I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream
If your favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla, you're in good company – vanilla has been America's first-choice flavor for a very long time. Other popular choices include chocolate, neapolitan, strawberry and cookies n' cream. Pass those tidbits along the next time a food snob asks what kind of ice cream you'd like, then sarcastically adds, "...anything but vanilla!"
Choosing your flavor is easy enough, but then comes the choice of full-fat or some reduced-fat version. The ingredients that go into ice cream, and the various descriptive terms allowed on the label are regulated by national food labeling standards, so consumers can know exactly what they're selecting in terms of nutritional content.
Here are some of the terms you'll see on ice creams sold in your commissary, and exactly what those terms mean:
- Ice cream is defined as a frozen food made with a mixture of dairy products, containing at least 10% milkfat.
- "Reduced- fat" ice cream contains at least 25% less total fat than the similar product referenced on the label (either an average of leading brands, or the company's own brand.)
- "Light" ice cream contains at least 50% less total fat or 33% fewer calories than the similar product referenced on the label (either the average of leading regional or national brands, or the company's own brand.)
- "Low-fat" ice cream contains a maximum of 3 grams total fat per 1/2-cup serving.
- "Non-fat" ice cream contains less than 0.5 grams of total fat per 1/2-cup serving.
The "low-fat" and "non-fat" descriptors are straightforward enough, but the "reduced-fat" and "light" terms are a little murky, to say the least. Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label, in addition to reading the front of the package, when deciding which "light" products you'll choose. The amount of fat per serving can vary widely, depending on the fat per serving in the regular product referenced.
If, in the past, you found the texture of light ice creams a bit on the grainy side, give them another try. Advances in technology now allow manufacturers to produce light ice creams with almost the same rich and creamy texture of their full-fat counterparts.
If you're watching calories, another option is to have a 1/2-cup serving of plain vanilla ice cream, and savor every bite. Most regular versions of vanilla ice cream will cost you only about 140 calories, and light vanillas can be had for only 100 to 120 calories.