Stocking Your Healthful Freezer: Frozen Treats (Part 1)

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This spring and summer, you may have noticed that we’ve been working our way around the kitchen. Knives, pots and pans, utensils, foods for the cupboard, and foods for the fridge have been addressed. And I appreciate everyone’s input and thoughts.

This week, before I sat down to write this entry, I thought about delving more into foods to keep in the fridge, but I realized that what I would have suggested was fruits and vegetables. I’m sure by now the message to eat more of these has been engrained in you to the point where maybe you don’t want to hear it again (although repetition can be a good thing!). If you’d like more information on fruits and vegetables, please let me know, as I’m more than happy talk about them. For now, though, my suggestion is to take advantage of all of the summer fruits (peaches, plums, cantaloupe, watermelon, blueberries, raspberries) and vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, lettuce, carrots). Check out farmers’ markets for good deals — and support your community at the same time.

This week, we’ll shift our focus to foods for the freezer. Since we’re now into the dog days of summer, what better a category of food to talk about than frozen treats? We’ll look at some of the more healthful (or at least better) options to cool you off and satisfy your sweet tooth.

When I was a child, I remember my excitement when the ice cream truck came down my street on a summer evening. There was always so much to choose from and it was hard to decide what to get. Of course back then, I didn’t give any thought to calories or fat and carbohydrate grams. Today, there are also many frozen treats to choose from, but as avid label-readers know, many of them are off the charts in terms of fat and carbohydrate. Luckily, there are plenty of frozen novelties that health-conscious folks can eat — it’s just a matter of sorting them all out.

Ice cream. You might be surprised to know that ice cream dates back to at least the fourth century BC. The Roman emperor Nero is known to have demanded that ice be brought from the mountains and flavored with fruit. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed ice cream too, and served it to their guests.

Fast-forward to today and we’ve got all sorts of ice cream flavors to choose from, including garlic and black pepper! But flavor and texture can come with a price: Ice cream isn’t exactly considered to be a weight-watcher’s best friend. So keeping a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs’ ice cream tucked in the freezer isn’t the best idea unless you can take one or two spoonfuls and put it right back. A half cup of Häagen-Dazs’ Rocky Road contains 300 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 29 grams of carbohydrate (and who eats just a half a cup?). There are more healthful options to choose from, and most of them taste quite good. Make sure you understand the labeling terms when you open the frozen food case. Here’s what you’ll come across:

  • Light: No more than half the fat and two-thirds the calories of the regular version
  • Reduced-fat: At least 25% less fat than the regular version
  • Low fat: No more than three grams of fat per serving
  • Fat-free: Less than half of a gram of fat per serving

You’ll notice that some of the lower-fat ice creams use a process called “churning.” Churning reduces the size of the fat particles and ice crystals in the ice cream, resulting in a smooth texture that allows the manufacturer to forgo adding extra fat. Not all of the churned ice creams are as appealing as say, Ben & Jerry’s Triple Caramel Chunk, because their texture and flavor can vary. But in general, these lower-fat ice creams can hit the spot on a sweltering day.

What about sugar-free or no-sugar-added ice creams? These usually contain sugar alcohols, but may still contain a lot of calories, fat and saturated fat, in addition to carbohydrate. Read the Nutrition Facts Label and don’t go overboard with the portion size, either. Use a small dish such as a custard cup instead of a large bowl when scooping out light ice cream. Another good option is to serve yourself a small scoop on a small wafer cone, which has only about 17 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrate.

Here’s a rundown on some ice cream varieties that you might try:

  • Edy’s/Dreyer’s Slow Churned
  • Breyer’s Smooth & Dreamy
  • Hood Churned Light
  • Turkey Hill Light Recipe

In general, choose lower-fat ice creams that contain no more than 120–150 calories and no more than about 4 grams of fat per serving, which is usually a half cup.

More on frozen treats next week!

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