Why You Should Never Feel Guilty About Eating Ice Cream

by Linsey Knerl on 12 May 2014 3 comments

In today's age of calorie counts on menus, attempts to ban "big" sodas, and constant chatter about nutritious school meals, it may seem that something as indulgent as ice cream would have no place in a healthy diet. Depending on where you buy it, the stuff packs — on average — 140 to 230 calories per tiny half cup. Most of us eat far more than that in a single sitting. Gourmet dips like Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter only make matters worse, giving eaters a whopping 360 calories per serving. Add in toppings, and it's easy to see why this frozen food gets a bad rap. (See also: Need a Cheap Dessert? Make Delicious Shaved Ice!)

Despite the damage a scoop or two can do to a calorie budget, however, there are so many reasons to ignore the nutritional label and give yourself permission to serve a bowl now and again. By picking a simple ice cream, void of extra candies and syrups, it's possible to enjoy the following benefits without guilt.

1. It Provides Calcium and Other Good Stuff

This is one #1 cited reason ice cream eaters give for why it's good for you. Ice cream actually does contain the needed nutrient, provided it is a real ice cream (not made from tofu, almond milk, or other non-dairy sources.) It seems that it usually doesn't matter if it's a true "cream." Many items on the market are more of an "ice milk," which is essentially skim milk made into dessert. Ice milk generally has about a third less of the calcium as the same amount of milk (200 mg versus 300 mg) (about 10% of the daily requirement, per serving). You will also enjoy protein and riboflavin with your sweet treat!

A serving of ice milk also provides about 10% of your daily requirement of vitamin A and some vitamin D, as well.

2. It Makes You Happy

While I'm not advocating emotional eating, there is truth to the fact that many people associate ice cream with simpler times, childhood, and celebrations. Allowing yourself a reasonable portion of the frozen stuff may bring about a gratification that you won't find in some lower-calorie frozen options, and being satisfied has its perks. Ice cream eaten after a long day of work or a hot day outside can elicit an almost "high" that can be very beneficial for people. Especially when enjoyed with children!

3. It Feeds a Craving

If you're like me, craving ice cream isn't negotiable. Especially during my pregnancies, eating it was going to happen. Eating it first ended the craving. Eating three other things before the ice cream in hopes of healthier satisfaction inevitably led me to eating those three things and the ice cream. I would have saved calories to just eat the ice cream in the first place. If you're finding yourself unable to resist the ice cream jones, it's not that big of deal to go for it. Just stick to a single serving, and you'll be fine.

4. It Can Burn Calories

Grabbing a pint out of the freezer is not hard work, at all, and that is not what I'm referring to. If you happen to have an old-fashioned ice cream machine (one that you crank), however, you'll find it rewarding to make your own ice cream with fresh ingredients in your own kitchen. The process is a bit grueling, but you can build up a few muscles in the making. Homemade ice cream is more delicious, and I guarantee you'll think long and hard about when you'll next want a batch whipped up to enjoy! (See also: 10 Ways to Make Your Own Frozen Treats)

To get you started, here's a recipe for vanilla ice cream that I've used in an ice cream machine (so no calorie burn) and hand crank machines seem to have slipped in quality (at least according to Amazon's reviewers), so you may be better off buying used. Too much work? Try an ice cream ball, instead. (See also: The 5 Best Ice Cream Makers)

5. It's a Time Out

Have you ever had an ice cream headache? The notorious brain-splitting pain usually only occurs from eating ice cream too fast. If you have small children, you've likely witnessed how quickly they train themselves to slow down while gobbling ice cream. Because of its head-freezing nature, ice cream is a dish best savored. The act of eating ice cream is a deliberate one that, for many, requires you to take a few extra breaths and really enjoy the moment. Eating ice cream is hard to do in the car or at your desk, as well, making it the "official" food for avoiding multitasking and living life for a bit.

Oh, and brain freeze? Scientists think they've figured out the cause. All that cold stuff in the back of your throat causes some big arteries that send blood to your brain to rapidly dilate then contract. The brain interprets this as pain — that searing headache. To reduce your suffering, slow down your ice cream intake. You can also jam your tongue against the roof of your mouth to warm it up, or drink something room temperature to do the same.

In a world where people take many things too seriously, it's a relief to know that this classic dish (made famous in the 4th century by the Romans) is still around. While many will try to limit, ban, or otherwise tamper with an already perfect food, the best reason to stop feeling guilty and have yourself a scoop is this: Because you can. Unless you are suffering from a serious health problem, a bowl of yummy Rocky Road won't kill you. And not having a good reason is kind of what eating ice cream is about!

What's your favorite reason to eat a bowl (or cone) of ice cream? Please share a bite in comments!

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Linda Condrillo's picture

I'm of the belief that one big ice cream sundae party with all the leaders present could be the solution to world peace!

Linsey Knerl's picture

Works for kids :) Especially if there was a toppings bar. LOL

Linda Condrillo's picture

I'm of the belief that one big ice cream sundae party with all the leaders present could be the solution to world peace!