Eat Better

How to Choose Healthy Vegan Ice Cream

Ice cream doesn't have to be a guilty treat. Vegan ice cream choices are available that are good for your health.

SUMMARY

There are different types of vegan ice cream, and they don’t all offer the same health benefits. The healthiest non-dairy choices tend to be low in sugar and saturated fat.

Fresh N’ Lean is the nation’s largest organic meal delivery service. Our tasty, chef-prepared cuisine is always fresh and never frozen, and we offer five convenient meal plans: Protein+, Keto, Paleo, Standard Vegan and Low-Carb Vegan. Choose Fresh N’ Lean for affordable nutrition, delivered to your doorstep. 

Vegan ice cream may be just what you’re looking for if you’re on the hunt for a healthier alternative to dairy-based frozen desserts. 

Traditional ice cream is made with animal products such as milk and cream. Vegan ice cream ditches the animal-based ingredients; it’s 100 percent plant-based. 

This frozen dessert can be just as tasty as dairy ice cream. And vegan ice cream choices are available that won’t raise your levels of harmful cholesterol the way dairy ice cream does.  

Not all vegan ice creams are the same. If you want to realize certain health benefits, there are certain things to look for and certain things to avoid. 

Ready to learn more? In this article, we will:

  • Explain what vegan ice cream is, and discuss its ingredients
  • Discuss reasons for choosing vegan ice cream over dairy ice cream
  • Explain how to choose a healthy vegan ice cream
  • List non-dairy ice cream choices that support your health
  • Share recipes for making homemade vegan ice cream that’s low in fat, sugar and calories

What is vegan ice cream, and what is it made of?

Vegan ice cream is a plant-based alternative to dairy ice cream. 

Dairy ice cream typically contains some or all of these animal-based ingredients:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Heavy cream
  • Eggs

Vegan ice cream replaces the ingredients shown above with alternatives that are derived from plants. Instead of cow’s milk, vegan ice cream uses plant-based ingredients such as:

Dairy ice cream gets its dense richness from the fats found in milk and cream. With vegan ice cream, fats from plant-based ingredients such as almonds, cashews and coconuts step in to help provide the creamy consistency we expect from this frozen dessert. 

Why choose vegan ice cream over dairy ice cream?

There are some good reasons for choosing vegan ice cream over its dairy counterpart:

1. May support healthier cholesterol levels

Since it’s typically made with milk and cream, dairy ice cream contains lots of saturated fat. This type of fat can cause an increase in harmful cholesterol. 

First, let’s get a few things straight about cholesterol. This substance is something that your body makes naturally. It isn’t always bad for your health. 

Your body makes two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

HDL cholesterol is good for your health. It helps your body detoxify, and the more of it you have, the better. 

LDL cholesterol isn’t as benign. This type of cholesterol can be harmful to your health, and it’s been linked with conditions such as heart disease and strokes. You should always aim to reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol you have in your body. Saturated fat can cause LDL cholesterol levels to rise. 

The full-fat dairy ingredients that are typically used in traditional ice cream contain lots of saturated fat. As a result, dairy ice cream has the potential to raise your cholesterol levels and harm your health. 

There are many vegan ice cream choices that have less saturated fat that dairy ice cream. As a result, plant-based ice cream usually supports healthier cholesterol levels than frozen desserts with cow’s milk and cream. 

Still, keep in mind that there are some plant-based ice creams that have even more saturated fat that their dairy counterparts. It’s important to check out the product’s nutrition data label before making a purchase. 

2. Better choice for those who are lactose intolerant

Your body uses an enzyme called lactase to break down milk. Some people’s bodies produce inadequate amounts of this enzyme. As a result, they aren’t able to digest milk. This condition is known as lactose intolerance. 

The symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and flatulence. The severity of these symptoms will depend on how much lactase your body is able to produce and how much milk you have consumed. 

Lactose intolerance is more common than you might realize. According to the National Institutes of Health, 30 to 50 million American adults suffer from this condition. 

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from lactose intolerance, vegan ice cream will be a better choice than ice cream that contains dairy products. Non-dairy ice cream will be easier for your body to digest, and it won’t leave you with unpleasant symptoms such as gas. 

3. Doesn’t harm animals

Dairy cows that are commercially raised are kept in difficult conditions. They live in cramped spaces and are forced to breed and sacrifice their calves without raising them. 

If you have concerns about the way cows are treated, one step you can take is to stop buying products that support the dairy industry. Non-dairy ice cream allows you to swap ice cream made with cow’s milk for an ethical, plant-based alternative. 

4. Gentler on the environment

Raising and feeding dairy cows causes a lot of waste and environmental damage. Massive resources are used to create feed for the cows. Also, the waste produced by the cows can create unpleasant smells that carry over to surrounding communities. And the process of rearing cows has been linked with greenhouse gas emissions that play a role in global warming. 

Since it contains no dairy products, vegan ice cream has none of this baggage. It’s a good choice if you want to choose food that reflects your commitment to the environment.

5. May contain fewer calories

Some brands of vegan ice cream contain fewer calories than versions made with dairy products. This can help you maintain a healthy weight.

And if you’re looking to lose weight, choosing vegan ice cream instead of a dairy version may help give you the caloric deficit you need to drop a few pounds. 

Tips for choosing healthy vegan ice cream

As mentioned, not all vegan ice creams are markedly healthier than those made with dairy. If you want to choose a plant-based ice cream that’s good for your health, there are certain things that you’ll need to look for when deciding on a purchase. 

Here are some tips for choosing a healthy non-dairy ice cream:

1. Look for one that’s low in saturated fat

As mentioned, saturated fat can raise the levels of harmful cholesterol in your body. Check the nutrition label to see how saturated fat it contains before purchasing a plant-based ice cream. Choose one that contains no more than about 5 grams of saturated fat per serving. 

2. Choose one that’s relatively low in sugar

Sugar can cause a slew of health problems. It’s been linked with high blood pressure, weight gain, fatty liver disease, inflammation and diabetes. High sugar intake can also put you at greater risk for a heart attack or stroke. 

Sugar content among vegan ice creams can vary dramatically. Some of these products are high in sugar. Others are very low in sugar, replacing this ingredient with substitutes such as erythritol. 

Some types of vegan ice cream contain as much as 20 or more grams of sugar per serving. Eat healthier by choosing a plant-based frozen dessert with 10 grams of sugar per serving or less. 

3. Consider calorie count

Calories can add up pretty quickly. If you’re constantly consuming more calories than you burn, you’ll eventually gain weight. 

Calorie count can vary dramatically among vegan ice creams. Some have 200 calories or more per serving. With other choices, a single serving contains 100 calories or fewer. 

Check the label when deciding which vegan ice cream to purchase. If you’re interested in maintaining your weight or losing a few pounds, a low-calorie alternative will be the best match for your needs. 

Healthy vegan ice cream brands 

These vegan ice cream brands make frozen desserts that fit the bill for being both healthy and delicious.

With each choice on our list, we’ve included the amount of saturated fat, calories and sugar that each serving contains. Note that we’ve looked at just one flavor in each brand’s lineup. Fat, calories and sugar content vary from flavor to flavor. Be sure to check the nutrition label of the flavor you’re interested in purchasing for an exact breakdown.

Arctic Zero

Arctic Zero was founded in 2009 by Greg Hoffman. The brand is committed to making frozen desserts that genuinely support your health, and they’re free of GMOs and artificial ingredients. 

Faba bean protein is used as the basis for Halo Top non-dairy ice cream. This bean is lower in fat and calories than the nuts that are often used in plant-based frozen desserts. As a result, Arctic Zero is able to deliver a vegan ice cream that has less fat and less calories than most choices on the market. The brand sweetens its products with cane sugar and monk fruit. 

Flavors

Arctic Zero is available in these flavors:

  • Classic Vanilla
  • Pistachio
  • Cookie Shake 
  • Purely Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Hint of Mint 
  • Cake Batter
  • Brownie Blast
  • Cookie Dough Chunk
  • Cherry Chocolate Chunk

Fat, calories and sugar

The brand’s Pistachio flavor has just 40 calories per 58-gram serving. Each serving has zero fat and just 5 grams of sugar. 

Where to buy

Arctic Zero is available online at retailers such as Ice Cream Source and Amazon Fresh. 

You can find this plant-based ice cream in these stores:

  • Gelson’s Market
  • Lassens Natural Foods and Vitamins
  • Market of Choice 
  • Red Apple
  • Winn Dixie 
  • Milams Markets
  • City Acres Market
  • Mulberry Market
  • Dumbo Market 
  • Doorknob Grocery
  • Harvest Market
  • Falletti Foods
  • Gus’s Community Market
  • Rainbow Market
  • Haight Street Market
  • Mariano’s Fresh Market
  • Pete’s Fresh Market

Halo Top 

Halo Top makes ice cream that’s relatively low in calories, but these frozen desserts lack for nothing when it comes to creamy taste. The brand makes dairy, dairy-free and keto ice cream products, and it’s a sales leader in the industry. 

This brand uses ingredients such as coconut milk, faba bean protein and pea protein in its vegan ice cream. Sugar and erythritol are used as sweeteners. 

Flavors

Halo Top vegan ice cream is sold in these flavors:

  • Chocolate
  • Candy Bar
  • Chocolate Almond Crunch
  • Birthday Cake
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • Peanut Butter Cup 
  • Sea Salt Caramel

Fat, calories and sugar

Halo Top’s Birthday Cake flavor has 90 calories per 85-gram serving. Each serving has 3 grams of saturated fat, 3.5 grams of total fat and 6 grams of total sugar.  

Where to buy

You can purchase Halo Top vegan ice cream online at Amazon Fresh and Ice Cream Source. 

It’s sold in these stores:

  • Target 
  • Bristol Farms Market
  • United Pacific
  • Pavilions 
  • Ralph’s 
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Gelson’s Market
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Erewhon Markets
  • Walgreens
  • Von’s Market
  • Walmart
  • Yes Organic 
  • 7-Eleven
  • Costco
  • Safeway
  • Giant
  • Price Rite Marketplace
  • Publix 
  • Fresco Y Mas
  • Market of Choice
  • Albertsons
  • Fred Meyer
  • Gristedes
  • Lifethyme Natural Market
  • Big Kmart

Enlightened

Enlightened offers a wide range of frozen dessert products. The list includes vegan ice cream, keto ice cream and low-calorie ice cream, as well as cheesecakes, dough bites and fruit infusions. 

This brand uses almond milk and broad bean protein in its vegan ice cream. To sweeten, ingredients such as cane sugar, erythritol, brown rice syrup and monk fruit extract are used. 

Flavors

Enlightened dairy-free ice cream comes in these flavors:

  • Candy Bar Crunch
  • Chocolate Almond Macaron
  • Cookies & Mint
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Monkey Business
  • Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Bun
  • Triple Shot Espresso

Fat, calories and sugar

The brand’s Cookies & Mint flavor has 90 calories per 65-gram serving. Each serving contains 1 gram of saturated fat, 3.5 grams of total fat and 6 grams of sugar. 

Where to buy

Enlightened non-dairy ice cream is available online via the brand’s website. 

It’s also sold at these stores:

  • Gelson’s Market
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Sprouts Farmers Market
  • Bristol Farms Market
  • Pavilions
  • Ralph’s 
  • Von’s Market
  • Smart & Final 
  • Lassens Natural Foods and Vitamins 
  • Mrs. Winston’s Green Grocery
  • Safeway
  • Albertsons
  • Vitamin Shoppe
  • Capella
  • Market of Choice
  • Walmart
  • Fred Meyer
  • Wyant’s Family Health Foods
  • Duane Reade
  • Food Emporium
  • Key Food
  • Zeytuna
  • Gristedes
  • Met Food
  • Gourmet Garage
  • Publix 
  • Winn Dixie
  • Fresco Y Mas
  • Jewel Osco
  • Marianos Fresh Market
  • River City Convenience

Homemade vegan ice cream recipes

If you’d rather make your own ice cream at home, you can use these recipes to whip up healthy plant-based frozen desserts from the comfort of your own kitchen. All of the recipes listed are low in fat, sugar and calories. 

The World’s Healthiest Vanilla Ice Cream

You’ll need just four ingredients for this delicious ice cream recipe, and it takes just 35 minutes to make. Each serving contains just 60 calories, 4 grams of sugar and 2.5 grams of fat. 

Protein Ice Cream

This ice cream recipe includes just three ingredients: full-fat coconut milk, protein powder and a sweetener of your choice. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Each serving contains 55 calories and 1 gram of fat. 

3-Ingredient No-Churn Vanilla Protein Ice Cream

With this recipe, frozen bananas are combined with vanilla protein powder and a sweetener such as stevia. Each serving contains 121 calories and 6 grams of fat.

Next steps

Stock up on healthy vegan ice cream from a grocery store or online retailer. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, use one of the recipes shared above to create a homemade version of this nourishing treat. 

If you want healthy food with no hassles, subscribe to Fresh N’ Lean. We offer meal plans that range from vegan to keto. Our organic, chef-prepared cuisine is delivered straight to your door.