10 Best Healthy Ice Cream Brands to Enjoy Guilt Free
There’s really nothing more refreshing than an icy cold ice cream on a hot summer day. But ice cream can be enjoyed year-round, and a lot of people swear that it calms cold-weather-related sore throats, quenches thirst, and soothes the soul.
The downside? Ice cream is often high in sugar, and packs loads of calories, artificial ingredients, colorants, and additives, so it’s not always the healthiest or most diet-friendly treat out there.
First Things First: Can Ice Cream Be Truly Healthy?
You might have heard of the so-called ‘ice cream diet,’ where you can eat as much ice cream as you want in a day while reducing the rest of your calorie intake and sticking to high-fiber, low-fat foods. Unfortunately, most of the ice cream you find at the grocery store is low in nutrients and high in sugar and fat, as well as all kinds of additives and preservatives.
So, sadly, you won’t lose weight if you eat regular ice cream every day, so it’s not a diet experts recommend. But on to bright side. There are now various healthy ice cream options available on the market that offer that cooling, thirst-quenching feeling without being loaded with sugar and other nasty ingredients.
Yes, there are multiple ice creams that are delicious and healthy. They’re termed healthy because they eliminate the main culprits such as [processed] sugar and excessive fat. Plus, most of them come with high protein content and natural ingredients, which are safe to consume, tells us Dr. Rosmy Barrios, MD & Medical advisor at the Health Reporter.
How to Read the Ice Cream Ingredients List Like a Pro
Health experts recommend that you always check the ingredient list before purchasing ice cream, even if it is labeled ‘healthy.’
“Aside from high fat and sugar content, some overlooked ingredients that may be harmful to our health in ice cream include carrageenan, a thickening agent that can cause digestive issues in some people, and artificial food dyes, which have been linked to hyperactivity in children,“ says Meaghan Greenwood, RD, Sheffield Hallam University, Master of Science, Nutrition & Public Health. “Additionally, some ice cream brands may use hydrogenated oils, which can contribute to heart disease. As always, consumers should read the ingredient label and choose ice cream options with natural and wholesome ingredients.”
Another good tip is to look for whole foods that are unprocessed, either sweetened using stevia, honey, maple syrup, or dates. Dr. Rosmy Barrios, MD & Medical advisor at the Health Reporter, also suggests looking for natural thickeners, like full-fat coconut milk, cashews, and avocado.
He also advises consumers to “remember that less is more, because more ingredients mean more fillers and artificial ingredients. With fewer ingredients, ice cream will be more nutrient-dense and easier to digest.”
How Much Ice Cream is Too Much?
Health experts advise us to indulge in a scoop of ice cream every now and then, rather than eating a whole pint in one sitting, and opt for healthier options with fewer harmful ingredients.
You can now find sugar-free, gluten-free, low-calorie and dairy-free ice cream at most supermarkets, but that doesn’t necessarily make them ‘healthy.’ A product might be low on sugar, but high in fat or dairy, or packed full of artificial ingredients. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly check the list of ingredients and do some research before buying – and we’re here to make that easier for you.
We’ve done some research and rounded up the 10 best healthy ice cream brands that you can enjoy guilt-free. Of course, you should always keep that old saying in mind, ‘everything in moderation,’ but with these options, you can continue enjoying your favorite treat without worrying about the potential damage to your health.
1. Halo Top
The first brand on our list was founded in 2012 and is now present in grocery stores across the world, including the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the United Arab Emirates. Halo Top was named America’s top-selling ice cream in 2017, and Time Magazine even called it a ‘Top Invention of the Year.’
Katie Tomaschko Tout, MS, RDN, CDN at mypthteam.com says Halo Top is her favorite healthier ice cream brand because “not only is it usually lower in fat, calories, and sugar, it’s also a good source of protein and fiber – two nutrients known to be beneficial for muscle maintenance, satiety, weight loss and maintenance, and heart health.”
These accolades are well worth it, because the brand offers unique flavors in dairy, non-dairy, and diet-friendly options, and a 25 to choose from. The best part is that each pint of Halo Top ice cream only packs around 300-400 calories, so it won’t ruin your diet either.
They also carry a selection of keto-friendly, high-protein ice cream options, which only have 5g-10g net carbs per pint.
Enlightened is a healthy ice cream brand launched back in 2012, which can now be found in most supermarkets across the US. Their ice cream varieties reportedly contain 70% less sugar than your traditional ice cream brands, but don’t worry, the flavor is still there, and you won’t even be able to tell the difference.
Enlightened doesn’t only sell ice cream, though; they’re also selling healthy desserts like cookies, cakes, and ice cream cones. Their pint varieties include Pumpkin Cheesecake, Caramel Fudge Pretzel, Coffee Toffee, and other mouthwatering options.
Breyers is a brand that’s been around since 1866, first launched in Philadelphia by William A. Breyer. While the ingredients list and recipes have changed over the years, Breyers still provides some of the healthiest ice cream varieties on the market today.
Breyers CarbSmart, previously known as Breyers Delights, is a low-sugar, low-calorie, low-carb, high-fiber option that comes in various flavors, including vanilla and chocolate. The brand also carries Breyers SugarSmart ice cream, which contains natural sweeteners and no added sugar.
It’s a little high in fat and calories compared to other brands here, but still a great alternative to traditional options.
4. Arctic Zero
First founded in 2009, Arctic Zero is one of the best go-to ice cream brands if you’re looking for a guilt-free dessert that the whole family can enjoy. The brand offers low-calorie, non-dairy, plant-based, non-GMO-certified ice cream desserts.
For instance, their Classic Vanilla ice cream has 50 calories, zero fat, 8 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein in each serving. Arctic Zero founder Greg Holtman reportedly tests out new flavors on his three children, and we all know children are the go-to ice cream experts.
If the flavors passed their test, they’re definitely going to be tasty! Plus, even experts recommend it.
“Arctic Zero Ice Cream is in my opinion the healthiest ice cream on the market, as it’s plant-based. It is made from purified water, organic cane sugar, allulose, sugarcane fiber, fava bean protein concentrate, gum blend, natural flavors, sea salt and monk fruit concentrate. These plant-based ingredients make for a higher protein product with less sugar and more fiber,” says Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD, Nutritionist and Ace Certified Trainer.
5. So Delicious Dairy Free
Another great, healthy ice cream option is So Delicious, which sells ice cream made with coconut milk, soy milk, oat milk, cashew milk, or almond milk, depending on the product.
They also offer Wondermilk, a combo of soy, oat, and coconut milk, and various cheeses and sweet desserts that you can enjoy guilt-free. Their ice cream boasts non-GMO ingredients, is safe from allergy sufferers, and is completely vegan-friendly.
Our favorites include their peanut butter ice cream bars, dipped salted caramel bars, and the bananas foster pint made with cashew milk.
If you’re a fan of both ice cream and frozen yogurt, then Yasso is the right choice for you. The brand offers a low-fat, gluten-free alternative made with Greek yogurt, but unlike other products on the list, the products are not dairy-free.
However, their ice cream options are low-calorie, low-sugar, and high-protein, so still a much healthier alternative to traditional ice cream.
Yasso’s list of products also include mochi, a rice dough-covered, ball-shaped serving of frozen Greek yogurt in different flavors.
Cado is the perfect brand for ice cream lovers, but also avocado lovers, because the brand creates ice cream derived from avocados – seriously.
The creamy ice cream is packed with nutrients and healthy fat due to the avocado, but it’s also super tasty. Cado’s ice cream is gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO, and vegan-friendly.
And we know what you might be thinking, but no, their ice cream is not all green. Varieties include Java Chip, Salted Caramel Swirl, Deep Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, and Simply Lemon, among others.
8. Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s is a super popular brand of ice cream founded in Vermont in 1978. It’s one of the most well-known, well-loved ice cream brands in the world, and it’s even been featured in various Hollywood movies.
The brand offers a variety of dairy-free and gluten-free ice cream options made with almond milk or sunflower butter.
Their ice cream is higher in calories and sugar than other brands on this list, but the ingredients are natural, and the number of varieties is overwhelming. Oatmeal Dream Pie, Americone Dream, Netflix & Chill’d, Boom Chocolatta! – these are just some of the non-dairy flavors you can enjoy.
9. Oppo Brothers
If you’re based in the UK or traveling to Europe anytime soon, you might want to check out some of the local healthy ice cream brands, like Oppo Brothers.
The London-based brand offers a variety of low-sugar, low-calorie options, and they’re all incredibly delicious. A serving of 100ml of Oppo Brothers ice cream has only 82 calories, which is insane, because you won’t be able to tell the difference in taste.
Their Salted Caramel Ice Cream Balls are out of this world, but they have plenty of other options if that’s not your thing. And if you visit the British capital, make sure to also sample these iconic London foods.
Jude’s has become one of the most popular ice cream brands in the UK, and for good reason. The brand works with top chefs across the country but also sells take-home ice cream tubs in plant-based, dairy, and low-calorie flavors, such as Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Brownie, Sticky Toffee Pudding, GIn & Tonic, or Flat White Coffee.
Their ice cream is a bit high in fat compared to other brands, but the flavors are amazing. The company also prides itself on being sustainable and are on track to reduce their carbon footprint by 43% by 2030.
When it comes to ice cream, it’s important to use your judgment and enjoy it in moderation, while being aware of the harmful ingredients hiding away in the small print.
“Ultimately, the healthiest ice cream is one that tastes great and uses better-for-you ingredients like fresh fruits and natural sweeteners, without sacrificing flavor or texture,” says Dr. Gabriela Rodriguez Ruiz, MD PhD FACS at Vida Wellness and Beauty.
“With so many healthier options out there, it’s easier than ever to indulge in a delicious treat without all the guilt. Just be sure to check the label and make sure that you’re making an informed choice when choosing ice cream,” she adds.