During the summer, it’s impossible to spend time outside without enjoying some cold treats such as delicious ice cream. However, if you eat it every day, the quality of your diet will deteriorate pretty quickly. Sugar, artificial sweeteners, fragrances, dyes, dairy, saturated fats, lots of calories…
It’s all fine in moderation.
But what should you do when you have a powerful craving for ice cream every day?
Are there healthy alternatives to ice cream cravings?
The answer is yes. There are dozens of ice-cream-like desserts, both for sale and homemade, that can make your summer diet healthier and more delicious. We have a list ready for you in this short guide.
There’s everything from icy snacks with fruits to tofu ice cream and sweetened beans, so get prepared for a ride.
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Healthy Alternatives to Ice Cream: 13 Options
Your diet should be diverse and delicious, and this can include all kinds of ice creams and their alternatives. You can even eat regular full-fat dairy ice cream every once in a while if you watch your portion size.
Here are some healthy and tasty low-calorie ice cream alternatives that are healthier than those you may buy in regular grocery stores. Not all of them are super low in calories, but they are certainly nutritious and delightful.
First of all, why should you choose a lighter alternative?
While ice cream can be eaten in moderation, there are some problems with over-consumption, including:
- Added sugar consumption: While we all love a good helping of ice cream, it’s important to note that most regular variants are loaded with calories, sugar, and fat.
- Caloric balance: Eating more calories than you burn can cause weight gain over time and lead to obesity, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, and other dangerous conditions (5).
Making it a habit to eat ice cream every day isn’t the best idea. However, opting for a healthy ice cream substitute can be a lifesaver during the summer months.
The most ice cream-like option is, of course, light ice cream. It has 22% less fat and 33% fewer calories than the regular sweet treat (3).
Other alternatives include:
1. Strawberry-banana ice cream
Like any other fruit-based ice cream, strawberry-banana ice cream is a great alternative that won’t make you regret eating it. Make a frozen banana puree and add some strawberries, also pureed or just chopped up. You can add other berries to the mix, in addition to nuts if you need something more fat- and protein-wise.
If you need more volume, create sandwiches with this ice cream using graham crackers. This will not only diversify your dessert, it will also help you feel full for a longer time (3).
2. Frozen bananas in chocolate
A banana is a good snack by itself, but if you want to bring something a bit more fun to the table, try to freeze them whole or in pieces, coated with chocolate. You can use store-bought chocolate or make it yourself if you want it DIY-style.
If you need more crunch and something extra nutrition-wise, add nuts on top of the chocolate before you freeze the dessert. You can also add granola, sprinkles, or pretzels, depending on your wishes and dietary requirements (3).
3. Coconut milk ice cream
If you need a healthy ice cream alternative, try making coconut milk ice cream. It’s gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free, and can be made completely organic if you use agave as a sweetener. You can also add seeds, nuts, granola, fruits, and vanilla to create different kinds and try a new one every day.
It may not be the most low-calorie option, but it’s certainly tasty and nutritious.
4. Greek yogurt ice cream
Is Greek yogurt a healthy ice cream recipe?
Yes, of course, especially if you make frozen yogurt with it. You can also use any other kind of yogurt for the dessert, in addition to plant-based or dairy-free milk for extra benefits. Add fruits, nuts, and/or granola if you want more flavor.
If you’re not into making ice cream yourself, you can opt for gelato instead of the traditional cold dessert. Gelato has less cream and usually no egg yolks, which may be something you’re looking for in your diet. However, it does tend to have more sugar than other types of ice cream.
Gelato comes in dozens of flavors, and you can make it yourself or buy it in a store. Fruits, nuts, and other additions can make it a more delicious dessert.
6. Shaved ice
A completely heart-healthy alternative to ice cream is shaved ice. It’s basically ice with additions that make it less bland. There are flavors such as coconut, vanilla, lime, and cherry.
It’s not very sweet and is generally low in calories as you’re basically eating water with a little bit of flavor added. This is very popular due to the diversity of the shave types and flavors. It’s also incredibly refreshing and hydrating.
7. Tofu ice cream
Another heart-healthy ice cream alternative is tofu ice cream. It can provide you with refreshment on a hot day and is also a nice portion of protein – all without heavy creams or milk.
It may take you some time to make, but the benefits of this dessert are worth it. Not too much sugar, no dairy, no artificial additives (if you use high-quality tofu), but lots of protein, fiber, and delight.
This is something you can try at an Italian restaurant in your area. It’s a dessert that is similar to sorbet and is made from fruits and ice. It’s healthy due to the nutritious benefits of fruits and hydrating and refreshing due to the water. It’s generally made by hand, so it’s a little flakier than sorbet but very delicious.
9. Pudding ice cream
You can get a ready-to-use mixture in a grocery store or find recipes online and create pudding ice cream from scratch. The ingredients are generally super-easy to find and the result is as delicious as regular ice cream.
There are many flavors, so you won’t get bored with this dessert. However, you should keep in mind that puddings can be high in sugar. This means that eating too much of them may not be the best idea.
Sorbet comes in many shapes and sizes. There are creamier kinds and fluffy kinds you can enjoy. The range of flavors is also impressive. Sorbet is far lower in calories than traditional ice cream and contains no dairy, making it perfect for those who are lactose-intolerant.
You can find such ice cream in almost any town in summer, so it’s totally effort-free from your side.
11. Frozen yogurt
Good old frozen yogurt comes to the rescue when you need ice cream but don’t want to go overboard with your calories. You should keep in mind that it’s not always the healthiest alternative, but it’s something you can easily get when you’re out walking around town.
Frozen yogurt generally contains sugar, milk, and yogurt cultures. The things you add to it such as chocolate, toppings, or fruits are totally your own choice, but if you want to make it as healthy as possible, you know what you should opt for.
This is a Filipino dessert that is made from ice, evaporated milk, and additional ingredients, such as sliced fruit, sweet beans, coconut juliennes, flam, seaweed gelatin, and even rice.
You should perhaps leave this option for the times you want something extra special. This dessert is really delicious and healthy.
13. Keto Ice cream
There are several healthy ice cream recipes, but one of the most popular is keto ice cream. To whip up a delicious keto ice cream, gather the following ingredients: heavy cream, powdered sweetener (preferably homemade keto-granulated with allulose or monk fruit sweetener), xanthan gum for thickening, and vanilla extract if you’re opting for the classic vanilla flavor. Remember, using full-fat cream is essential for a creamy consistency.
Combine all ingredients in a deep jar and stir them gently. Use an immersion blender until the mixture thickens with soft peaks. Cover the jar and freeze for a minimum of 4 hours, stirring every 40 minutes to prevent excessive freezing. Scoop out the velvety keto ice cream and serve promptly.
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For optimal results, consider the following tips:
- Strictly use full-fat cream to avoid thinness
- Consider adding xanthan gum for stability
- Use an ice cream maker if available
- Stir the mixture regularly during the initial hours for smoothness
- Allow the low-carb ice cream to soften at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving
Feel free to explore flavor variations by adding:
- Chocolate: Use 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Cookies and Cream: Swap vanilla extract for almond extract and include 1 cup of crushed keto Oreos.
- Cookie Dough: Gently fold in 1/4 cup of keto edible cookie dough.
- Strawberries: Introduce 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries and optional strawberry extract.
- Mint Chocolate Chip: Swap vanilla extract for peppermint extract and fold in 1/2 cup sugar-free chocolate chips.
- Butter Pecan: Add 1/2 teaspoon butter extract and 1/4 cup chopped pecans.
- Salted Caramel: Gently fold in 1/4 cup of sugar-free caramel syrup.
- Peanut Butter Cup: Drizzle peanut butter and add chopped keto peanut butter cups.
- Birthday Cake: Include 1/4 cup sugar-free sprinkles and 1/2 teaspoon butter extract.
- Brownie Batter: Mix in 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 cup chopped keto brownies. (4)
Indulge in the delightful world of keto ice cream, a guilt-free treat for any occasion!
There are many options, so the next time you ask “What can I eat instead of ice cream?”, you’ll know there are already at least 13 answers. Multiply this by the number of different flavors and you’ve got more than 100 options altogether.
Eating healthy snacks doesn’t mean saying “no” to delights such as ice cream. You can have it sometimes and if you want to enjoy it often, simply pick an alternative and eat it in moderation. This doesn’t sound too bad, right?
What is a healthier choice than ice cream?
When you’re seeking a healthier alternative to traditional ice cream, consider options that offer reduced sugar, lower saturated fat, and higher nutritional value. Some alternatives include:
- Frozen Yogurt: Opting for low-fat or Greek yogurt-based frozen desserts can significantly lower the calorie and fat content.
- Fruit Sorbet: When picking ice creams, choose sorbets that are made from real fruit, which are typically lower in fat and can provide natural sweetness rather than going for refined sugars.
- Homemade Nice Cream: Alternatively, you can create a frozen treat using blended frozen bananas or other fruits that provide natural sweetness and fiber without added sugars.
- Protein Ice Cream: Explore protein-enriched ice cream options that offer a satisfying taste with additional protein such as peanut butter, brown rice, or pea protein. This addition helps with satiety.
It’s essential to read nutritional labels and be mindful of portion sizes in order to maintain a balanced diet while enjoying frozen treats.
What should I eat if I crave ice cream?
If you’re craving the creamy delight of ice cream, you should consider these healthier alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth:
- Greek Yogurt with Berries: Rich in protein and probiotics, Greek yogurt paired with fresh berries is a nutritious and satisfying option that lowers the calories.
- Frozen Banana Slices: Freeze banana slices for a naturally sweet and creamy treat that mimics the texture of ice cream.
- Dark Chocolate: Choose dark chocolate with a high cocoa content for a decadent and antioxidant-rich option.
- Chia Seed Pudding: Create a chia seed pudding using almond milk and sweeten it with a natural low-calorie sweetener such as honey, agave, monk fruit, or coconut sugar.
While these alternatives offer a healthier profile, moderation is the key to maintaining a well-balanced diet
Is yogurt a healthy alternative to ice cream?
Yogurt can be a healthier alternative to ice cream due to its nutritional composition. Some of the reasons for this include (1):
- Probiotics: Yogurt contains beneficial probiotics that support gut health and boost the immune system.
- Calcium: Yoghurt is a good source of calcium, which is essential for bone health and overall well-being.
- Protein: Greek yogurt, in particular, is high in protein, promotes satiety, and helps with muscle maintenance.
However, it’s important to choose plain, unsweetened yogurt to avoid added sugars. In addition, frozen yogurt may contain added sugars and fats, so you should opt for low-fat or Greek yogurt for a healthier alternative. Paying attention to serving sizes is the key to maintaining a balanced diet.
Why is ice cream unhealthy?
Despite its deliciousness, traditional ice cream can be considered unhealthy for several reasons:
- It’s High in Sugar Content: Ice cream often contains high levels of added sugars, which contributes to excess calorie intake and potential health issues.
- It Contains Saturated Fats: The saturated fats in ice cream, especially in full-fat varieties, can contribute to elevated cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risks.
- It Has High Caloric Density: Ice cream is energy-dense, which means that it provides a high number of calories without offering significant nutritional value, potentially leading to weight gain.
- It Lacks Nutrients: Traditional ice cream lacks essential nutrients, such as the vitamins and minerals that are necessary for overall health. (6)
Choosing healthier alternatives or enjoying ice cream in moderation is advised to mitigate the potential negative health impacts that are associated with traditional ice cream consumption.
The Bottom Line
Ice cream can actually be healthy. It’s not as if you should never eat the regular kind. If you really like it, why not have a serving every now and then when you’re enjoying a day out? It won’t ruin your lifestyle and make you gain weight if you stay within your approximate calorie goals for weight loss or maintenance.
That being said, to avoid caloric surplus and excess consumption of added sugars, you should consider trying lower-calorie ice cream alternatives.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 6 Impressive Health Benefits of Yogurt (2023, healthline.com)
- Best Ice Cream Alternatives – Cleveland Clinic (2020, health.clevelandclinic.org)
- Cure Your Ice Cream Cravings with Healthier Options (2018, healthymepa.com)
- Keto Ice Cream (2023, thebigmansworld.com)
- Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What to know about ice cream and cholesterol levels (2023, medicalnewstoday.com)