On the Table

It’s summertime and the ice cream calls

June 25, 2013 

If only the pounds melted away as quickly as the ice cream in a cone.

Even though ice cream is one of the most popular American snacks all year long, this is prime time for the cold, creamy treat.

But when it becomes a daily indulgence, the calories and saturated fat can add up and tip the scales – literally. It’ll mess with your blood fat levels, too.

Now, I love ice cream as much as you probably do. And life’s too short. Sometimes long-term health considerations don’t trump a good time.

But there are ways to hedge the harm.

First, figure out whether or not you’re a purist. A purist is someone who won’t settle for low-fat and nonfat varieties. They want full-fat, premium ice cream – or none at all.

In that case, a daily dose is too much. One half cup – about one scoop – of most brands contains 250 to 300 calories.

Hold it to the occasional splurge. Be aware that toppings and other extras such as whipped cream and crushed candies such as chocolate peanut butter cups and candy bars add a significant number of calories to each serving.

If you can enjoy the low-fat and nonfat varieties, they are better for you. But you’ll still need to watch the extras as well as portion size and frequency. A daily dish of Edy’s Slow Churned reduced-fat butter pecan ice cream has 120 calories in a half cup.

That’s half the calories of full-fat ice cream, but it adds up. After all, who eats only a half-cup of ice cream?

If you’d realistically eat double that amount in one sitting, the calories can make it difficult to maintain or lose weight. Nonfat frozen yogurt and sorbets contain less saturated fat than ice cream but are about the same in calorie content as reduced-fat ice cream.

Another tactic for controlling your ice cream intake: Only eat it out. You’ll avoid the temptation calling to you from inside your freezer.

The bottom line: It can be easy to fall into a routine of eating ice cream – in all of its incarnations – on a regular, even daily, basis. That’s too much for most of us.

Enjoy ice cream, but keep it in check.

Which is precisely my plan as I head out. Maple View Farm, here I come!

Suzanne Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management and nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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