Ice cream is at the heart of many childhood memories — the music from the ice cream truck drifting down the street, a plastic helmet full of the sweet treat at a ball park, sticky fingers and full bellies.
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You can recreate these memories without overindulging. As summer heats up, use these eight tips to scream for ice cream without screaming the next time you step on a scale.
1. Don’t go over the top with toppings
Peanut butter cups, cookies, chocolate or caramel sauce — these add lots of calories, sugar and unhealthy fat even in small servings. Even the innocent-looking sprinkle can hurt your health when you consider its key ingredients: sugar, palm kernel or hydrogenated oils, and food coloring. Instead, top your ice cream with fresh fruit for antioxidants, fiber and flavor or nuts for satisfying protein and healthy fats.
2. Be a kid
When it comes to ice cream, you don’t have to be a kid to act like one! Ordering your ice cream in a “kiddie” cup (or cone) rather than a large one can cut some serious waist-expanding calories — about 500 at many ice cream shops.
3. Choose your cone wisely
With the right cone selection, you can have your cake and eat it too. When compared to other ice cream holders, the cake cone is barely there. On average, a cake cone has 17 calories, compared with 50 calories for a sugar cone and 115 for a waffle cone.
4. Go pro
Frozen yogurt has emerged as a viable alternative to the real thing. Its best benefit may be probiotics, or live bacteria that promote digestive health. Be choosey, though, because frozen yogurt options can be loaded with sugar and fat — just like ice cream. Picking fro-yo is not an open invitation to go hog wild on the toppings.
5. Fancy is not necessarily fabulous
Flavors today go far beyond vanilla and chocolate and include lavender, basil and even cayenne pepper. Many of my patients feel that these “real” ingredients with their “real” vitamins and minerals create a healthier scoop. Although plant-infused ice cream may seem healthier, it’s not. Cream and sugar still dominate the ingredient list.
6. The FYI on DIY
Be wary of self-serve ice cream and yogurt parlors. Between the enormous bowls and nearly unlimited toppings such as candy, fruit, sauces, cereals and cookies, it’s easy to end up with more calories, fat and sugar than you could ever dream of. In fact, a 2012 study found that larger bowls often lead to larger portions.
7. Be skeptical of “healthy” options
The “fat free” ice cream probably doubles up on sugar, and the “sugar free” option is probably loaded with artificial sweeteners. That’s doesn’t mean these options are all bad, but don’t use marketing claims to justify daily visits to the ice cream shop.
8. Say no thanks to the shake
I like to joke that milkshakes are made with the employee’s back to you because if you saw how much ice cream went into it, you’d never order one again. An average small shake contains about 700 calories, and an average large shake weighs in at about 1,500 calories. Need I say more?
Ice cream is a treat. Save it for special occasions and eat it in moderation, and you’ll be making summer memories for many years to come.