is it really better for you than the real deal?

They might have a lot less calories but it’s what else is added that you need to watch out for, says Melissa Meier.

High protein, guilt free, plant-based… there’s lots of ice creams in supermarket freezers with catchy marketing phrases plastered all over the packaging that make you think you can have your cake (or in this case, your ice cream tub), and eat it, too.

But are these ‘healthier’ ice creams really that much healthier? And can you actually down a whole tub without feeling guilty?

Here’s what you need to know.

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Ice cream vs. high protein ice cream

To set the scene, here’s the low down on the nutritionals for a run-of-the-mill vanilla ice cream. Per 100 grams, you’re in for about 190 calories, 4 grams of protein, 7 grams of saturated fat and 18 grams of sugar.

High protein ice creams (think: Halo Top and FroPro), on the other hand, offer around 140 calories per 100 grams, 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of saturated fat and 8 grams of sugar.

So, high protein ice creams tend to have less total kilojoules and sugar than regular ice cream, along with slightly less saturated fat and a little more protein.

The ingredients list, however, is where the real differences lie. You see, regular ice cream has a relatively short ingredients list: it’s made with a combination of milk, cream, sugar and a few additives.

The ingredients list on high protein ‘healthier’ ice creams, however, tend to be looooong – and often contain sweeteners, additives and lots of words or numbers you mightn’t even recognise.

So, what’s healthier?

The above nutritionals might make you think high protein ice cream is healthier than regular ice cream – but I’ve got other ideas. Sure, higher protein ice cream might have less kilojoules and sugar than the real deal… but is the difference really that big in the grand scheme of your whole diet? Not really.

Plus, higher protein ice creams tend to contain a stack of unnecessary additives and sweeteners, which I’d suggest you’d be better off limiting.

At the end of the day, ice cream – regardless of the form – is just that: ice cream. It should always be considered a treat food, never a healthy snack.

With that in mind, I’d encourage you to choose whatever ice cream takes your fancy and enjoy it mindfully, once in a while, in small portions (read: don’t down the whole tub, even if there are only 300 calories in it…).

Sure, there are a lot of people who might want to cut back on kilojoules and sugar, but opting for a so-called ‘healthier’ ice cream is not the way to do it. If your diet consists of so much ice cream that it makes a huge dent in your total intake, then there are bigger fish to fry than sweating over high protein versus regular ice cream.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.