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Including Ice Cream in Your Diet

There are healthy and delicious ways to include ice cream in your diet.

Eating smart and healthy doesn't have to mean all work and no dessert. Even ice cream can be skillfully slipped into a fat-conscious diet. This should come as cool relief since Americans eat more than 48 pints per person each year, with most of it sliding down in summer.

Granted, ice cream is riddled with three health vices—fat, calories and cholesterol. But you can healthfully indulge if you make wise choices. One way to cut disease-promoting fat and cholesterol is really a variation on ice cream: the new glacés, which are virtually fat/cholesterol-free plus offer the calcium two and a half cups of milk do. They're made with milk whey (the watery part), so aren't as creamy, and pumped up with air (a major calorie and fat diluter). But for only about 30 calories a half-cup scoop and enough cool creaminess to satisfy, who cares?

Next best are nonfat frozen yogurts—they'll run you only about 116 calories per half cup—and low fat soft-serve diet “ice creams," which have minimal fat because they're made with skim milk.

But for ice cream diehards who succumb only to the real thing, here are a few ways to indulge and still do your heart and waistline a favor.

Choose Wisely

Image via Bando

Gourmet ice creams are at least 16 percent saturated fat—some go high as 20 percent. Since your daily fat intake should be only 30 percent of your total calories, this means a half-cup of super premium will use up about a quarter of your fat budget for the day. You'd be better off with a regular (nongourmet) supermarket brand—a much leaner 10- to 13-percent fat.

With low calorie and low carbs being all the rage, companies are stepping up to the plate and offering consumers delicious variations of ice cream that are right up their alley. Brands like Skinny Cow and Nudies have created ice cream bars that are targeted at people who are watching their weight.

Skinny Cow Triple Chocolate Ripple ice cream bars have only 170 calories per bar. With 9g of fat, 21g of carbohydrates and 5mg of cholesterol, the ice cream bar also enriched with protein, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.

JC’s Nudies are swirled ice cream treats that come in several flavors and low calories. The Salted Caramel Nudies bar is only 120 calories and has 4g of fat, 18g of carbs and 10 mg of cholesterol. 

Mind Your Mix-Ins

Image via Tumblr

It stands to reason that the more crumbled-up cookies, chocolate chunks, and other goodies mixed in, the more fat and calories you can count on—up to 20 percent more than plain vanilla. Some flavors even act as fat diluters. For instance, almost any fruit flavor (peach, strawberry, etc.) will be 10 to 30 calories less than even a plain vanilla, as it's made with more fruit chunks/puree and less cream. Surprisingly, most chocolates have a lower percentage of fat and calories than most vanillas because they're made with slightly more sugar and a bit less cream. For cholesterol savings, steer clear of French vanilla and others made with egg yolks (which include many of the premium brands); one scoop equals a third of your 300-milligrams per-day cholesterol budget.

And instead of adding on heaps of chocolate and caramel syrups, and all the sprinkles your sundae can handle, opt for more healthy options, such as strawberries, banana, etc. If that isn't an option, take your ice cream home and add on some of your favorite fruits from the fridge. Its a great way to add some extra flavor to that vanilla soft serve without adding on those harmful calories and carbs.

Tofu Types

Image via Oh Happy Day

Tofu based ice creams may be a bit better than regular ice cream for heart health because they're made with polyunsaturated vegetable oil and have no cholesterol and little saturated fat. But tofu based ice creams can be as high in total fat (what experts say is even more damaging) and calories, and they have no calcium. Though no one should rely on ice cream for this bone food anyway. Did you know you'd have to eat about 500 calories worth to match the calcium in a glass of milk? 

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