I like to eat ice cream. Pretty much every day, especially now that it’s summer. And I don’t feel one bit guilty about that. Why? Because ice cream is my treat. I eat well the rest of the day—veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy—and look forward to this planned indulgence. (Many experts suggest budgeting in small daily treats as a way to keep motivated when trying to shed pounds.) That said, if you suddenly decide to top off your normal eating with a big bowl of super-premium ice cream every night, come September, you’re probably going to find yourself buying some new jeans. In the next size up. So how can you eat ice cream and not gain weight—or even shed pounds? I’ve got a bunch of ideas. Here goes:
Skip the super-premium kinds. (Or save them for a “super-premium” treat.) I’m not naming any names, but you can spot these guys by looking at the nutrition information. Generally, they pack 200-250 calories and 8-10 grams of saturated fat per 1/2 cup—and that’s just vanilla. Add candy or other goodies and these numbers are even higher. Better to choose a “slow-churned” (aka smooth-, double-, light churned) variety, which has about 100-110 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat, or even “regular” premium ice creams, which generally weigh in at 130-150 calories, 4-5 g saturated fat. (Psst! The skinniest scoop isn’t ice cream at all—find out what it is and more on fabulous frozen desserts to help you lose here.)
Recipes to Make at Home: Low-Cal Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt Recipes
Go for the cone. According to Kay McMath, a food technologist for New Zealand’s Massey University, ice cream is more satisfying that way, which means you eat less and save calories. (5 Diet Tips to Keep You Feeling Satisfied.) “Flavor in ice cream is released when the fat—which carries the flavor—is warmed to at least body temperature,” McMath told EatingWell. When you lick ice cream it coats the tongue and fully warms the frozen treat. A spoon, on the other hand, insulates the ice cream. And then there’s the psychological aspect of savoring the treat more slowly: you just cannot lick ice cream as fast as you can spoon it.
Make that cone a small. I have two little boys and I try to keep their cones kid-sized. Luckily, a major cone manufacturer offers ones that, I swear, are about an inch and a half tall. The fact that we have an “only one cone” family rule is helpful for me too (until the boys go to bed and I sneak another one). Still, two of these little cones are probably the equivalent to an ice-cream sandwich—I buy ones with about 140 calories each. These single-serve treats are another great way to avoid “double dips.”
Related: 7 Simple Ways to Save 100 Calories
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Share. If I’m ordering out, I get one cone to share with my younger son (who doesn’t protest yet). Sure, licking the same cone as someone else who’s not your kid—or maybe even someone who is your kid—might seem gross and unsanitary to you. In that case, go for the bowl and get two spoons.
What kind of ice cream do you eat?
Nicci Micco is editor-at-large for EatingWell and co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.
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