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Why Diet Ice Cream Isn’t Better For You

At some point, diet culture led you to believe that diet ice creams like Halo Top are better for you than regular ice cream.

Instead of 1,000 calories per pint of regular ice cream, you can eat an entire pint for less than 400 calories (“keto diet” ice creams are usually 200 calories more). Who doesn’t like the idea of eating an entire pint of ice cream for less than half the calories of “regular” ice cream?

But is it really better for you? On the one hand, you’re consuming more protein if you eat an entire pint compared to a serving of regular ice cream. But you also get additional additives, fillers and sweeteners that your digestion may not tolerate well. These ice creams are engineered in a lab by food scientists instead of a kitchen by chefs. They’re made highly palatable with their long list of ingredients and include sweeteners like erythritol, stevia or monk fruit, corn fiber, a variety of gums, food coloring, and sometimes less desirable oils. Let’s be honest, do you even know what those ingredients are? I didn’t.

Not only are these ice creams filled with ingredients you’d never buy, they’re also usually two to three times more expensive than the non-diet counterpart. Less food and fancy packaging is more expensive than whole foods, but that’s because it comes with greater marketing campaigns.

Despite all of this, I tricked myself into thinking that I loved diet ice cream more than regular ice cream for years. When Halo Top went on sale, I would buy ten at a time. Instead of having a reserve of frozen fish, meat and vegetables, I spent over $40 on fake ice cream, neatly lined up in my freezer for when I needed an ice cream fix. Like most consumers, I believed that these ice creams really were better for me. But the idea of “better” is all relative. Better seven years ago was eating lower calorie and that meant eating diet food highlighting low calorie and high protein. My better now looks a lot different.

When I started diving into ingredients and labels and got honest with myself on how food tasted, I realized that there is no comparison to full fat ice cream that is made with sugar and whole milk. I also found that even if I ate a pint of diet ice cream, I wasn’t fully satisfied. My taste buds wanted the rich creaminess of the full fat version, not the aftertaste of stevia and indigestion from added fiber, thickeners, and sugar alcohols. When I switched back to regular ice cream, I found that one serving was enough to satisfy that craving and by eating less artificial sweeteners, I’ve become more sensitive to sugar.

The diet industry has tricked us into believing that products like these high protein ice creams are better for us. Marketing has done its job well by highlighting the added protein and not the ingredients. Instead of focusing on portion control, we focus on how much we can get for less calories, even when these calories aren’t from whole foods. We focus on the fancy flavors that mimic what we’re truly lusting over. But instead of allowing ourselves smaller portions of the real food, we convince ourselves that a bioengineered version is somehow better for us.

Next time you reach for a packaged snack, ask yourself if this version truly is better for you. What does better mean to you? You get to decide how you fuel your body. What are you choosing?


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