by Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist
Hot sun, thick humidity you can cut with a knife, warm nights and lazy afternoons—not to mention sweet and juicy melons and berries. The dog days of summer are with us for only a couple months. I savor the hot days—they go by fast but at the same time they drain a lot of my energy so there is nothing better than a cold refreshing drink or frozen dessert for a quick pick up. As a child growing up in Putney, my favorite treat was the delivery at our back door of milk and milk products by Maple Farms Dairy. A couple times a week, I looked forward to seeing the big Maple Farms milk truck head up our driveway. Unfortunately those days are long gone! My mother did not give us many sweet treats but she did let us indulge in ice cream bars or ice cream off the truck during the summer. Wow, they tasted great on a hot summer day!!
Ice cream has come a long way from its early days way back in the late 1700s when early Quaker colonists first introduced it to America. It was mainly consumed during the cold weather unless people had access to ice boxes and had stored ice from the winter for summer use. Presidents Washington and Jefferson made a habit of storing ice from the winter for summer use for ice cream treats and other cold food products. Frozen yogurt came along in the 1970s after ice cream had been around for over 100 years. Most people thought of it as a healthy alternative to ice cream. At that time many people were looking for healthier options during the health food craze, and frozen yogurt fit the bill since it contained less fat and many contained live active cultures, which is no longer a given with the many brands out there. Nowadays there is a plethora of frozen desserts to choose from; it can indeed be daunting to even start looking in the freezer cooler. It’s not just ice cream now but all kinds of frozen yogurts, sorbets, sherbet, and of course the wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts available now. Even for those with food intolerances or allergies, there is something for everyone. Sorbet is the main frozen product that is dairy free along with coconut-, almond-, soy- and rice-based frozen desserts. Sherbet does contain 1 to 2 percent dairy product by weight and ice cream contains 10 percent fat by weight, or more in some of the premium ice cream brands. Frozen yogurt contains .5 to 6 percent milk fat.
The nutritional value of all frozen dairy and non-dairy products varies tremendously so the nutrition facts on the label and ingredients should be carefully scrutinized if you are concerned about added fats, sugars, and additives. Whether it be ice cream or a nonfat frozen product, many frozen treats come with a high calorie content since they have high amounts of sugar or fat (or both). If you are sensitive to dairy or any other product, the ingredient list should be examined carefully due to numerous additives such as stabilizers, flavorings etc. Even sorbets, which are strictly fruit, can contain high amounts of sugar. To give some perspective, fruit contains 15 grams carbohydrate per 1/2 cup portion and many sorbets have 25 grams or more for a 1/2 cup serving. Dairy Ice cream as well as frozen yogurt contains varying amounts of sugar but keep in mind regular dairy ice cream or yogurt contains about 12 grams carbohydrates per cup naturally from lactose before the addition of other sugars or carbohydrates. Non-dairy desserts initially vary in their carbohydrate content but most of them are lower than milk products, averaging 2 to 9 grams per cup serving. Last but not least, many of these frozen treats are high in price! Whatever you choose either to cool down or to refresh your palate, frozen treats should be consumed as an occasional treat rather than as a part of your daily diet. Remember many of these desserts may taste great but they don’t provide much of a nutritional punch!