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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Chow Line: No need to scream over ice cream (for 6/27/10)

June 18, 2010

My husband chooses strawberry ice cream over other flavors because he thinks the fruit makes it healthier. Does it?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there's not nearly enough fruit in ice cream to allow it to qualify as a serving of fruit. If your husband wants to use ice cream to gain a serving of fruit, he can top off his treat with a half-cup of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or other type of fruit -- that would do the trick.

Still, strawberry and other fruit-flavored ice cream might have more vitamin C than other flavors, but he should check the Nutrition Facts label -- that's not always the case.

While he's looking at that label, he should also check the serving size (a half-cup is standard for ice cream -- is that how much he generally eats, or is it more?) as well as the calories, fat and sugar that he's consuming. The content of all those nutrients can vary widely depending on how that particular ice cream is made. In fact, some no-sugar-added, reduced fat flavors have as few as 90 calories, 4 grams of fat and 4 grams of sugar per serving, while some premium ice creams contain 350 calories, 24 grams of fat and 20 grams of sugar per serving -- or more. The point is, check it out. Ignorance isn't bliss when it shows up on your hips.

If you don't like what you see when you check the calories, fat and sugar on your favorite carton, there are plenty of options in the ice cream aisle:

  • "Reduced fat" ice cream contains at least 25 percent less total fat than the "referenced product," which is either the company's regular ice cream or the average of leading brands.
  • "Light" ice cream contains at least 50 percent less total fat or 33 percent fewer calories than the referenced product.
  • "Lowfat" ice cream contains a maximum of 3 grams of total fat per half-cup serving.
  • "Nonfat" ice cream contains less than 0.5 grams of total fat per serving.

Ice cream also generally has high sugar content, but again, that varies widely. Regular vanilla ice cream can have 13 to 16 grams of sugar in a serving, but low- or no-sugar types reduce that considerably with the use of sugar substitutes. Again, check the label. As a dairy product, ice cream does offer some calcium -- generally 8 to 10 percent of the Daily Value for calcium (80 to 100 milligrams). Adults need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day.

As with anything we eat, the trick to incorporating ice cream as part of a healthy diet is controlling portions (measure that half-cup) and knowing what you're eating (check Nutrition Facts). Then -- enjoy.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: July is National Ice Cream Month. This column was reviewed by Julie Kennel, registered dietitian and program specialist for Ohio State University Extension in the Department of Human Nutrition, in the College of Education and Human Ecology.

Martha Filipic
Julie Kennel