Regular ice cream is usually packed with sugar and calories and can be easy to overeat, which may lead to weight gain.
Thus, you may be curious about low-calorie options that still satisfy your sweet tooth.
This article examines low-calorie ice cream — and provides easy recipes to try at home.
How to choose a healthy ice cream
Low-calorie ice creams can be made with low-fat dairy, artificial sweeteners, and/or milk alternatives to cut down on the number of calories.
However, that doesn’t necessarily make these desserts healthier. Some low-calorie ice creams may be highly processed, while others contain more sugar than regular ice cream.
What’s more, artificial sweeteners have been linked to long-term weight gain because they may lead to overeating throughout the day. Research also suggests that they may upset your stomach or cause diarrhea (
It’s best to read labels when shopping for low-calorie ice cream and review the following:
- Ingredient lists. A longer list generally means the product is highly processed. As ingredients are listed in order of quantity, closely examine those at the beginning.
- Calories. Though most low-calorie ice creams deliver under 150 calories per serving, the calorie content depends on the brand and ingredients used.
- Serving size. Serving size can be deceptive, as a small serving will naturally contain fewer calories. There are normally several servings in a single package.
- Added sugar. Eating too much added sugar is linked to numerous diseases. As such, try to avoid ice creams with more than 16 grams per serving (
5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
- Saturated fat. Evidence suggests that limiting saturated fat intake — especially from sugary, fatty foods like ice cream — may reduce your risk of heart disease. Look for alternatives with 3–5 grams per serving (
Sugar substitutes, artificial flavors, and food dyes may be included as well.
Furthermore, some studies suggest that certain artificial flavors and food dyes are linked to health concerns, including allergic reactions and behavioral problems in children, as well as cancer in mice (
Thus, try to find products with shorter ingredient lists, as these are normally less processed.
While low-calorie ice cream may be appealing from a weight loss perspective, you should still watch out for unhealthy ingredients.
Healthiest low-calorie ice cream options
Some healthier brands of low-calorie ice cream include:
- Halo Top. This brand offers 25 flavors, only 70 calories per serving, and lower fat and higher protein contents than regular ice cream. You can find Halo Top in both dairy and dairy-free bars and pints.
- So Delicious Dairy Free. Made from either oat, cashew, coconut, soy, or almond milk, these ice creams contain many organic ingredients. They’re also vegan and gluten-free.
- Yasso. This low-fat alternative is made from Greek yogurt, which increases its protein content. Some flavors are gluten-free.
- Chilly Cow. This brand uses ultra-filtered milk and offers a whopping 12 grams of protein per serving while remaining low in calories and sugar. However, it’s high in carbs.
- Arctic Zero. This brand offers nondairy, lactose-free, and light pints with only 40–90 calories per serving. They’re also free of sugar alcohols.
- Cado. This avocado-based ice cream is a dairy-free and paleo-friendly option with several organic ingredients.
- Enlightened. This high-protein, low-fat brand offers about 80–100 calories per serving. It also produces dairy-free versions.
- Breyers Delights. This high-protein option is available in multiple flavors.
- Ben & Jerry’s Moo-Phoria Light Ice Cream. This product is low in fat but boasts 140–160 calories per serving, making it higher in calories than many other options on this list.
Low-calorie ice cream comes in many varieties, including vegan, gluten-free, organic, and lactose-free options. Keep in mind that healthier versions tend to have fewer ingredients.
How to make your own
You can make low-calorie ice cream at home if you want full control over the ingredients.
You don’t even need an ice cream machine for the following simple recipes.
Strawberry ice cream
This cottage-cheese-based dessert is packed with protein.
- 1 cup (226 grams) of low-fat cottage cheese
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of your preferred sweetener, such as honey, maple syrup, sugar, or sugar substitute
- 10 large frozen strawberries
- Stir the cottage cheese, almond milk, and sweetener in a medium-sized bowl and freeze until solid.
- Cut the frozen mixture into cubes and thaw for 10–20 minutes. Thaw the frozen strawberries as well.
- Add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth, scraping the sides when necessary.
This recipe yields 2 servings, each containing 137 calories and 14 grams of protein.
Mint-chocolate-chip ‘nice cream’
“Nice cream” is the term for fruit-based ice cream.
- 1 peeled, frozen banana
- 1 cup (20 grams) of baby spinach
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of peppermint extract
- Just a few chocolate chips
- In a blender, blend the banana, baby spinach, coconut milk, and peppermint extract until smooth.
- Add the chocolate chips and blend again for 5–10 seconds.
The recipe serves one and provides 153 calories.
Mango frozen yogurt
This fruity dessert gives you a burst of tropical flavor.
- 2 cups (330 grams) of frozen mango
- 1/2 cup (227 grams) of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of honey
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
- Blend until smooth and creamy.
This recipe makes 4 servings, each with 98 calories.
Iced-coffee ice cream
This cottage-cheese-based recipe is loaded with protein to keep you feeling full.
- 1 1/2 cups (339 grams) of low-fat cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) of brewed espresso or black coffee, cooled to room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of your preferred sweetener or sugar substitute
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of vanilla extract
- Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and freeze until solid.
- Cut the frozen mixture into cubes and thaw for 30 minutes.
- Add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until creamy, scraping the sides when necessary.
This recipe makes 2 servings, each providing 144 calories and 20 grams of protein.
Healthy, low-calorie ice creams are easy to make at home with ingredients like cottage cheese, fruit, and nondairy milk.
The bottom line
If enjoyed in moderation, low-calorie ice cream can be a part of a balanced diet.
Although it cuts back on calories from sugar and fat, this dessert may be highly processed and contain unhealthy ingredients like artificial sweeteners.
Therefore, you should read ingredient lists carefully.
For an even healthier option, make your own low-calorie ice cream at home.