. But, added cream boosts calories and saturated fat. Fudge bars usually contain no more than 100 calories and one gram of saturated fat. They are made from skim milk, sugar and cocoa (low in fat). Creamsicles are nearly fat-free, since they contain sherbet with a small ice cream center. Avoid chocolate-coated ice cream bars with 300 or more calories.
Lowfat ice cream usually contains about half the fat, calories and cholesterol as regular varieties. But, sugar content may be higher, so calories may be as high as regular ice cream. If artificial sweeteners are used, calories will be less. For a half cup, look for no more than 130 calories, three grams of total fat and one to two grams saturated fat.
Frozen yogurt: Calorie and fat content vary depending on added ingredients and type of milk used. Most regular frozen yogurts contain slightly less fat but more sugar than light ice cream. Most frozen yogurts are fat-free or lowfat with about 200 calories and four grams or less of saturated fat per cup. Look for the label seal indicating active, live cultures of bacteria.
Fruit-based products: Sherbet is made from sweetened fruit juice, water, lowfat milk (1%-2% milk fat), 2%-5% milk solids and stabilizers like egg white and gelatin. Sherbet has less fat than ice cream but more sugar, so calories may be higher than in lowfat ice cream.
Fruit sorbet is usually fat-free; the exception is coconut, which has saturated fat. Sorbet is made from fruit puree (rich in Vitamins A and C), water and sugar. Offer unsweetened fruit bars with fruit, fruit puree or fruit juice as the first or second ingredient.
Non-dairy desserts made from soy or rice are free of cholesterol and lactose and low in saturated fat and calcium. Some are high in calories and fat , but lowfat varieties are available.
Baked goods: Serve small portions of such items as pie, muffins and cake. Fat-free products may be high in sugar, and sugar-free products may be high in fat—so calories may be about equal. Look for less than 300 calories, five grams of fat, two grams of saturated fat, 20 grams of sugar and at least three grams of fiber per serving. Lowfat cookies include gingersnap, oatmeal, biscotti and animal crackers.