Through recent years, funky-flavored “artisanal” ice creams (candy cap mushroom, Armenian green walnut, and many, many more) have given the sweet treat a cachet of coolness – that is, unless you’re writing for the USA Today Money section, in which case Halo Top gets all the credit.
“I did think it would be a success, but I didn’t think, if I were being honest, it would be up there with the biggest guys,” Halo Top founder and CEO Justin Woolverton said. “You have companies that have higher GDPs than some countries” rushing to make competing products.
Such products tout themselves as not only lower in total calories but “a good source of protein,” as the Halo Top packaging puts it.
Truth be told, while protein is certainly trendy these days, the lure is more likely the perception that you can feed your sweet-tooth in a guilt-free way. Americans still crave their sugar, after all.
But where traditional ice cream typically contains just a handful of ingredients – eggs, cream and/or milk, sugar, and vanilla extract for a standard vanilla treat – Halo Top contains far more (including the always mysterious “natural flavor”):
Skim milk, eggs, erythritol, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate, cream, organic cane sugar, vegetable glycerin, natural flavor, sea salt, vanilla beans, organic carob gum, organic guar gum, organic stevia leaf extract
According to the USA Today feature, fat and most of the sugar from traditional ice cream are removed during processing. Stevia and erythritol ramp up the sweetness. “Changing the ratio,” they say, “is what ramps up the protein content.”
But how much protein does a single person need anyway – a macronutrient that’s being added even to products such as bottled water these days?
While specific nutritional needs vary from person to person, Harvard Health offers a handy rule of thumb: Multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. The total is how many grams of protein you need each day.
For a 50-year-old woman who weighs 140 pounds woman and who is sedentary (doesn’t exercise), that translates into 53 grams of protein a day.
Fifty-three grams per day. You could pretty much make that with a pint of Halo Top and a bottle of protein water, but who would call that healthy eating? You could achieve the same results with a cup of mixed nuts (27g protein) and three ounces of turkey (19g), beef (22g), wild salmon (22g), or other meat – and get a lot of other essential fats, minerals, and other nutrients along with it.
There are lots of terrific vegan options for getting your protein, as well.
The main thing is that, when it comes to nutrition, you meet your needs through real food, not hyperprocessed substitutes. While products like Halo Top can be a fine way to enjoy ice cream, like the real deal, it should be a once-in-a-while thing, not a dietary staple.
But if a cold, sweet treat is the main thing you’re looking for, there are lots of easy ways to make your own at home – where you control both the ingredients and the quality of those ingredients.
For instance, just throw a few frozen bananas in a food processor and voila – homemade, natural “ice cream.” Want to kick it up a notch? Add some spice or fruit or other flavoring agent. Or blend up a couple avocados, cream, and agave, then freeze it for another cool treat.
You control the sugar. You control the ingredients. No cooking is involved and no ice cream machine is required. How cool is that?
Banana ice cream image by jamieanne