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Non-Dairy Ice Cream: Is It Better For You?

25 min read -

Non-dairy products are easier to find now than they’ve ever been before. More and more people are eliminating dairy from their diets, and there are plenty of reasons why this decision is beneficial for their health. If you’re contemplating switching to non-dairy ice cream because you believe it will be healthier for you, pause for a second. 

Some non-dairy ice creams are healthier for you, but they aren’t healthier simply because they don’t contain dairy. It’s the ingredients companies choose when formulating their products that ultimately dictate how healthy their desserts will be. Many non-dairy ice creams are just as unhealthy as dairy ice cream. 

If you want a truly healthy ice cream, there’s a lot more to consider.

What’s In Dairy Ice Cream?

Dairy ice cream contains dairy milk, dairy fats, sugar, and whatever mix-ins or ingredients are needed to provide the ice cream with flavor. The list of potential ingredients for dairy ice cream essentially has no limits. Most of the time, you’ll encounter flavors derived from even more sugar. Caramel swirl is just sugar that’s been caramelized. It’s really difficult to get away from sugar in dairy ice cream.

The Nutrition of Dairy Ice Cream

From a nutritional standpoint, the dairy itself isn’t completely bankrupt. It does have some nutrients your body can benefit from. Dairy is high in fat and protein, and does contain calcium and vitamin D. Some fats are good for you, and protein is essential for your body to properly function. However, that’s pretty much all we can say about any potential benefits of consuming dairy.

The added sugar is what makes dairy ice cream a nutritional nightmare. You might be getting 8 grams of protein for ½ cup or ⅔ cup serving, which is a significant amount of protein for a low volume of food. You’ll also be getting most of, if not more than, your daily maximum for added sugars in the same small serving. 

Dairy ice creams that don’t use refined sugar swap it for artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. This keeps the calories lower, which often makes the ice cream appear to be healthier. In reality, these non-nutritive sweeteners cannot be fully broken down by the body and may cause digestive discomfort when consumed in large amounts.

Ice cream is usually light on other nutrients. Chocolate ice cream may contain antioxidants or iron, depending on the kind of chocolate used and the amount added to the ice cream. Strawberries provide vitamin C, but many ice cream companies use strawberry flavoring and dyes rather than whole strawberries to give their ice creams their flavor and iconic pink hue.

Fun fact: Strawberry ice cream should really be white in color due to the ratio of cream to strawberry required to make a product that’s creamy not icy — strawberries contain a lot of water, which becomes ice when frozen. This means the pinker the ice cream, the more artificial it is, barring situations where the base used for the “ice cream” isn’t white.

What’s In Plant Milk Ice Cream?

Plant milk ice cream, often referred to as “non-dairy frozen dessert”, substitutes dairy milk for alternative milks. Coconut milk, cashew milk, oat milk, and almond milk are used to replace the dairy in a traditional ice cream recipe. With the exception of this swap, most of the other ingredients are the same.

The real question in this scenario is if plant milk is inherently more nutritious than dairy milk. Many people are surprised to find that it isn’t - it completely depends on the ingredients. 

The Nutrition of Plant Milk Ice Cream

Plant milk ice cream has one major nutritional difference from dairy milk ice cream. Most plant milk is naturally very low in protein. It’s logical to assume that milks made from plants would be higher in protein because nuts and oats are high in protein. 

The milk isn’t made from the nuts or oats themselves. The starches and sugars from the nuts or oats are infused into water, giving it a milkier appearance and consistency. Once the nuts or oats are ‘milked’, they’re discarded, along with most of  their protein and nutrients. 

This plant milk is used to create ice cream with all the sugar and none of the protein that dairy ice cream contains. When you think about it from this perspective, many non-dairy ice creams are actually nutritionally worse for you. Neither are particularly good for you, but at least dairy ice cream has some protein. It’s a scenario of “which is the least bad” rather than “which is the healthiest?”

Neither Ice Cream Wins Here

Obviously, there are some real issues to consider with the nutrition of dairy ice cream and plant milk ice cream. It would be a huge stretch to consider either of them healthy. Non-dairy ice creams are helpful to people with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, as well as people who live a vegan or plant-based lifestyle, but only in terms of accommodating their dietary needs.

There’s no reason why your sweet frozen treat can’t be beneficial for your body. It starts with completely rethinking the ingredients and creating a dessert with nutrition in mind.

What’s In Snow Monkey Ice Cream?

Snow Monkey recognized that healthy ice cream didn’t really exist. Nobody had created an ice cream that could be considered a health food. We recognized a lot of ingredients that needed to be removed and a lot of ingredients that needed to be added in order to create an ice cream that was both delicious and wholesome.

Snow Monkey’s base is creamy pureed fruit, seeds, and superfoods. Our ice cream is sweetened with maple syrup instead of refined table sugar and is packed with plant-based protein. Our flavors are natural and derived from things like whole fruits, natural mint, and raw chocolate. This means that the nutritional benefits of each ingredient are upheld in our ice cream. 

You’ll find the tried and true classics like chocolate and strawberry in our pints, but you’ll also find some unique flavors selected for the way they taste and the benefits they impart. You don’t see matcha ice cream very often, but we have one. This earthy and full-flavored, antioxidant rich blend makes the perfect dessert for your taste buds and your body. 

The Nutrition of Snow Monkey Ice Cream

Snow Monkey has 20 or more grams of protein per pint. There is no refined sugar, artificial ingredients, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, or wheat in any of our products. The bulk of our nutrition comes from fruit, seeds, and hemp based protein. This creates a protein rich vegan, paleo-friendly dessert that’s loaded with antioxidants and nutrients. 

Snow Monkey feels like an ice cream, but it’s as healthy as a smoothie. It’s so nutritionally sound that you could eat it for breakfast every morning.

The Takeaway

Non-dairy ice cream is the way to go, provided you’re choosing one made with whole food ingredients, added protein and minimal or, at the very least natural, sugar. Many non-dairy ice creams with plant milk bases are often loaded with refined sugar or artificial sweeteners and typically offer much less protein than dairy ice cream. It’s important to read the pint before you buy. Nutrition facts and ingredients will tell you everything you need to know when you want to make a healthier choice.

When you choose a pint of Snow Monkey, your nutritional needs are truly being met. You’re getting all the protein, plus a giant boost of antioxidants and nutrients from superfood flavors. Choose an ice cream both you and your body will love, and eat it as often as you want. We made it easy. 


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