As I sat in front of my TV enjoying my Diet-to-Go lunch, I found myself suddenly craving ice cream or some other decadent frozen treat. Could it be the commercial for the Snicker's ice cream bar that triggered the urge? Um... DUH... of course!
Okay so a guy nicknamed Mr. Bad Food is easily led astray. But, instead of hopping in my car and racing to the local market for an ice cream fix, I dragged myself back into my home office and started surfing the Web for healthier ice cream treats.
The first fact that caught my eye: Americans enjoy nearly 21 quarts of ice cream per person per year.
The second scoop on ice cream: July may be National Ice Cream Month but August, the hottest month of the year for most of us, boasts a lot of single-day ice cream holidays.
Sample this partial list:
August 2 National Ice Cream Sandwich Day
August 2 National Ice Cream Soda Day
August 14 National Creamsicle Day
August 18 National Ice Cream Pie Day
August 19 National Soft Ice Cream Day
August 21 National Spumoni Day
August 25 National Banana Split Day
August 26 National Cherry Popsicle Day
Okay, so as I always say, if you can't lick 'em, join 'em in a cold treat. But try to make it a healthier choice.
And remember, a little ice cream now and then won't melt your diet resolve; in fact, it just may help you stay on track.
But heed this advice from a man who's slipped and fallen many times while climbing the Healthy Ice Cream Mountain: DO NOT buy half-gallon cartons or the multi-packs of your favorite treats. Opt for one at a time and keep the treat small and refreshing!
Now, check out these recommendations from my dear friend Beth Aldrich at RealMomsLovetoEat.com:
Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss!
These delectable frozen treats are made with organic coconut milk instead of dairy, but your stomach will never know the difference, I swear! They’re all vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free, making them the perfect healthy alternative. The texture is so rich and creamy, you’ll insist that you’re eating a gourmet dairy-based ice cream. My kids lap it up, too.
Grab your Slice!
Another one of my faves, Slice Cream comes from Slice Labs, a nutrient replenishment company that packs its products with healthy, nutrition-boosting ingredients, like the antioxidant-rich fruit from the Baobab tree (the new acai super fruit). This chilly low-carb dessert is also loaded with healthy protein from whey and comes in several need-specific options — weight loss, energy, and fitness — meaning it’s okay to enjoy morning, noon, and night. A Real Mom’s dream come true!
Okay, so what about more mainstream choices?
Here's the skinny on better ice cream picks, according to GoodHousekeeping.com:
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Good Housekeeping volunteers loved The Skinny Cow Low-Fat Ice Cream Sandwiches ( $5.49 for six) for their "fabulous chocolate cookie" and generous portion of vanilla ice cream. Bonus: Each treat, at 140 calories, is 97 percent fat-free and packs in 3 grams of fiber.
Chocolate-Covered Vanilla Ice Cream Bars
Thanks to Breyer's special process, which mixes the ice cream twice, the velvety texture of their Creamy Vanilla Double Churn Light Ice Cream Bars ($3.49 for six) was a big hit. "This one could fool me!" exclaimed one happy volunteer about the 160-calorie bar.
The number one ingredient in Whole Treat Organic Fudge Bars ($3.49 for four) is fresh organic ice cream — and our tasters could tell. With "delicious dairy" and "true fudge" flavors, these treats are "for real chocoholics." Best surprise: Each bar is only 100 calories.
And finally, Dawn Jackson Blatner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, tells Reader's Digest that ice cream lovers should scan labels for the terms cold-, slow-, or double-churned.
“It's code for a manufacturing process that evenly distributes a small amount of fat, giving lower-fat ice creams a rich, smooth texture,” she says.
Other great advice from the Reader's Digest article I stumbled upon:
"Healthy summer treats don't have to taste chalky or fake! Look for ingredients you know; skim milk and sugar taste better than things you can't pronounce.
"Skip fat-free products, which often use chemical additives to make up for lost flavor. They're also less satisfying, so you may eat more.
"Avoid sorbitol and sucralose, which create an artificially sweet taste.
"Pick a bold flavor like mint, caramel, or mocha; you won't miss the fat as much."
Now excuse me, while Mr. Bad Food goes out to the freezer to forage for a frozen treat!
John McGran has been a writer/editor for about as long as he's been battling his weight. During his 25-year career, John has written for several newspapers, tabloids and Web sites. You may recognize his name and style from the seven years he spent writing a Worst of the Worst Foods column as Mr. Bad Food. If you have any topics you'd like John to tackle, feel free to write him at email@example.com