The Skinny On Ice Cream

If you’ve been avoiding ice cream, we’ve got good news: There are many satisfying ways to enjoy this warm-weather favourite that won’t derail your weight-loss efforts.
Published May 30, 2016

Come on, who doesn’t scream for ice cream? But as we all know, it can make a big dent in your daily SmartPointsTM budget. So how can you enjoy your favourite scoop and still stay on track? Well, the more you know about this treat, the easier it is to make good choices. Our guide to ice cream will help you answer questions like "What’s the difference between light and reduced-fat ice cream?" and "Is sherbet better than sorbet?"

Ice cream
The term 'ice cream' once had a clear meaning, but now has several sub-categories, with varying degrees of waistline-friendliness. Don't assume that every tub packs the same amount of SmartPoints.

The rich, decadent flavour of superpremium ice cream comes from an abundance of milkfat (at least 14 percent) and very little added air — this density means more calories.

This a step down from superpremium (11- to 15-percent milkfat, and a bit more air), but still packs plenty of SmartPoints Both varieties tend to come in "gourmet” flavours.

This ice cream contains at least 10 percent milkfat, and has even more air than premium. Compare nutrition facts labels — you’ll be surprised by how well some regular ice cream fits into the program.

Reduced fat
Contains at least 25 percent less fat than its regular counterpart. Light and low-fat has less than 30 percent of calories from fat or no more than 3 grams of fat in a 125-ml (half-cup) serving.

This ice cream has less than 0.5 gram of fat. That said, always check the nutrition facts: the “light” variety of a superpremium brand may have more SmartPoints values than the “regular” from another brand.

A few words about milkfat: Because the amount of air pumped into different brands varies so greatly, the percentage of milkfat doesn’t correspond precisely to the number of fat grams per serving. For example, if a superpremium vanilla has 16-percent milkfat and 12 fat grams per serving, the regular might have 10-percent milkfat and 7 grams of fat in a serving, and the light could have 4 percent milkfat and 4 grams of fat. That’s why it’s so important to calculate the SmartPoints values for each specific brand you try.

Slow-churned, cold-churned or double-churned
Three names for the same thing, this is a revolution in reduced-calorie ice cream production, a new process that disperses the tiny globules of milk fat more thoroughly. The basic recipe — and the milk fat content — is the same as other low- and reduced-fat ice creams, but the technique used to make it creates the illusion of richness. These products can offer the satisfaction of premium ice cream with far less fat and calories. 

Soft serve
Surprise! Those sweet swirls are almost always reduced-fat — most recipes call for only 3- to 6-percent milk fat. Plus its soft texture comes from churned-in air, which yields fewer calories by volume. Frozen custard is not the same as soft serve — it’s got added egg yolks, plus a higher percentage of milk fat.

Similar in texture to soft serve but with a much more intense flavour, gelato can be an occasional treat. It usually has more milk than cream, meaning a lower fat count than regular ice cream, but with much less air — so there are more calories in less volume. Stick to small servings.

Frozen yogurt
With a taste and calorie count that’s similar to light ice cream, this is usually a good choice — but don’t forget to read the nutrition facts! Some frozen yogurts have a higher SmartPoints value per serving than slow-churned ice cream.

Non-dairy frozen desserts
If you’re a vegan, lactose intolerant or watching your cholesterol, you can still enjoy a creamy treat. Frozen desserts based on soy or rice are plan-friendly — relatively low in calories and fat — and, while they may not taste exactly like the real thing, they’re a whole lot better than nothing.

Sherbet and sorbet
Sherbet has less milk fat and more sugar than low-fat ice cream. Sorbet has no dairy in it at all, so it’s usually fat-free — but the high sugar content means that it may have just as many calories as some ice creams. But texturally it’s entirely different: more icy and refreshing, but less decadent.

Freezer facts

  • Don’t allow your ice cream to soften and re-freeze repeatedly. That’s where those unpleasant ice crystals come from.
  • Store it in the main part of your freezer, never in the door — the temperature fluctuates too widely there.
  • Keep the lid tightly closed, and never put ice cream near uncovered foods, as odours can penetrate easily.