Craving cool relief from the heat, but unsure of how to make a healthy choice? HFG dietitian Brooke Longfield helps you reach for the right frosty fix.
The Australian summer can hit temperatures that make us want to set up camp in the refrigerated section of the supermarket! So we reach for the next best thing: cooling ice blocks, ice creams and frozen yoghurt.
However, like most of today’s sweet treats, the once humble ice cream has evolved into a much larger, more extravagant creation. Tempting and readily available, indulgences such as Magnum, Maxibon and Connoisseur can be instant recipes for unwanted weight gain, so it pays to choose your icy treats with care.
Enjoy the variety
We love ice cream so much, we’re among its highest consumers worldwide: The average Aussie eats 18 litres of frozen treats a year. Ice cream and fruit-based ice blocks are the main options, but we can choose from a wide range of sticks, tubs, pops and bars that also includes gelato and frozen yoghurt. Feeling a little spoilt for choice?
When shopping for ice cream, check ingredients lists for low-fat or skim milk, as these products contain less saturated fat. This is the healthiest approach, and the more often you indulge, the more important this strategy becomes.
Yoghurt-based treats may seem like a healthier choice than regular ice cream, but that’s not necessarily the case: Frozen yoghurt can be high in saturated fat and is often loaded with added sugar. Keep an eye on chocolate, too. It adds kilojoules and saturated fat to ice cream, as do all those fun colourful toppings, like nuts, biscuit crumble and coconut.
When choosing an ice cream, you don’t need to read the entire nutrition information panel. To pick the healthiest option, just scan the panel for the amounts of kilojoules and saturated fat. Look for a creamy treat that has fewer than 600kJ (about 150cal) and no more than 2.5g of saturated fat per serve.
Dairy-based ice creams have some nutritional value: They provide a little protein and, from brand to brand, varying amounts of calcium, which is an essential component of strong teeth and bones.
The amount of real fruit juice in ice blocks varies dramatically: Some brands contain less than 10 per cent, whereas others are 100 per cent juice. The healthiest option is an ice block that’s more than 40 per cent real fruit juice, as this will retain some of fruit’s nutrients, such as vitamin C, while providing less added sugar.
A simple way to minimise your sugar intake from a frozen treat is to watch your portion size. Choose smaller, individually portioned ice blocks, such as mini versions or fruity ‘pops’. These still contain natural fruit and milk sugars, but with fewer kilojoules and less added sugar.
It’s also a good idea to view sugary ice blocks and ice creams as only occasional extras, not everyday essentials.
Size up your treats
It’s essential to control portion sizes, particularly when treating yourself to something sweet. A regular Magnum Classic, for example, has 1181kJ (283cal) and a whopping 13g of saturated fat, whereas a Magnum Mini has just 645kJ (154cal) and 7.2g of saturated fat.