The frozen treats of summer

Enjoying a cool treat on a hot day is favourite summertime activity. But an ice cream everyday will certainly add up when it comes to the fat and calories. Read on for more about summer’s tastiest treats and how you can cool down while still making healthier choices.

Frozen treats – so much choice!

Are you confused about the differences between frozen desserts? Here are the answers to some of summer’s most popular questions.

What is the difference between ice cream and gelato?

Ice cream is a summer staple and gelato is becoming more popular here in Ontario. They certainly look similar and both can be eaten with a cup or a cone. So what makes them different?

Both ice cream and gelato are made with a combination of milk, cream, eggs, sweeteners and flavourings. However, different techniques are used to make the two treats, which is why they have different textures.

Ice cream is made by whipping the mixture with a lot of air. This is what makes ice cream light and fluffy. 

Gelato, on the other hand, is mixed very slowly, limiting the amount of air and giving gelato a thick and dense texture. Another difference is that gelato is stored at a slightly higher freezer temperature than regular ice cream, which makes the gelato creamy and smooth.

Nutrition spotlight! Gelato usually has less fat than regular ice cream. This is because gelato is often made with less cream and eggs. Still, it is a high calorie treat so stick to a small portion (1/2 cup or 125 mL).

What is the difference between sorbet and sherbet?

Both sorbet and sherbet can be refreshing desserts when you are looking for something lighter and with less fat than ice cream or gelato. Traditional flavours are usually fruit, but chocolate is popular too.

Sorbet is made without any milk products. This makes it a good choice for people who need to avoid lactose. It is sometimes called “fruit ice” since it’s usually made with just fruit, water, juice and sugar blended together and frozen. 

Sherbet is similar to sorbet but might also include some milk and/or eggs. It is made with less fat, which is what makes it different than ice cream. Sometimes sherbet is called “ice milk”.

What is frozen yogurt and is it good for you?

Frozen yogurt is just like ice cream (or gelato) but made with yogurt instead of cream. Because of this, it is lower in fat than regular ice cream. However, some frozen yogurts are made with a lot of sugar, so always read the label.

Keeping things light

When the temperatures rise, you’ll want a frosty treat to cool you down. Here are some tips to enjoy summer treats in moderation.

Choose sherbet or sorbet instead of ice cream or gelato. Made with fruit, water, a little bit of sugar and sometimes low-fat milk (for sherbet), they have less fat than ice cream. 

Make your own popsicles.  Pour 100% fruit juice or a mixture of pureed fruit and water into an ice cube tray and add popsicle or lollipop sticks. After a few hours in the freezer, you’ll have a cool and refreshing treat. You can even make popsicles with yogurt as in these Layered Yogurt Pops.

Try granita! Granita means flavoured ice in Italian – and indeed, granita looks like shaved ice (or a crunchy slushie). Popular flavours are chocolate, espresso and fruit. Here’s how to make your own:

  1. Start with a liquid – puree some fruit with water or brew up a large pot of coffee and let cool.
  2. Pour the liquid into a shallow glass or ceramic container and place in the freezer.
  3. Every 30 minutes, use a fork to break up the ice crystals that are forming.
  4. After two hours you should have a mixture of crunchy flavoured ice crystals.
  5. Grab a cup and a spoon and enjoy!

Make your own frozen yogurt.  Combine equal amounts of plain or vanilla low fat yogurt with frozen fruit in the food processor. Place the blended mixture in the freezer to harden. Try this Mango Lassi for some tropical flavour. Lassi is a popular icy yogurt drink from Southeast Asia

Have fun with frozen fruit. Get a serving of fruit while still enjoying a cool treat. Add a popsicle stick to strawberries or bananas. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze for one hour. Once frozen, add nuts or a drizzle of dark chocolate. 

Reminders: Watch out for these unhealthy traps

  • Skip the sugar or waffle cone, sugary sauces and the sweet and salty nut and candy toppings. The more you add to your scoop of ice cream, the more the calories and fat add up. Frozen berries and a small scoop of plain nuts are good choices if you like a little crunch with your creamy treat.
  • Frozen coffee is usually more than just coffee! Many frozen coffee specialty drinks are high in fat and sugar. If it’s too hot for a steaming cup of coffee, consider getting your coffee just over ice and skip the fancy flavours. 
  • Don’t drink your treats. A milkshake is mostly just liquid ice cream. Save it for special occasions. For a better choice, pour milk, chocolate milk or soy beverage over ice and blend for a calcium rich homemade milkshake.
  • Frozen yogurt and low-fat ice cream might be low in fat but they can be high in sugar and calories. Make sure to read the label and compare the product to the regular ice cream version. 
  • Try not to eat straight out of the ice cream carton. It’s hard to tell how much you’ve eaten and it makes it easy to eat too much. Serve yourself a small portion in a separate bowl. A reasonable serving size is ½ cup (125 mL).

The bottom line

Summer wouldn’t be summer without ice cream.Enjoy ice cream and gelato in small portions once in awhile.Reach for frozen treats like fruit ices, granitas and low fat frozen yogurt when you need something refreshing to cool you down.


For some healthier frozen treats try these recipes:

Rhubarb Sauce, Smoothies and Shakes, EatRight Ontario

Sunny Orange Shake and Banana Berry Shake, Dietitians of Canada



Last Update – September 12, 2017

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