The Best Frozen Treats -- Without the Guilt

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How Do They Create the Taste?

How do the ice-cream manufacturers create a product that's lighter and still palatable?

Here's the Scoop

Sugar Swaps: A number of ice-cream bars or pops labeled "no sugar added" use low-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame (NutraSweet) or sorbitol. This can be good news for diabetics or those who want to cut down on their sugar intake, but it doesn't reduce total calories much. Sugar substitutes can also give the ice cream a chemical aftertaste and less substantial feel in the mouth. The artificially sweetened chocolate used in ice-cream-bar coatings and sandwich wafers isn't bad, though.

Fat Traps: To cut calories and reduce saturated fat, lower-fat ice creams are made with low- or nonfat milk or yogurt instead of full-fat milk or cream. What also gets lost, unfortunately, is the rich, creamy texture that fat provides. To make up for this, manufacturers use plant-based gums, such as guar, to produce a similarly satisfying mouthfeel. Depending on the manufacturer's particular formula, this can create a decent facsimile of the real thing -- or a pale imitation.

The Soy Story: Some research suggests that soy protein (found in tofu, soy milk or edamame) will lower cholesterol and reduce symptoms of menopause. That's why believers flock to frozen treats made from soy instead of milk or cream. While soy is a great option for the lactose intolerant, you can't assume soy treats are all natural or automatically healthier. First, most have only a tiny 1 or 2 grams of soy protein, anyway. Also, many of them contain less-than-healthful ingredients to help boost the flavor and texture, such as coconut oil, sorbitol (which can cause diarrhea) and other additives. Still, some are surprisingly good. We like Tofutti Cuties snack-size sandwiches. They're creamy and satisfying, but relatively high in calories (130 for chocolate; 120 for vanilla) for their 1.5-ounce mini size -- so don't raid the whole box!


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