To be honest, I am super skeptical of all the low carb ice creams that have recently hit the market. I’m an ice cream fan-I LOVE ICE CREAM-and frankly I like the real deal but the reality is you can’t have normal ice cream on a ketogenic diet due to the large amounts of carbs and sugar.
So I ventured out to my local grocery stores and picked up a few pints of low carb ice cream from various brands. I tried four different products and trust me there are way more out there but I chose products that were easy to find…no special shipping. I went to two different stores – Wal-Mart and Harris Teeter - because when you are on a ketogenic diet and craving some ice cream it needs to be easily accessible. I tried to keep them all the same flavor for “controlled” taste testing but I couldn’t find all matching flavors unfortunately.
Here is the nutrition information and the feedback from the tasters (ranging in age from 1-40 years old) for our low carb ice cream contenders:
#1 Enlightened Cookies and Cream
· ½ cup serving: 90 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 18 grams total carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar, 6 grams sugar alcohols and 5 grams protein
· Smooth, creamy texture but has a slight aftertaste. It visually though looks just like regular ice cream.
#2 Halo Top Cookies and Cream
· ½ cup serving: 80 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 15 grams total carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar, 5 grams sugar alcohol and 5 grams protein
· Almost like an “ice milk” and has minimal cookies in it. Does not have an aftertaste but overall has a less distinctive ice cream taste to it.
#3 Artic Ice Cookies and Cream
· ½ cup serving: 90 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 16 grams total carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 11 grams sugar, and 2 grams protein
· More cookie chunks compared to other brand and no aftertaste.
#4: Breyer’s Carb Smart Peanut Butter
· 2/3 cup serving: 150 calories, 9 grams, fat, 17 grams total carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 7 grams sugar alcohol, 3 grams protein
· Salty and sweet tasting without having an overpowering peanut butter taste.
(For comparative value: Breyer’s Classic Cookies and Cream in ½ cup serving has 140 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 23 grams total carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 15 grams sugar, and 2 grams protein.)
Alright so first let’s evaluate the nutrition of these low carb ice creams. The truth is they aren’t really keto. Well at least not as is… They don’t have enough fat and if you subtract only fiber (and not sugar alcohols) they might not fit into your keto plan. The lowest carb option subtracting fiber alone is the Halo Top at 12 grams net carbs and it’s 8 net grams if you subtract both fiber and sugar alcohols.
Since artificial sweeteners are used in low carb ice creams let’s take a closer look. Enlightened and Halo Top contain the sugar alcohol erythritol while the Breyers Carb Smart contains sorbitol. This is an important distinction because sorbitol contains 2.6 calorie per gram (sugar contains 4 calorie per gram) while erythritol is only 0.2 calorie per gram.
What does this mean you might be asking yourself? It means that since your body doesn’t absorb erythritol, it isn’t going to impact your insulin/glucose response and theoretically not impact your ketosis. Compare with sorbitol which is absorbed and has a much higher chance of negating ketosis.
Want to learn more about sugar alcohols? Check out this great fact sheet from the International Food Information Council Foundation.
Overall the low carb ice cream fan favorite was Breyer’s Carb Smart Peanut Butter. In my RD opinion, this is probably the least keto friendly due to the high amount of total carbohydrates, no fiber and sorbitol as a sweetener. So let’s give a shout out to our close runner-up and best all around low carb ice cream-the Halo Top brand cookies and cream.
Regardless of the taste preference though, you have to add more fat to these low carb ice creams to consider them truly ketogenic. Remember, from an epilepsy standpoint, ketogenic doesn’t just mean low carb but low carb AND high fat. So whip some heavy cream to a stiff consistency and top it on the ice cream.
Try this simple recipe to make a 1:1 ketogenic diet ratio: 3 Tablespoons heavy cream provides 150 calories and 15 grams of fat. So when added to ½ cup of the Halo Top you get 230 calories, 17.5 grams fat and 17 grams of net carbs and protein combined.
Have you found a low carb ice cream that works for you?