While ice cream is always a popular treat, this past summer saw a new, supposedly healthier version flying off freezer shelves.
In late July, Halo Top topped the competition when it became the best-selling pint of ice cream in the country, even surpassing industry giant Ben & Jerry's. Halo Top claims its products are a healthier alternative to its competitors because, along with milk, cream and eggs, their ingredients include fiber, milk protein concentrate, and the sweeteners stevia and erythritol.
Because of these differences, Halo Top contains only 240 to 350 calories per pint and includes up to 24 grams of protein, plus high fiber values. Advertising for the product implies that you can eat the whole pint without guilt. But while this ice cream is lower in calories and more nutritious than the regular variety, it should still be used as an occasional snack, nutritionists say.
Splurges are perfectly fine sometimes, nutritionist Cynthia Sass writes for Health.com. But some of her clients overindulge — even consuming Halo Top for dinner — because they think they are eating a health food. This is a mistake, Sass says, because whole, fresh foods — and not desserts — should be your main sources of nutrients. What's more, a pint of ice cream should not be considered a single serving, no matter what the marketing tells us.
A competitor to Halo Top, Enlightened, is also marketed as “ice cream that's good for you.” In addition to added protein, the product has monk fruit extract as a sweetener, which tastes much sweeter than sugar, possibly leading to overindulgence. "Anecdotally, some of my clients find that the intense sweetness actually stokes their sweet tooth, rather than satisfying it," Sass writes.
While these brands aren't necessarily bad for you, the danger is that people may feel like they can chow down on as much as they want without guilt. “My two pet peeves are that it feels like [Halo Top] is highlighting two things: ‘You can eat this entire pint for only a small amount of calories, and look at all this protein!’ ” registered dietitian Keri Gans tells Time. “No one should eat a whole pint of ice cream. We should be sitting down to the recommended serving, which is half a cup. If you want to double it, fine, but you shouldn’t sit down to a pint.”
People may think of vegan ice cream as a healthier alternative, as well. The brand NadaMoo!, for one, is made with coconut milk, water, prebiotic fiber and agave. But calories per pint still range from 240 to 600, so smaller portions are better, Sass cautions.
“Marketing ice cream as healthy is an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, tells Fortune. “This fits perfectly in the category of ‘just because it’s a slightly better choice does not mean that it is a good choice.’"
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