Non-Dairy Substitutes for Ice Cream
Two-year olds eating at a birthday party are a delight. After running around popping bubbles and enjoying their bubbleologist encase them in toddler-size bubbles, their excited screams were silenced in exchange for cake and ice cream. The birthday boy wasn't able to partake in the regular fare. Not to worry, his Mom is now a pro at making he can enjoy a frozen treat. When everyone finished singing happy birthday, he ran to his Mom and yelled "rice cream, please!" Out of the freezer pops what looks and taste mostly like ice cream, without dairy of course, which could ruin the festivities with a bad rash or an impromptu trip to urgent care. A food allergy isn't always the reason to opt for a non-dairy alternative to ice cream, but rice cream isn't the only choice if you must forego cow's milk.
Americans consume about 24 pounds of frozen dairy products a year according to U.S. Census data. That number has been on the decline since 2000 when it reached 30 pounds per person. Ice cream is by no means going out of style, rather, the plethora of frozen treats continues to broaden. As traditional ice cream brands offer new products, non-dairy options are expanding as well. The standard dairy alternatives of rice milk, almond milk, and soy milk are becoming more familiar, and their ice cream alternatives aren't far behind. Here's how the calorie counts compare.
Soy milk-based ice cream has about the same amount of calories as ice cream, but there is some variation across brands. as well as fat. Imagine Foods' Soy Dream actually packs an almost identical profile to ice cream 9 grams of fat and 170 calories to regular ice creams 145 calories and 8 grams of fat in a 1/2 cup serving. The Soy Delicious ice cream brand has 130 calories, but much less fat at just 1.5 grams per 1/2 cup serving. Most soy milk-based brands will fall somewhere between these two, so be aware that just because it's dairy free doesn't mean it's a lot less calories.
Rice milk-based options tend to have little to no protein, and again their calorie counts are similar to regular ice cream, minus the saturated fat. Good Karma's Organic Rice Divine has 150 calories per 1/2 cup serving and 7 grams of fat, while Imagine Foods' Rice Dream has one less gram of fat and 10 more calories. Taste-wise the rice milk base may be smoother than the soy option, but again, brands differ.
The almond milk option for ice cream has an added bonus of 2 grams of fiber, but is much the same as other non-dairy options. The Almond Dream has 140 calories, 7 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein in a 1/2 cup. The So Delicious Almond option has more fiber at 5 grams, and 10 less calories than Almond Dream.
Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss is an option that trumps ice cream in calories and fat. At 210 calories and 14 grams of fat in a 1/2 cup serving, making it the king of frozen desserts calorie wise. It does have fiber like the almond versions, but it's fat content is a bit much. While it is true that the saturated fat in coconut milk is medium-chain triglycerides which have been shown to have less effect on your cholesterol level, it is still a very high fat content you should consider in your daily allowance. The So Delicious Coconut Milk brand has a much lower calorie count at 150 calories and just 8 grams of fat, but again, this is still similar to a regular serving of ice cream.
While it would seem that going non-dairy may have a calorie advantage, generally speaking that's not the case. The plus is principally in the lower saturated-fat content.
NOTE: The nutritional information from the Vanilla flavor of each brand was used.
What dairy-free frozen treats do you enjoy? Compare the difference in taste and texture.
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