Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Yesterday, I enjoyed a soft-serve vanilla and chocolate twist ice cream with chocolate jimmies (“sprinkles” for those of you not from New England!). The ice cream was so smooth and creamy and hit the spot — plus, it was also lunchtime and I didn’t have an opportunity to grab something a little bit more healthful.

I have a fondness for ice cream, but at home, I only keep the light ice cream in my freezer. And it’s actually quite good, I have to admit. The “churning” process that food manufacturers are now using really does lend enough creaminess so that you don’t miss the “real” stuff quite so much.

There’s more to frozen treats than just ice cream, though. Fudgesicles, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, Italian ices, even sherbet and sorbet add enough variety that one need never get bored eating the same thing! What kind of frozen novelties do you enjoy?

This week, we’ll continue our look at frozen treats.

Frozen yogurt. Frozen yogurt became popular back in the 1980’s, giving ice cream some long-needed competition. Frozen yogurt does contain yogurt — but it also contains milk fat, sugar, gelatin, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and flavorings. It may or may not contain live bacterial cultures, and like ice cream, it comes in a hard form and a soft-serve form. Over time, the lines between frozen yogurt and ice cream have blurred somewhat; often, one can’t really distinguish between the two. The “sourness” or “tanginess” of most commercial frozen yogurts has disappeared, with the exception of frozen yogurt from stores such as Pinkberry (found in Los Angeles and New York City), TCBY, and other frozen yogurt shops.

Nutritionally, frozen yogurt can vary in terms of calories and fat. Nonfat frozen yogurt is available: A half-cup of Hoods Chocolate Fat Free Frozen Yogurt contains 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 19 grams of carbohydrate. You can also get low-fat frozen yogurt. Ben & Jerry’s Low Fat Black Raspberry frozen yogurt has 140 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 28 grams of carbohydrate per half-cup serving. Calorie, fat, and carbohydrate-wise, frozen yogurt isn’t a whole lot different than light or fat-free ice cream. And there’s no guarantee that the frozen yogurt you eat contains live bacterial cultures (which are deemed to be beneficial), although you may find some brands that bear the “Live & Active Cultures” seal.

Sherbet. The meaning of the word “sherbet” has undergone a metamorphosis over time. Originally, sherbet referred to a Turkish drink made from fruit juice, sugar, and chilled with snow. Today, at least in the US, sherbet is a frozen concoction made from fruit juice and water, and usually milk, egg whites, and maybe gelatin. The process of making sherbet is pretty much the same as making ice cream; what really varies are the ingredients. Sherbet contains less butterfat and much less milk than ice cream. Also, if you’re a sherbet-eater, you’ll notice that most sherbet flavors are fruit-based: orange, lemon, raspberry, and rainbow, although you’ll occasionally come across chocolate sherbet. Calorie-wise, sherbet falls along the lines of light ice cream. One-half cup of Edy’s Berry Rainbow Sherbet contains 130 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 29 grams of carbohydrate. Some people think that sherbet is a better bet in terms of carbohydrate than ice cream, but that’s really not the case — as always, read the label!

Sorbet. Sorbet sometimes gets confused with sherbet because both of these frozen treats are typically made with fruit. However, the difference is that sorbet doesn’t contain any milk. It’s essentially a frozen fruit puree with perhaps some sweetener added to boost the flavor. Sorbet is also available in nonfruit flavors, such as chocolate and coffee, and you may even come across savory sorbets with flavors such as beet, tomato, and basil. Sorbets are often used between dinner courses to “cleanse the palate.” How does sorbet stack up, nutritionally? A half-cup of Häagen-Dazs’ Chocolate Sorbet has 130 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, and 28 grams of carbohydrate. Other brands may contain closer to 100 calories per serving, but the carbohydrate is still close to 30 grams (2 carbohydrate choices). Sorbet can be a good choice for someone who is lactose intolerant or who has a milk allergy. But don’t count on sorbet being a “free” food.

By the way, if you’re curious, gelato, an Italian-style ice cream, has become quite popular in the US. Gelato is typically lower in fat and sugar than regular ice cream, and it’s more dense. Some gelatos have a custard base, meaning that they contain eggs. Calories and fat can vary, but gelatos average about 170–220 calories per half cup, about 8 grams of fat, and 24–36 grams of carbohydrate.

More next week!


Stocking Your Healthful Freezer: Frozen Treats (Part 1)
Stocking Your Healthful Freezer: Frozen Treats (Part 2)

  1. Excellent info. Very timely and helpful. I’m a type II for over 47 years and have healthfully reached the young age of 78 and looking forward to continued good health. Again thank you for the great advice! Robert Hicks

    Posted by Robert Hicks |
  2. What a wealth of information! Gelato is expensive where I am and more calories than some of the low fat ice creams you mentioned. Thanks!

    Posted by H Swanson |
  3. Amy, have you had any experience using Nopal (natural food from cactus) to reduce blood sugar?


    Posted by George Todd |
  4. I have noticed that a lot of frozen treats are now labeled “No Sugar Added”. I am curious as to if they have substituted the sugar with an artificial sweetener or some other type of sweetener. I have found that sometimes labels don’t tell you everything you want to know.

    Posted by Susan Butsch |
  5. Hi George,

    I actually have not had any experience with nopal. Nopal is also called prickly pear and belongs to the cactus family. It contains soluble fiber which may help slow the absorption of carbohydrate, which, in turn may help better control blood glucose. There aren’t a whole lot of studies that have looked at nopal, although the few that have been done seem to look promising, resulting in lower fasting glucose and lower blood insulin levels. Nopal seems to have the most benefit if eaten cooked, not raw, or taken as a supplement. Common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, and satiety. Just keep in mind that no long-term studies have been done in terms of diabetes management.

    Posted by acampbell |
  6. Hi Susan,

    It’s great that you’re reading both the front of the package and the Nutrition Facts label. The term “no sugar added” means that no sugar has been added during processing. However, natural sugars (from fruit juice, for example) may be present in a no sugar added food. Typically, no sugar added foods derive their sweetness from either nonnutritive sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, and/or acesulfame-K, or from sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, or erythritol, for example). Read the ingredient list carefully and you’ll likely see one of these types of sweeteners in the mix. And remember that no sugar added doesn’t mean the food is carbohydrate-free or even low in carbohydrate.

    Posted by acampbell |

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