If you follow any kind of healthy living accounts (like Food Science Nerd!) on social media, you have likely been targeted to view ads from Halo Top ice cream, a new brand of ice cream that brags about having the same amount of calories in a whole pint that most brands have in a single serving (which, if you weren’t aware, is less than a third of said pint). It sounds too good to be true, and I’ve had several patients ask me for my opinion on it. I found it at Wegmans recently, so I decided to give it a try and see what all the fuss was about.
The first thing I noticed, literally when I picked up the pint, was how light it was. I checked the weight of the pint, and it was less than half the weight of most other “premium” ice creams in the same price range. That means you’re paying for a container about half full of air (called “overflow” in the ice-cream industry)- not a good first impression! As for the ingredients, there’s quite a few:
Milk and cream, eggs, erythritol, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate, white chocolate chips (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, milk proteins, lactose, soy lecithin), organic cane sugar, vegetable glycerin, sea salt, natural flavors, organic carob gum, organic guar gum, organic stevia.
Now, I’m not a food fearmonger like, say Dr. Oz or Food Babe (those of you who know me personally know how I feel about them), so this list of ingredients doesn’t scare me. There’s nothing on here that’s harmful… it just doesn’t need to be there. And I was concerned that things like prebiotic fiber, carob gum, and stevia might affect the taste of the ice cream.
I got home and broke out a spoon. Immediately upon opening the container, I noticed that the ice cream looked… crumbly. Almost like a dried out brownie. This is a result of the high air content getting in the way of the natural creaminess of ice cream (this has happened to me before when I tried to make low-fat green tea ice cream). It actually came out of the container in chunks, not scoops. I also noticed that it began melting immediately, and not into the normal milkshaky soup texture that ice cream melts into. Instead, it was more of a pudding texture, likely a result of all the fibers and gums used to make up for the lack of fat.
The flavor? It was… ok. It tasted like fake chocolate, likely a result of the “ice cream” not having any chocolate in it. I could also feel the air, and maybe some ice crystals. And there were these weird little white balls that I thought were coconut oil that had separated out, but it turns out they were white chocolate chips (they were really odd). To be fair, apparently I chose the worst flavor out of all the options. Other people seem to really love this ice cream!
My opinion? Whether you’re trying to lose weight, lower your triglycerides, or just have a nice dessert, skip this product. Buy a really high quality ice cream, like Graeter’s or Haagen Daas, and measure out one serving using a measuring cup or kitchen scale. Grab a small spoon, sit down, turn off all your screens, and take a bite. Put down the spoon. Let it melt in your mouth and think about how good it tastes. Continue until the ice cream in your bowl is gone. Repeat the next day, if necessary. You’ll enjoy it more, spend far less money, and be consuming the same number of calories.
If you’re still too calorie-phobic to go all the way to high-fat, good quality ice cream, stick with sorbets, frozen yogurts, or slow-churned ice creams made from ingredients like sugar, water, cream, and fruit/chocolate. Or, if you want the volume of lots of ice cream without the calories, top your ice cream with fresh fruit or dark chocolate shavings instead of paying for air stirred in to your ice cream. But please don’t gorge on a whole pint of ok-tasting Halo Top just because it has the same amount of calories as a serving of premium ice cream… it’s the Snackwell Cookie fad all over again, and a fat lot of good that did for our weight status as a country (pun intended).