The truth about ice cream

Hot, hazy summer days were made for ice cream.

“Too bad ice cream was made to enlarge my hips and my belly and even my double chin. Like a lot of other women, I can’t even think about ice cream without gaining five pounds. As much as I love ice cream, I can’t eat it without gaining weight.”

There is no truth to that statement, unless I make it true. It could also be a lie that I, like many women, and who are we kidding many men, tell ourselves about ice cream.

Another lie we tell ourselves about ice cream is, “once I start eating it, I can’t stop.”

The sheer cold, creamy, sugary, saturated fattiness of ice cream has turned it into a summertime guilty pleasure.


Ice cream isn’t fattening, but the lies and the guilt we associate with the frozen confection are what why we associate ice cream with weight gain.

"Oh no! Did I gain weight because I ate ice cream?"

“Oh no! Did I gain weight because I ate ice cream?”

Addressing the lies and learning the truth about ice cream erases the guilt.

Ice Cream Truths:

The creaminess, and therefore yumminess of ice cream is directly related to the butterfat content. Why is Ben and Jerry’s ice cream so much better than most ice cream? Well, they do come up with really good flavors, and they often mix delicious things into the ice cream, but what really makes Ben and Jerry’s so scrumptious is the high butterfat content. Butterfat by weight is the fat from just the milk and cream.

When you shop for ice cream you’ll see a variety of ice cream and ice cream-like products on the supermarket shelves.

 Product                                                   Butterfat content

  • Super premium ice cream                                          14 -16%
  • Premium ice cream                                                    12 – 14%
  • Ice cream                                                                    < 10%
  • Frozen custard                                                            10% (1.4% egg
  • Gelato                                                                          3 – 8%
  • Soft serve                                                                    3 – 6%
  • Ice milk                                                                        3 – 5%
  • Sherbet                                                                        1 – 2%
  • Sorbet (no milk, frozen fruit juice)                                0%

Lower fat, lower calorie ice cream has more air and weighs less per volume. Higher fat, premium ice cream has less air and weighs more per volume.

Other ways ice cream manufacturers reduce calories are by lowering butterfat content (9 calories per gram) and sugar (4 calories per gram) and adding artificial ingredients such as sweeteners (0 calories per gram) and additives (protein cloned from the blood of an Arctic Ocean fish) that make reduced-calorie ice cream have the rich, creamy texture of premium ice cream.

Cold or slow-churned ice cream sounds homemade, natural and wholesome, so how can it be a reduced fat and calorie product? The marketing makes the difference. Calling it slow-churned sounds appetizing, but how do you feel about any number of synthetic ingredients including Propylene Glycol Monostearate to make these lower fat, lower calorie versions taste better?

It sounds scarier than it is, although it’s not what you would expect to find in your your wholesome “slow-churned” ice cream. Whether you decide to eat it or not is up to you, but if you want that rich creamy texture with half of the fat, it may be the way to go.

Now you know all about what’s in ice cream. Here is what you need to know so that you can enjoy ice cream as part of a balanced, healthful food plan:

  • There is nothing, neither natural or artificial, in ice cream that makes ice cream physically addictive. If you “can’t stop eating ice cream” it’s because of the message you give yourself and your actions that make the message your truth.
  • If you like ice cream, you can eat ice cream even if you’re reducing fat and calories to lower your weight. Eat smaller servings less frequently to significantly reduce your fat, sugar and calories without giving up ice cream altogether.
  • Eating a whole pint in one sitting is no more satisfying than a single 1/2 cup serving scoop.
  • Once you start, you can stop. 
  • Track your servings to control your ice cream consumption.
  • Enjoy fully.

And that’s the truth.

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.