What Your Dietitian Really Thinks About High Protein Ice Cream

A few weeks ago while out grocery shopping a new product caught my eye.

CoolWay ice cream (technically there’s no cream in the stuff so it’s called a frozen dessert, but you catch my drift). Boasts 320 calories per container, and a whopping 24 grams of protein. As I’ve said before in my post about McDonalds High Protein Smoothies, protein is the new darling of the food industry. Even bottled waters are being pumped with extra protein so I was not surprised at all to see it making it’s way into the dessert aisle. So naturally I had to spend 6 bucks on the darn thing.

The front of the package advertising seemed innocent enough, though I wasn’t overly thrilled about the calorie content being shown for the whole container (500ml, 2 cups!) as I could definitely see it encouraging some overeating, but at least they’re being upfront.

The words “guilt-free pleasure” on the back of the package definitely makes me cringe though. Why is it assumed that enjoying a little dessert has to come packaged with a dose of guilt and self-loathing? Let us eat our ice cream in peace food shamers!

Regardless I decided to give it a try. But, like everything I pick up at the grocery store, my eyes went right to the nutrition facts panel (and yours should always too!)

Here are the facts:

So, despite advertising for the whole container on the front of the package, it’s important to note that the serving size listed on the nutrition facts panel is actually for only 1/2 cup of ice cream (125ml). All of the nutrition facts listed are NOT for the whole container. Sneaky sneaky

So, in 1/2 cup of this frozen dessert (1/4 of the container), you’d be getting

  • 80 calories
  • 2.5 grams of fat
  • About 2 tsp of sugar (7 grams) The maximum added sugar we should consume in a day is about 6 tsp for women and 9 tsp for men (this doesn’t include sugar from whole fruits or grains and starches) so having 2 tsp in a dessert is something most of us can fit into our day if we choose. You can read more here in The Truth About Sugar
  • 6 grams of protein (in the form of whey protein)

What about the sugar alcohols?

Sugar alcohols are artificial sweeteners (Erythritol is the one used in this product according to the ingredient list). They tend to be used mostly in chewing gum, protein bars, and low-sugar candy. They are included in the total carbohydrate amount listed on the food label, but we don’t actually absorb many calories from them.

Sugar alcohols are safe to consume, but some people may experience gastrointestinal upset (cramping, bloating, diarrhea) if they eat too much of them. As little as 5 grams at a time can cause these issues so one serving of this ice cream is probably fine, but if you find your stomach is not so thrilled after eating it that could be why.

Now, if you were to eat the whole container of this stuff the story would be slightly different. The entire container of ice cream is equal to 4 servings from what’s listed on the label.

So you would be eating;

  • 320 calories (I usually recommend “treats” to be less than 150 calories, so this is definitely more than I’d suggest eating)
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Protein 24 grams (the equivalent of 3oz of chicken)
  • Added sugars: 7 tsp (more than the 6 tsp women should stay under for the day)
  • Sugar alcohols: 12 grams (definitely enough to give you some GI upset!

In all honesty, eating an entire container of ice cream in one sitting is not something we should be doing, regardless of the calorie content. Even low-cal, low-sugar, low-fat processed foods are still processed and don’t provide us with much in the way of nutrition. We can easily get all of the “good stuff” in this ice cream like fibre or protein from whole foods.

No one needs to eat an entire container of ice cream in one sitting, added  protein or not

But lets talk about the protein thing for a minute…

Does ice cream need to be supplemented with extra protein in order to make it ‘ok’ to eat? NO!

Protein isn’t calorie-free (4 calories per gram to be exact) and eating more protein than we need is still a contributor of excess calories in our diet. You’re 100% better off eating protein from whole food sources (like from lentils, meat, or eggs) instead of getting it from a sugary dessert. The 6 grams of protein found in one serving of this ice cream is the same as what’s in a single egg, and the 24 grams that’s in the whole container is not worth the 7 tsp of added sugar that comes along with it.

The whey protein they add to products like this is known to be rapidly digested and absorbed so the extra ‘satiating’ effect we always brag about when it comes to protein is nothing to write home about here either.

So this CoolWay ice cream that got me curious….how does it stack up against other brands of light ice cream anyway?

Here is the label and nutrition facts for Breyers Light Ice Cream. It doesn’t use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar and doesn’t have added protein.

So, the Breyers light ice cream (which is a fraction of the cost of the CoolWay stuff by the way) per half-cup contains:

  • 100 calories (only 20 more than the CoolWay!)
  • 2.5 grams of fat (the SAME as the CoolWay!)
  • 14 grams of sugar (3.5 tsp, which is a pretty reasonable amount when it comes to a dessert or treat food)
  • 1 gram of protein

So the bottom line is if you’re eating a reasonable portion size of ice cream don’t bother with the protein-added version. Nutritionally there is very little difference and the extra cost is definitely not worth a few grams of whey protein.

But… how did it taste?

Meh, Ok. The mint chocolate chip flavour I purchased was definitely minty, and chocolatey, but nowhere NEAR as good as real ice cream. Not worth the 6 dollars, and definitely not worth a stomach ache from all those sugar alcohols!


My advice?

Keep your treats and desserts to moderate portions and get your nutrients from REAL FOOD. If you struggle with sugar cravings or binge eating incorporating some mindful eating practices into your life can definitely help keep overeating in check. Try to avoid overeating by not snacking mindlessly in front of the TV or while working or studying. Identify some of the non-hunger reasons why you might eat such as stress, boredom, or fatigue and work on changing your knee-jerk reaction of reaching for food in those situations. That way you can establish a more positive relationship with food , guilt free. Have your ice cream and eat it too!


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