Got Halo Top? Just Eat the Real Ice Cream, Says One Dietitian

By: Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D.

Why pounding a pint of super-low-calorie ice cream might not be such a good idea.

 

Shapes are hard.

A post shared by Halo Top Creamery (@halotopcreamery) on

People keep asking me if Halo Top ice cream is healthy. Halo Top, is low-calorie light ice cream (Enlightened and Breyer's Delights are similar) that claims to be healthier than regular ice cream because of their pint's low-calorie count and slightly higher protein content. But is Halo Top actually better for you? 

Let me just say that I love ice cream. Going out for a cone is a weekly summer activity and there's usually a pint or two in my freezer (yes, dietitians eat ice cream). There's no denying that Halo Top is much lower in calories than most ice creams. There are between 240 and 360 calories per pint of Halo Top, whereas premium ice creams, like Ben & Jerry's, have that many calories in just 1/2 cup (that's one-quarter of a pint). 

Related: Healthy Homemade Popsicle Recipes

If you're a Halo Top fanatic—by all means, feel free to indulge in this frozen dessert over real ice cream. It's just that, despite the whopping calorie savings, I think real ice cream beats out low-calorie frozen desserts, and here's why.

1. Ingredient Lists 

The ingredients in Halo Top actually aren't that bad compared to some other low-calorie or "lite" versions of foods that may be loaded with fillers and preservatives. However, they do have more ingredients than a regular ice cream (or one you would make at home) and their main sweeteners are stevia and erythritol. Using these sweeteners drastically cuts down on the sugar and calories in the pints. Stevia is a non-caloric sweetener made from stevia plants. It can have a bitter taste that bothers some people. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols may cause digestion issues in some people, especially when consumed in large amounts. However, erythritol is the least likely of all the sugar alcohols to cause stomach upset.

Related: What the Science Says About Sugar Substitutes

Halo Top Vanilla Bean

Ingredients: Skim milk, eggs, erythritol, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate, cream, organic cane sugar, vegetable glycerin, natural flavor, sea salt, vanilla beans, organic carob gum, organic guar gum, organic stevia leaf extract.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 70 calories; 2 g fat(1 g sat); 3 g fiber; 14 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 45 mg cholesterol; 6 g sugars; 110 mg sodium.

Ben & Jerry's Vanilla

Ingredients: Cream, skim milk, liquid sugar (sugar, water), egg yolks, sugar, guar gum, vanilla extract, vanilla beans, carrageenan.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 250 calories; 16 g fat(10 g sat); 0 g fiber; 21 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 90 mg cholesterol; 20 g sugars; 50 mg sodium.

2. The Satisfaction Factor

When you really want ice cream, you may not feel satisfied with a low-calorie version. Personally, I'd always rather have a little of the real deal than a lot of a substitute. These new ice creams have a "health halo" and are perceived as being healthier, which means you might eat more later because you feel like you can still indulge.

A recent study published in Appetite found that when people drank a shake they thought was healthy, they ate more snacks afterwards. When people drank the same shake but were told it was indulgent, they didn't snack as much post-shake. Indulge a little, feel satisfied and you may find your body naturally resets itself to crave fruits, veggies and whole grains.

Related: Mindful Eating—How to Lose Weight Without Dieting 

3. Ice Cream Is Supposed to Be a Treat

We all need to treat ourselves once in a while. Maybe it's a pedicure, maybe it's a dinner out and maybe it's ice cream. Sure, you could eat a pint of ice cream every day, but wouldn't it lose some of its appeal? Halo Top's packaging and slogans are designed to encourage you to eat the whole pint. It's great marketing, but not so great for sensible eating. 

Whichever ice cream you choose, keep your portion sizes sensible and only indulge when you really want ice cream. I know, it's a little more boring but fruit makes a great post-dinner snack—especially in summer when so many delicious ones are in season. Fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants something that the low-cal ice cream market doesn't have. 

Related: 5 Clean-Eating Desserts With No Added Sugar

Bottom Line

While I think real ice cream once in a while is the way to go, these new low-calorie ice creams could be a good fit if you're trying to lose weight or have diabetes or another chronic condition that impacts your diet. I still don't advise going gangbusters on the whole pint. Aim to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy proteins and fats—and leave some room for the occasional treat.

Video: How to Make Soft Serve with Just Bananas