Here’s The Scoop On Whether Vegan Ice Cream Is Healthier Than The Dairy-Loaded Stuff

is vegan ice cream healthy

Unsplash/David Calavera

You don’t have to be lactose intolerant or living the plant-based life to notice that the frozen desserts aisle in the grocery store is now loaded with all sorts of non-dairy treats. From pints and popsicles to novelties reminiscent of your childhood, vegan “ice cream” is officially in high demand and accessible pretty much anywhere. But is it really healthier than the traditional, dairy-loaded stuff?

Well, it depends.

First Things First

Check the ingredients label to see what’s replacing good ol‘ cow’s milk and cream in your frozen dessert of choice. If it’s a nut milk like soy, cashew or almond, you’re likely faring better health-wise than you would with a lactose-riddled pint because these guys are higher in monounsaturated fats (yay, heart health!) and lower in saturated fat (which is risky for your cholesterol). However, if your treat is coconut milk-based, it’s probably packing in all the saturated fat, even when compared to our beloved Ben & Jerry’s, which means portion control is key.

We love frozen desserts with a coconut milk base because that’s what gives them that super creamy texture we miss when we ditch traditional dairy. We also find that the over-the-top richness satiates us faster and keeps us from devouring an entire pint in one sitting. But if you’re used to the Halo Top life, we say stick to one of the nut milk-based options and call it a day.

is vegan ice cream healthy
Unsplash/JC Bonassin

Gimme Some Sugar

Next up in our nutrition chat when it comes to ice cream is sugar. Depending on the brand you buy and flavor you prefer, the sugar content in vegan frozen treats is usually comparable to the amount of sweet stuff crammed into a classic dairy pint. Unless you’re opting for a dessert that’s using sugar alcohols in place of the real deal, you’re not getting a health upgrade (or downgrade) in this regard. And even if you do go the erythritol route as you leave that dairy life in the dust, your digestive system might not feel super happy about your decision — sugar alternatives are infamous for causing all sorts of gastrointestinal problems.

Side By Side

Once you get past the dairy differential, ice cream and non-dairy frozen dessert options are virtually the same in regards to nutrition. All other ingredients can be (and often are) used in both types of desserts. At the end of the day, if you’re shopping in this section of the supermarket, you’re indulging in a treat even if it’s trying to dress up like a healthy snack option. As you browse, just remember to pick what you ultimately like the most, and then tell yourself the “everything in moderation” mantra when it comes time to binge both Netflix and a pint of the sweet stuff.

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