A healthy lifestyle sometimes means you compromise on having sweet-tasting treats, especially with the current media focus on reducing sugar in our diets. Those of us with a sweet tooth might struggle to find tasty treats which fit in with a healthy nutrition plan. Luckily, there are some new ice cream products in the supermarket freezer aisles to tempt us which (amazingly) have either zero or low sugar. These are perfect for anyone who is counting the calories, trying to reduce their carbs, increase their protein, diabetic or simply looking for a healthy treat.
Alternative healthy sweeteners
To achieve a lower calorie/sugar-free ice cream, manufacturers tend to use either Stevia or Xylitol to provide the sweetness.
Stevia is derived from a leaf so is completely natural, and is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar so as you need very little, therefore it’s calorie-free. It is said to lower blood pressure and control blood sugar and insulin levels.
Xylitol is extracted from corn cobs and has around one third of the sugar compared with standard sugar, thus reducing the calories. It is claimed that it is good for your teeth and is beneficial for diabetics. There is some debate about whether Stevia or Xylitol is better for you, but both are being used widely in food production to provide consumers with low sugar alternatives.
Low sugar ice creams?
Although there are always plenty of ‘diet’ products on the shelves, many of them aren’t actually very healthy, so I’m not always in a rush to try them out until I know what’s in them. It was only after watching a YouTube post by Nic’s Nutrition (watch the video by clicking here) where she mentioned Oppo that I was keen to find out more, as Nic is a registered dietician and therefore it must be good! Also, having discussed this subject at work, a colleague listed some of the brands she was also aware of, but neither of us were sure of the nutritional benefits or what each one tasted like so I thought I’d do a blind test with my family to see which one comes out on top!
Here are four low/zero sugar ice creams which I picked up at my local supermarkets, which are Tesco and Sainsbury’s stores. I know that not all brands are found in all supermarkets but you can also generally find them in Waitrose, Asda and Holland & Barratt stores. Some of their websites offer a ‘Store finder’ option to find a stockist near you.
Breyers Delights has been available since January 2017 and comes in four flavours :
- Creamy Chocolate
- Cookies & Cream
- Smooth Vanilla
- Mint Chip
It is labelled as ‘high protein’ and has between 290-350 calories per TUB (yes, per tub) – this compares to 1250 in a tub of Haagen Dazs vanilla flavour. It is sweetened with Stevia and contains fresh cream to make it nice and creamy.
Halo markets itself as “guilt-free ice cream” and comes in more flavours than the other brands, including :
- Vanilla Bean
- Mint Chip
- Sea Salt Caramel
- Peanut Butter Cup
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
- Cinnamon Roll
Time Magazine hailed Halo as “one of the best inventions in 2017” and it is massive in America where they have even more flavours, including “chocolate-covered banana! It is sweetened with Stevia and each tub has a maximum of 360 calories.
Oppo was invented by two kite-surfing dudes who were inspired by naturally sweet treats they tried after running out of food whilst travelling through Brazil. It contains virgin coconut oil, free range milk, the wonder-fruit baobob and is sweetened with Stevia. It comes in four flavours :
- Madagascan Vanilla
- Salted Caramel
- Columbian Chocolate and Hazelnut
- Mint Choc Swirl
- Cookie Dough
- Raspberry Nipple (yes, really!)
The makers call it a decadent ice cream full of flavour and high quality ingredients and it contains fewer than 50-70% of calories and sugar, depending on flavour, compared with standard products.
Wheyhey! claims to be a delicious, creamy, high protein, sugar-free ice cream. It is sweetened with Xylitol and their website shows two flavours :
Their website doesn’t list or make any claims about their ingredients which seems odd when the other manufacturers seem very proud to extol the virtues of their healthy constituents. It was invented by two university students as they wanted a sugar free, high protein alternative to ice cream. Investors include celebrity model David Gandy.
The facts and figures
It’s worth pointing out that these aren’t cheap; they are at the luxury end of the market and compare with Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s, price-wise. There are often offers in the supermarkets though, particularly during January when everyone is on a health kick. It’s worth doing a quick Google to see where you can get the best discounts!
All of the brands contain significantly fewer calories and less sugar compared to normal ice cream, but here are the stats for each to allow you to compare.
And so to the most important part – what do they actually taste like? Personally, I’m prepared to compromise slightly on taste to include healthier options in my diet, but would I have to compromise with my ice cream? The answer is a resounding NO as these are – in the main – absolutely delicious!
The winner is…. Oppo! It was very close, but it just beat the others with its tasty flavour and creaminess. You really wouldn’t know you were eating a low sugar option with any of the top three, to be honest. It was very difficult to choose who was second so we awarded a tie between Halo and Breyers. The only brand we didn’t like was Wheyhey, which had a crystallised appearance and tasted very bland.
The taste testers were myself, my husband and older son, and we tried them ‘blind’ and noted our thoughts, which are summarised above. Obviously taste is very subjective, so you may have a different preference. There was so little to choose between the top three, so the strength of the vanilla, or the perceived creaminess, may sway you to a particular brand.
I would love to hear your feedback to see if you agree with our testers. Please comment below or tweet me using the link at the top of the page.
To read my story about giving up sugar for February, follow this link Can you cure a sugar addiction?