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Ice Cream: Nutrition, Downsides, and Best Choices

25 min read -

Ice cream is one of the world’s most beloved desserts. But is it really the best choice from a nutritional perspective? The short answer: there’s a little bit of good and bad in everything. In the case of traditional ice cream, the bad might outweigh the good. 

As the modern consumer’s attitude towards diet and nutrition continues to shift in a more conscious direction, brands are beginning to evolve. Some of them are interested in making the stuff that’s bad for us a little less bad for us, while others are seeking to create alternatives that are purely beneficial to our health. The ice cream game has changed, and if you pick up the right pint, you can eat the whole thing for breakfast, guilt-free.

A Look at Traditional Ice Cream

Traditional ice cream is made with full-fat dairy. The good news? Full-fat dairy is really high in protein. A serving of traditional ice cream will usually provide anywhere between 4 and 7 grams of protein per serving, depending on its mix-ins or flavor. You’ll also get calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and iron on every spoonful.

So what’s the problem? In many cases, you’re looking at over 30 grams of added sugar in each serving. If there’s six times more sugar than protein, we’ve got a little bit of a problem. If you follow the American Heart Association’s guidelines, a single serving of ice cream can easily exceed the entire daily recommended limit of added sugar. 

There may not be anything wrong with saving traditional ice cream for very special occasions, but it’s really not something your body will appreciate you eating on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of daily dessert - it just means you should find a more beneficial alternative that you can enjoy daily.

Traditional “Light” Ice Cream

On the surface, traditional light ice cream seems like the perfect answer. It’s lower in calories and sugar, leading people to believe that it must be healthier. While it’s good to choose foods that are lower in added sugars, you need to consider what they’re doing to make those foods so sweet. 

Since light ice cream doesn’t use full-fat cream or sugar, they formulate their ice creams with sugar alcohols and thickening agents. Most people’s bodies don’t react well to sugar substitutes. They’re hard for the body to break down, and they have no nutritional value. 

These products aren’t necessarily healthier. They’re simply more artificial than regular ice cream. If you’re trying to make healthier choices, switching to artificial or heavily processed food isn’t exactly in line with that philosophy.

Ice Cream Made With Nut Milk

Nut milk ice cream seems to be a valuable alternative for people who cannot have dairy and are not allergic to tree nuts. If you have a nut allergy, go ahead and skip this part. 

Nut milk ice cream, despite what you may have been led to believe, isn’t really healthier than dairy ice cream. It may have less fat and fewer calories, but it also has much less protein and may contain the exact same amount of sugar. 

Nut milks are naturally low in protein, because the nut itself is not in the milk. The protein is strained away with the crushed nuts when almond milk or cashew milk is created. Nut milk doesn’t actually boast the nutrition of nuts in the way most people expect it to. 

These ice creams are sweetened with sugar, just like traditional ice cream. If they aren’t, they’re using artificial sweeteners like light ice cream. It’s really a no-win situation. In the end, many nut milk ice creams may technically be worse for you than traditional ice cream. At least you’re getting some protein with your sugar when you go the dairy route, barring a dairy allergy or intolerance of course!

Ice Cream Made with Oat Milk

Oat milk ice cream is dairy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free. It’s easy to see how it would be appealing to so many people. It’s friendly to so many allergies and dietary restrictions that it’s hard to believe that it may not be that great for you.

Oat milk ice cream usually contains a gram or less of protein per serving. There are no vitamins or minerals in oat milk. There is, however, a substantial amount of added sugar. This nutritional void means that oat milk ice cream is filling your stomach without powering your body, ultimately making it a good alternative for those with nut or dairy allergies, but not so great for everyone else.

Ice Cream Made With Coconut Milk

The only thing that makes coconut milk ice cream different from oat milk or nut milk ice cream is a little bit of potassium and a little bit of iron. These nutrients naturally occur in coconut milk, but otherwise coconut milk is low in protein and other nutrients. Its low sugar content means the formula has to be bulked with added sugar or sugar alcohols to turn it into a sweet treat. 

The most significant advantage of coconut milk-based ice creams over nut milk-based ice creams is that they’re naturally creamier. Coconut milk is fattier than nut milk, allowing it to lend a better texture to the dessert. Although the texture may be pleasing, it doesn’t play a role in the nutritional content of the dessert.

Ice Cream Made From Alternative Bases

Snow Monkey is very different from other ice cream alternatives. It’s designed to be high in protein and is naturally sweetened with fruit and maple syrup, rather than refined white sugar, artificial sweeteners, or sugar alcohol. The base is made from bananas and pureed apples, making the dessert naturally creamy without the need for thickening ingredients.

Snow Monkey is free from all eight major allergens and is vegan-friendly. Rather than coming from dairy, the protein in Snow Monkey comes from hemp seeds and sunflower seed butter. Our unique formula is also paleo diet-friendly. 

Snow Monkey is just as indulgent as ice cream, but is as healthy as a smoothie. Fruit and seeds work together with ingredients like berries or chocolate to create a dessert nutritionally suitable for breakfast. You can dig into a whole pint in a single sitting if you really wanted to. The dessert is designed to power your body without any artificial or processed ingredients, including unnecessary refined sugar. 

The Takeaway

If you’re looking for an ice cream that supplies your body with the nutrients it needs to power it, your options are limited. Many ice cream alternatives are designed to give the appearance that they’re healthier, but a quick look at the ingredients and nutrition facts tells a different story. It doesn’t matter how pretty the packaging is or how many pictures of plants are on the label. The proof will always be in the ingredients.

Snow Monkey uses natural ingredients to create a nutritious dessert. Snow Monkey is built to eat every single day. It’s the most indulgent health food you’ll ever find. We come in classic flavors like chocolate, strawberry, and mint chocolate chip. We also have some fun flavors like passion fruit and matcha green tea. Each flavor has its own antioxidant profile, adding another layer of benefits to every bite. Try it. You’ll become a believer at your first spoonful.



Daily Intake of Sugar — How Much Sugar Should You Eat Per Day? | Healthline

How is almond milk made? | The Takeout

Bananas: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts | Live Science

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