Halo Top ice cream is a lower-calorie alternative to traditional ice cream.
It’s made with natural and organic ingredients, marketed as a great-tasting source of protein, and contains just 280–370 calories per pint-size (473-ml) carton.
However, some wonder if this light ice cream is all it’s cracked up to be.
This article takes a close look at what’s in Halo Top ice cream to determine whether it’s healthy.
A small U.S. company launched Halo Top in 2012.
The pint-size ice cream is now a best-selling brand that’s not only available in the United States but also Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, and some European countries.
It has significantly fewer calories than traditional ice cream as it contains natural sugar substitutes and less cream.
What’s more, the ice cream is made of a mix of natural and organic ingredients. For example, Halo Top uses dairy products from conventionally-raised cows and organic cane sugar.
In addition to the original dairy-based varieties, Halo Top comes in nondairy, vegan versions that are made with coconut milk.
Summary Halo Top is a reduced-calorie ice cream made with natural and organic ingredients. It’s available in dairy and nondairy versions and is sold in pint-size cartons.
Halo Top is often compared to premium — higher-fat and super creamy — pint-size products. However, it’s also important to compare it to regular ice cream.
Here’s how vanilla-flavored Halo Top stacks up against regular and premium vanilla ice cream, per 1/2-cup serving ():
|Halo Top ice cream (64 grams)||Regular ice cream (66 grams)||Premium ice cream (107 grams)|
|Total fat||2 grams||7 grams||16 grams|
|Saturated fat||1 gram||4.5 grams||10 grams|
|Cholesterol||45 mg||29 mg||90 mg|
|Sodium||110 mg||53 mg||50 mg|
|Protein||5 grams||2 grams||4 grams|
|Total carbs||14 grams||16 grams||21 grams|
|Fiber||3 grams||0.5 grams||0 grams|
|Sugars*||6 grams||14 grams||20 grams|
|Sugar alcohol||5 grams||0 grams||0 grams|
|Calcium||10% of the RDI||6% of the RDI||15% of the RDI|
*This includes lactose — the natural sugar in milk — as well as added sugars.
As shown above, Halo Top ice cream has about half the calories of regular ice cream and less than a third of the calories of premium ice cream. This is because it’s lower in fat and sugar.
Additionally, a 1/2-cup (64-gram) serving of Halo Top has 5 grams of protein, or 10% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI). Though modest, this is more than twice the amount of protein in regular ice cream.
From a vitamin and mineral standpoint, the main contribution of any ice cream is calcium, which is important for strong bones. Still, one serving of Halo Top contains only 10% of the RDI for calcium, while a 1-cup (240-ml) serving of milk has 21% of the RDI (, 2).
Summary Halo Top ice cream contains about half the calories of regular ice cream, as it’s lower in sugar and fat. Its main nutrient is protein, while its main mineral is calcium, although both are found in only moderate amounts.
Halo Top ice cream comes in more than two dozen traditional and whimsical flavors — like “Birthday Cake” and “Peanut Butter Cup” — all of which contain the same core ingredients.
The ingredient list for vanilla is: skim milk, eggs, erythritol, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate, cream, organic cane sugar, vegetable glycerin, natural flavors, sea salt, vanilla beans, organic carob gum, organic guar gum, and organic stevia leaf extract.
In vegan versions, the milk and eggs are swapped out for a base of coconut cream mixed with water, which is essentially reduced-fat coconut milk.
Here’s a closer look at some of Halo Top ice cream’s core ingredients.
In addition to cane sugar, Halo Top contains two natural sugar substitutes — stevia leaf extract and erythritol.
Stevia leaf extract comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant and is calorie-free (, ).
Erythritol is virtually calorie-free in the amounts typically used. The source of this sweetener varies. In Halo Top ice cream, it’s made from yeast fermentation of corn starch (, ).
Due to its chemical structure, erythritol is classified as a sugar alcohol. In contrast to other sweeteners of this type, including sorbitol, it’s unlikely to cause nausea or diarrhea unless you eat more than 50 grams. One pint of Halo Top ice cream contains 20 grams ().
Fiber and gums
Ice cream doesn’t naturally contain fiber. However, Halo Top adds prebiotic fiber, which may fuel the growth of good bacteria in your large intestine ().
Two gums — carob and guar — are also used in the ice cream. They come from carob seeds and guar beans, both of which are legumes (, ).
These gums are soluble fibers, meaning they absorb liquid and form a gel. They are added to Halo Top to help replace fat and stabilize the product. This helps reduce ice crystal formation, resulting in a smoother texture (, ).
Nevertheless, Halo Top doesn’t have the same creamy texture as regular ice cream. Rather, it may feel somewhat dry in your mouth.
Some of the protein in dairy-based Halo Top products comes from skim milk and eggs. The rest comes from milk protein concentrate — milk that’s filtered to collect the proteins ().
The protein in the nondairy, vegan versions is isolated from rice and peas. It amounts to only 3 grams per 1/2-cup (64-gram) serving, compared to 5 grams in the dairy varieties.
Vegetable glycerin, natural flavors, and natural colors are also added to Halo Top products.
It’s uncertain what the natural flavors are, as they’re regarded as trade secrets. “Natural” simply means they’re derived from plants, animals, or the action of microbes (14).
The natural colors come from the juices of vegetables and fruits, as well as golden-colored turmeric and annatto, a red plant extract.
Summary In addition to skim milk or reduced-fat coconut milk for the base, Halo Top products contain cream, organic cane sugar, sugar substitutes, prebiotic fiber, gums, added proteins, and natural flavors and colors.
Like many processed foods, Halo Top ice cream has pros and cons for your health.
Halo Top ice cream contains significantly fewer calories than traditional ice cream and supplies hunger-satisfying protein. This enables you to enjoy a treat, all while staying within your calorie goals (, , ).
What’s more, due to its lower content of added sugars, Halo Top ice cream may not increase your blood sugar as much as the same serving size of regular ice cream (, ).
Lastly, sugar substitutes like stevia and erythritol don’t promote tooth decay and may even help kill bacteria that erode tooth enamel (, , , ).
The pull-top foil on Halo Top ice cream says, “Stop when you hit the bottom,” while the face of the vanilla carton notes that it contains 280 calories per pint. This seems to imply that it’s fine to eat the entire container in one sitting. However, it contains four servings per pint.
Eating it by the pint may encourage unhealthy portion control habits and cheat you of the vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds provided in more nutritious foods. At the same time, it could significantly increase your intake of added sugars ().
While Halo Top uses stevia and erythritol for sweetness, it still contains cane sugar.
Consuming too much added sugar isn’t good for your health and is linked to various conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes (, ).
Though lower in calories, Halo Top should not be viewed as healthy but instead as what it really is — a lower calorie alternative to ice cream.
Aside from calcium and protein, Halo Top is not a good source of nutrients. Plus, it does not have the same taste as regular ice cream, which could leave you feeling dissatisfied.
Additionally, overeating Halo Top products could make you gassy as your gut bacteria ferment the prebiotic fiber added to the ice cream ().
Lastly, in rare cases, certain ingredients in the product, including erythritol, guar gum, and carob gum, have been linked to allergic reactions (, , , ).
Summary Halo Top is a light ice cream that may help you watch your weight or blood sugar. However, it should not be viewed as healthy.
All things considered, Halo Top ice cream is a decent choice, as long as you stick to reasonable portion sizes.
Its ingredient list is relatively natural, and it’s a better option than other light ice creams that contain artificial sweeteners and artificial colors (, , ).
Still, its low fat content cheats it of a creamy texture and may leave you feeling dissatisfied. In this case, you may be better off eating a small portion of natural or organic regular ice cream, which generally contains fewer additives ().
At any rate, Halo Top products can be eaten as an occasional treat — not an everyday indulgence. By no means should you eat the whole carton in one sitting. This may encourage an unhealthy relationship with food.
Remember that Halo Top is a highly processed food, and it can’t compete with the health benefits of naturally-sweet, nutrient-rich fruit and other sweet-tasting whole foods ().
Summary Halo Top ice cream is a better choice than other light ice creams made of artificial ingredients. Still, it provides few nutrients, so it’s best to eat it in moderation.
Diet desserts like Halo Top ice cream are enticing because they allow you to indulge in sweets that normally contain high amounts of calories and sugar.
While Halo Top’s more natural ingredient profile is appealing, you shouldn’t eat the entire pint at once, as this may promote unhealthy habits.
What’s more, it doesn’t offer much nutritionally, aside from modest amounts of protein and calcium. It’s best eaten as an occasional treat in moderate portions.