Hello from Destin, Florida! I’m kicking off a nice long weekend at the beach. Since I talked about milk earlier this week, it’s only natural that it got me thinking about (and screaming for) ice cream! We all have our favorite brand and flavor (Mine is Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia or Vanilla Health Bar Crunch!), so I thought a Grocery Store Spotlight would help us determine if we’re choosing the healthiest brand we can for our families.
Although I’m quickly becoming a bona fide nutrition nut, I’m not afraid to say that I ADORE ice cream. I’m such a cheap date when it comes to desserts…I’ll skip the tiramisu or chocolate soufflé any day for a cup (Ok, let’s be honest…a bowl) of some delicious ice cream. Top it with some heath bars, and I’m really in heaven. I can’t have ice cream around my house on a regular basis if I want to keep my weight under control, but I do enjoy it as a treat every so often. I’m a big believer in occasional indulgences as they help us stay on track and prevent us from feeling all deprived and eventually going overboard with our eating. Moral of the story: I don’t think ice cream is the devil!
Another word on ice cream – Eat it in moderation, but when you do have it, go for the REAL deal. None of this sugar-free junk sweetened with Splenda and Aspartame ya hear? For years I ate the fake Weight Watchers and Healthy Choice bars, but now I know that they contain all kinds of chemicals and they really don’t satisfy the ice cream cravings anyway! I used to think they’re a good choice because they’re low-fat and help limit portion size, but Weight Watchers, Skinny Cow, Klondike and Dove bars are full of harmful ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. It’s better to just eat a controlled portion of the good stuff! (I’m also a big fan of going out to frozen yogurt, especially with these new places that have been popping up everywhere with the exotic flavors and tons of toppings.)
So let’s look at the nutritional content of some of the most popular ice cream brands, shall we? To make things as even as possible, I compared the vanilla variety from each brand (Note to self: I need to bring a sweater next time I decide to go hang out in the frozen section of the grocery store for 30 minutes!). This is just to give you an idea of the ingredients each company is using, but make sure you READ LABELS CAREFULLY as each brand carries so many flavors and varieties with different ingredients.
Edy’s Rich and Creamy French Vanilla: This brand seems to me to be the villain of all ice creams! Check out these 21 ingredients, including corn syrup and some suspicious chemicals. Why in the world does this company feel the need to color their vanilla ice cream with two different yellow dyes?
Ingredients: Skim milk, sugar, cream, corn syrup, egg yolks, whey protein, tapioca, maltodextrin, cellulose gum, monoglycerides, diglycerides, natural flavor, guar gum, ground vanilla beans, carageenan, dextrose, yellow 5, yellow 6, vitamin A, palmitate, natural flavorings.
As I was reading all the labels at the store, a man came by and selected some Edy’s and put it into his cart. It was all I could do not to chase after him screaming, “You’re buying poison!” But I didn’t think that would go over too well, so I refrained.
Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla: Homemade huh? How does one make high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors at home?
Ingredients: Milk, cream, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, skim milk, corn syrup, natural and artificial flavors, cellulose gum, vegetable gums, salt, annatto color
Mayfield Vanilla: At least the corn syrup they use isn’t the high fructose variety, but I still don’t think this is our smartest ice cream option. Don’t be swayed by the cheap price!
Ingredients: Milkfat, nonfat milk, sugar, sweet cream buttermilk, corn syrup, cellulose gum, guar gum, carrageenan, annatto color, vanilla, monoglycerides, diglycerides
Breyer’s Natural Vanilla and Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean: If we just go by ingredients, Breyer’s and Häagen-Dazs both look like really whole and healthy options, with just a handful of natural ingredients. While these are a better choice than Edy’s, Blue Bell and Mayfield, they still aren’t the best we can do because they use genetically-engineered dairy products.
Breyer’s Ingredients: Milk, cream, sugar, natural tara gum, natural vanilla
Häagen-Dazs Ingredients: Skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla bean flakes, vanilla extract
Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla: This particular flavor contains all-natural ingredients. As I mentioned in my post earlier this week, Ben and Jerry’s has made a commitment to using rBGH-free dairy in all of their products. It’s especially important to read labels with this brand since they carry so many different flavors and not all of them are as pure as the vanilla.
Ingredients: Cream, skim milk, liquid sugar (sugar, water), water, egg yolks, fair trade certified vanilla extract, sugar, guar gum, carrageenan
FYI – Carrageenan (comes from seaweed) and Guar Gum (comes from the Guar seed) are both natural thickening agents.
Starbucks Vanilla Bean Frappuccino: I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is a really healthy brand! They use very few ingredients in their flavors, and they too have made the promise to be rBGH free.
Ingredients: Cream, skim milk, water, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract, guar gum, vanilla beans, locust bean gum
Since you should only be buying ice cream on an occasional basis, I think it’s worth it to spend the extra money to get the Ben & Jerry’s or Starbucks brand and know that you’re not ingesting high fructose corn syrup, dyes, chemicals and genetically modified milk!
If your grocery store has a natural section or you shop at a store like Whole Foods, go check out the ice cream selection there. You can get an organic variety (rBGH-free) with all-natural ingredients and help support smaller dairy farms around the country. I’m a big fan of coconut ice cream if you’re like me and can’t do a lot of dairy. As always, don’t forget to stay away from the soy products!
Do you know of any other all-natural ice cream options? As always, I welcome your feedback! Have a great weekend.