‘Healthy’ ice cream promises indulgence without guilt. Does it deliver?

The chocolate offerings of four brands of “health food” ice cream.
The chocolate offerings of four brands of “health food” ice cream.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

A test taste of offerings from four brands of healthful ice cream is done to see how each measures up

(WASHINGTON POST) - Every child dreams of eating ice cream for breakfast. Then they grow up and realise they can eat ice cream whenever they want - if they are willing to sweat out the consequences at the gym. Several new dessert brands want to make your childhood dreams come true: They have turned ice cream into a health food. Kind of.

Brands such as Halo Top and Enlightened offer ice cream so low in calories that you could eat a whole pint without guilt. Some of these companies have infused their ice cream with protein and other nutrients. And even though the calorie counts are displayed prominently, they have attractive branding that is suggestive of a more indulgent product — not a sad diet “frozen dessert”.

Some of the ice cream also promise that they taste just like regular, full-fat ice cream. So, I put them to the test, staging a blind tasting of four brands of healthful ice cream - each chocolate-flavoured, with some regular Haagen-Dazs thrown into the mix. The taste-testers were not alerted to the presence of full-fat ice cream. If these brands really tasted like real ice cream, would their scores rival the Haagen-Dazs ones, which has nearly 1,000 calories in a single pint?

When the scores were totalled, the full-fat ice cream was the clear winner, scoring an average of 3.8 points out of 5. That is nearly twice as many points as the second-place brand. “This tastes like ice cream,” one of the testers commented excitedly - that is because it was.

The rest of the diet ice cream - some are dairy-free “frozen desserts” - did not fare nearly as well. Still, some were better than others.

In order from worst to best:

Arctic Zero Fit Frozen Dessert - Purely Chocolate

Average score: 1

Calories a pint: 150

Attributes: 3g of protein and 2g of dietary fibre a serving, gluten-free, lactose-free, non-fat, low glycemic index, made with the finest-quality whey protein and antioxidant-rich monk fruit, nutrition-packed to boost energy and improve muscle tone

Found at select Target, Whole Foods, Giant, Safeway and Streets Market outlets

Our tasters say: “Consistency of a very bad fudgsicle... There is no indulgence in this... Chalky and horrible... This sucks all the fun out of dessert... Nobody should eat this.”

Average score: 1.05, a virtual tie for the bottom

Calories a pint: 600

Attributes: Soya-free, gluten-free, vegan, 220mg of potassium and 4g of dietary fibre a serving, a whole avocado in every pint

Found at Wegmans

Our tasters say: “It’s like way overripe fruit bathed in canola oil... Petroleum... I spit it out... Weird greasy banana chocolate... Am I in a secret CIA prison?”

Enlightened, The Good-For-You Ice Cream - Triple Chocolate

Average score: 1.3

Calories a pint: 360

Attributes: 5g of dietary fibre and 7g of protein a serving, low glycemic index, sweetened with erythritol and monk fruit, more protein, and less sugar.  Due to extreme deliciousness, high likelihood of consuming entire pint upon tasting.

Found at select Whole Foods, Yes! Organic Markets, Mom’s Organic Markets and GNC

Our tasters say: “No chocolate flavour, really... The chips make it seem fancier... Bad aftertaste... Decently creamy texture... Overchurned, cardboard-­flavoured butter.”

Average score: 2.2

Calories a  pint: 240

Attributes: 2g of dietary fibre and 6g of protein a serving, gluten-free, no artificial softeners, good source of protein, vegetarian-friendly

Found at select Whole Foods, Giant, Safeway and Streets Market outlets

Our tasters say: “Very ­cocoa-y... Pretty good for Weight Watchers, I bet... Don’t care for mouthfeel... More of a gelato texture.”

Four other offerings: birthday cake and sea salt caramel from Halo Top, Enlightened’s peanut butter chocolate chip and Cado’s simply lemon. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Bonus flavours

Chocolate was chosen as the taste-test flavour because it was the one that all four brands had in common. But it is not the most exciting flavour, so the tasters also tried a selection of each brand’s other flavours, which range from pistachio to red velvet. Here are the other flavours they liked:

Halo Top birthday cake: This flavour reminded me of children’s funfetti-filled birthday cakes. “Delivers as promised,” one taster, who hated the Halo Top chocolate ice cream, raved. “Not overly sweet.”


Enlightened peanut butter chocolate chip: Of all the Enlightened pints the tasters tried, this one rang the truest as regular ice cream. “It’s got that Reese’s thing,” says a tester, who appreciated the consistency of the chocolate chunks.


Halo Top sea salt caramel: It was not until I  tried this flavour that I understood how people could eat a whole pint of this stuff in one sitting. This was the most indulgent of all the healthful ice cream.

Cado simply lemon: Avocado did not blend well with chocolate and it especially did not taste good with mint. "I don’t know what they were doing there,” says one taster.