As the temperature rises outside, what do you crave? Ice cream and sweet frozen treats are part of summer, but are they a healthy option? Everything in moderation, yes, but what’s in your ice cream that you may not have expected? Is it okay for your toddler or kids to eat all the time?
Ingredient lists sometimes require a chemistry degree to decipher, so I’ve got a cheat sheet for you here:
• Modified Milk Ingredients – these can include casein (factory-extracted milk proteins), butter oil compound (which is generally 51-per-cent sugar) and whey proteins.
• Water – makes it go further and up profit.
• Sugar – there’s something I recognize and expect. It’s ingredient #3 so it’s pretty high.
• Glucose – commonly known as high fructose corn syrup, a corn-based sweetener that has replaced common table sugar in many food products (often as a cost-saving measure). It’s said to be more harmful to humans than sugar.
• Hydrogenated Coconut Oil – trans fat right there.
• Cellulose gum – commonly found in many household products, from certain foods to hair gels and laxatives. Helps to glue two liquids together, provides no nutritional value but causes no harm to the body.
• Natural and artificial flavour – artificial flavour is defined as any flavour derived from a product not generally intended for human consumption.
• Guar gum – this water-soluble fibre thickens milk in ice creams. It’s also a laxative.
• Colour – really? This is vanilla ice cream. And tartrazine is the worst artificial colour out there. Just avoid it.
• Propylene glycol alginate – an additive derived from kelp, for thickening food such as ice cream and salad dressing. There’s some evidence that it inhibits nutrient absorption. On another note, it does protect you from strontium absorption if a nuclear bomb drops on you while eating your ice cream cone!
• Carrageenan – A vegan alternative to gluten, this extract from red seaweed increases viscosity. It is also used in shampoo, beer and shoe polish.
As well as being high calorie and laden with sugar, most ice creams should be offered in moderation. Parents are cautioned against daily visits to the ice cream truck, as you’ll find similarly unnatural ingredients in—what starts as powder, ice cream.
Instead of relying on store bought, how about making at home? You don’t need an old-fashioned milk churn or cow out back, just a few ingredients and a good ice cream maker. I love Cuisnart’s Ice Cream Maker and have used it for a few years with great success. Even a blender, frozen fruit and some plain yogurt and a splash of honey whip up easily into instant frozen yogurt.
Here are a few of tried and true recipes that are real winners:
Blueberry and Maple Ice cream
3 cups blueberries, can be defrosted from frozen
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup whipping cream
Puree blueberries in a blender or food processor. Add maple syrup and cream and blend until mixed well. Blend for longer for a smoother ice cream. Pour into ice cream maker and leave for 15 – 20 minutes. Scoop and eat immediately or store in a container in the freezer.
If you’d like to try out something new, how about a coconut milk ice cream?
Blueberry Coconut Ice Cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
2 cans regular coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla pod seeds
In a large bowl, whisk yolks and syrup together until pale yellow, 1 to 2 minutes. Add coconut milk and whisk again until well combined.
Transfer coconut mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until just thickened and mixture coats the back of a spoon – about 8 to 10 minutes. Be sure not to let the mixture boil. Remove pot from the heat and stir in vanilla.
Transfer contents of pot to a bowl and chill until cold.
Pour mixture in ice cream maker and leave for 20 – 30 minutes or until it’s the consistency of a milkshake. Transfer to a container with a lid and freeze until firm.
Fruity Frozen Yogurt
1 cup plain yogurt
2½ cups fruit salad*
½ ripe avocado (optional)
3 tbsp maple syrup or honey
Spread fruit salad evenly on a parchment-lined baking tray and freeze. Alternatively, use pre-cut and frozen mixed berries or fruit.
Purée yogurt, frozen fruit, avocado, and maple syrup in a food processor until smooth. Makes about 2 cups (500 mL).
* Be sure to include banana for sweetness and creamy texture.
If making your own isn’t part of your summer plans, here are some tips for choosing a better ice cream:
- Look for the made with Canadian Milk symbol. Any ice cream made with milk from the US may have growth hormones and other chemicals that aren’t allowed in Canadian farming, unless it’s organic.
- Look for cream on the list of ingredients. At least that’s one less chemical process and a real ingredient.
- Avoid colours and flavourings. Not that easy to do, but remember that ice cream sundaes are usually made with vanilla ice cream, just read the label. Jazz it up yourself with nuts and blueberries.
- Try alternative milk ice creams made from rice or coconut milk. So tasty and may have a few less calories than cream based ice creams.
Now that you’ve got the scoop, comment on how you plan to have a healthier summer below.