The short of it—I love actual ice cream.
In my worldview, ice cream and gelato are perfect foods. Personal favorites include Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked, and Talenti’s Alphonso Mango (because fruit is part of a balanced diet, obviously). I genuinely look forward to my stroll down the ice cream freezer aisle each week, looking for BOGO deals—but still buying a pint or two even if there isn’t a sale. My “Tupperware” collection at home consists almost exclusively of empty plastic Talenti containers, and even my pencil holder at work is a cleaned-out pint of Talenti in Fudge Brownie. In case I haven’t made it explicitly clear: I love ice cream. Which brings me to my main point—the ongoing freakishly low-calorie “ice cream” trend… I just can’t get behind it.
I feel dishearteningly alone in my stance because it seems like every other ice cream brand on the market has jumped on the Halo Top hype. This summer, its sales outpaced those of Breyer’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Häagen-Dazs, which spurred many established ice cream brands to concoct their own low-calorie, high-protein versions of the lightened frozen dessert substitute. The freezer aisle is now full of them, all flaunting similar packaging—calorie counts front and center in bold, you-can’t-miss-it font.
People are going on crazy “ice cream diets” based on these supposedly guilt-free alternatives, food brands are developing recipes to use them up (we have too), and the trend doesn’t seem to be losing steam. But what I just can’t wrap my head around is why?
You’re paying more for less. If you hold a pint of Halo Top in one hand, and a pint of actual ice cream in the other, you can tell that the low-cal version is mostly air. (Which is why I think low-calorie “ice creams” taste like marshmallow fluff, Styrofoam, and sadness, but that’s a digression, don’t @ me.) Even still, they don’t come cheap, usually equal to or more pricey than a standard pint of Ben & Jerry’s; it just makes more economical sense to indulge in an ice cream that’s not 90% empty space.
You’re encouraged to eat a whole pint. Even though the “serving size” doesn’t reflect this, the implicit branding is that it’s OK to eat an entire pint in one sitting; which again, makes no sense—why eat more of a product that’s less satiating? Stevia and erythritol (key components of hyper-light ice creams) have never been able to satisfy my sweet-tooth cravings, and research even shows that eating low- and no-calorie sugar substitutes are linked to weight gain, not loss.
Life’s too short to eat bad “ice cream.” What really irks me about this ultra low-calorie “ice cream” trend is that it implies that you ought to feel guilty about enjoying your dessert—and you absolutely don’t. If you find yourself struggling with portion control, single-serve ice cream bars and sandwiches will do a better job of helping you (reasonably) get your sugar fix than these barely-there, light-as-air fakes. There’s just no replacing the taste of real cream, sugar, and those glorious chunks of chocolate chips, brownies, and cookie dough.
Long story short, while it feels like the rest of the world is running toward these “ice cream” imposters, I’ll just be here giving side-eye, with an OG pint of Talenti or Ben & Jerry’s, forever a faithful consumer.