You Scream! I Scream! We All Scream for… Frozen Kefir?

September 07, 2018

By Lisa Cooper, MS, RD, LDN, Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist at Orlando Health

With Americans eating an average of 23 pounds — or 21,000 calories worth — of ice cream per year, it’s no wonder we are looking for healthier options to our favorite frozen treat.

In response, freezer cases are bulging with new alternatives that focus on innovative ingredients, flavors and packaging. Non-traditional ingredients such as beets, kale or spinach are being introduced to appeal to health-conscious consumers. So are exotic flavors such as jackfruit and passion fruit, and inventive combinations like cardamom, rosewater and pistachio or strawberry, tomato and jalapeño.

Ice cream — defined as a frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products — contains at least 10 percent milkfat and includes milk, cream and sugar as its first three ingredients. Paying attention to the ingredients listed on the label (arranged in descending order by weight) gives us an idea of what’s in these ice cream alternatives. Some are listed as frozen desserts, because they do not meet the defined criteria for ice cream. If these products are not made from milk, then what’s in them? Let’s take a look.

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan Frozen Desserts

PRIMARY INGREDIENTS: Coconut milk/almond milk, dried cane syrup, inulin

Don’t be fooled by the dairy-free label and assume it’s a healthy option. Many have as much, if not more, calories, saturated fat and sugar than the original dairy version. Make sure to choose these alternatives with open eyes by checking the food label.

Plant-based products mimic the creaminess and mouth feel of ice cream by using avocado or coconut. Dried cane syrup is a form of sugar and the amount in many dairy-free options rivals the levels of sugar contained in regular ice cream. Inulin, a fiber found in plant foods, is a prebiotic that is fermented by bacteria in the large intestine and can cause gas and bloating.

High-Protein, High-Fiber

PRIMARY INGREDIENTS: Milk, whey protein isolate, polydextrose

The high-protein, high-fiber ingredients used to create this specialty item include whey protein isolate and polydextrose. Whey protein isolate is created by separating the components of milk to provide more protein. Polydextrose, made from glucose that binds together, is not well digested. It is partially fermented in the gut, making it a low-calorie additive that can be used to provide fiber in a food. 

Low-Sugar, High-Protein

PRIMARY INGREDIENTS: Skim milk, milk protein isolate, erythritol

New lower-calorie, low-sugar, highprotein products use erythritol, stevia or monk fruit for sweetness. Erythritol, a carbohydrate known as a sugar alcohol, is incompletely absorbed or metabolized by the body and contributes fewer calories than sugar. Like inulin, sugar alcohols can cause intestinal upset due to fermentation by bacteria in the colon. Monk fruit and stevia are plant-based sweeteners that also are used in low-sugar products.

Frozen Kefir

PRIMARY INGREDIENTS: Cultured low-fat milk, skim milk, cane sugar

Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that tastes like yogurt and contains live probiotics. Frozen kefir is tart, tangy and a good source of calcium. Keep an eye on the sugar, where a half cup provides half a day’s worth at 16 grams.

Arctic Zero®

PRIMARY INGREDIENTS: Water, whey protein concentrate, organic cane sugar

Advertised as low glycemic, lactose-free, gluten-free and GMOfree, this offering is classified as a frozen dessert because its first ingredient is water. In addition to the whey protein base, fiber is added from chicory root and sugar cane fiber, which contributes 2 grams per half cup. At 35 calories and 1 teaspoon of sugar, it is a lower-calorie option. 

Gelato

PRIMARY INGREDIENTS: Milk, sugar, cream

Compared to ice cream, gelato has more sugar, less cream and less air added in processing. This results in a dense, silkier product with higher sugar content. 

Churned Ice Cream

PRIMARY INGREDIENTS: Nonfat milk, cane sugar, cream

Churning is defined as “extremely cold blending over a longer period of time, to create a creamy, light ice cream.” Churned ice cream is a lower-fat product, skimming off about 30 calories per half cup with similar sugar content as regular ice cream. 

Sorbet

PRIMARY INGREDIENTS: Water, sugar, corn syrup

Like fruit bars, sorbet contains mostly water and sugar. Flavorings may come from real fruit, but read the ingredients list carefully if you are looking for a product that provides more fruit and less added sugar.

Portion Controlled 

There are many portion-controlled items offered in smaller packaging: ice cream bites covered in cookie dough or chocolate dip, miniature sized drum sticks and tiny pints. It is a nice way to indulge in your favorite treats by having a smaller amount with fewer calories. The trick is stopping at one.

Make Your Own 

If you’re looking for a truly healthy option with natural ingredients, your best bet is to make it at home. 

  • Easily create sorbet by freezing a mixture of honey, lime juice and frozen fruit.
  • Create a fiber-filled frozen treat by placing frozen bananas in a blender and adding toppings such as nuts, peanut butter, cocoa powder or strawberries. Blend for a smooth, creamy consistency and delicious treat. Pump up the protein by adding Greek yogurt.
  • Dip fruit in melted dark chocolate and freeze for a delightful and decadent frozen dessert.

Look At The Label

Compare frozen alternatives to real ice cream, which is defined as a frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products, containing at least 10 percent milkfat. 

Here are the stats for a half cup of various frozen desserts:

Type

Regular Ice Cream

Coconut

Almond

Low Sugar - High Protein

High Protein & Fiber

Kefir

Gelato

Churned Ice Cream

Calories

130

210

120

60

158

90

190

100

Fat (g)

7

16

7

2

3

5

9

3

Sat Fat (g)

4

14

4

1

2

.5

6

1.5

Carbohydrate (g)

14

16

14

14

18

18

24

15

Protein (g)

2

1

1

5

13

4

4

3

Sugar (g)

14

13

12

6

8

16

24

13

Fiber (g)

0

1

0

3

8

0

0

0

 

 

Type

Ice Cream/Cookie Dough Bite (1)

Arctic Zero®/Frozen Dessert

Lemon Sorbet

Calories

110

35

120

Fat (g)

3

0

0

Sat Fat (g)

2

0

0

Carbohydrate (g)

18

7

30

Protein (g)

1

3

0

Sugar (g)

11

5

27

Fiber (g)

0

2

1

 

For more food and nutrition news, go to OrlandoHealthBlog.com.