Is there a healthy alternative to ice cream? You bet! It’s easy to find a healthy alternative for ice cream that’s low calorie, low fat, low carb, vegan, heart healthy, or whatever else you need. Learn how to stop ice cream cravings and get a healthy ice cream substitute recipe here. You’ll love this list of healthy ice cream alternatives from the store and that you can make at home.
Looking for a healthy ice cream alternative? I’ve got you! When the summertime is heating up, ice cream is a fun way to cool down and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Whether you’re craving vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, or another flavor, I’ve got healthy ice cream substitute ideas for you.
They’re delicious, and just like indulgent regular ice cream, we can enjoy them guilt free. (That’s because it’s best not to attach guilt to our food choices, whether we’re having the “healthiest ice cream” or not!) So, let’s dig into the best ice cream substitutes, shall we?
- 🍦 What is the best substitute for ice cream?
- ⭐ How to Stop Craving Ice Cream
- 🍨 Low Fat Alternative to Ice Cream
- 🍭 Low Sugar Alternative to Ice Cream
- 😋 Ice Cream Alternative for Diabetics
- ❤️ Heart Healthy Alternative to Ice Cream
- 🥛 Ice Cream Alternative for Lactose Intolerant
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🏻🍳 Ice Cream Alternative Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
🍦 What is the best substitute for ice cream?
What’s the healthiest alternative to ice cream? The best “healthy option for ice cream” varies by individual. Here are some factors that determine a healthy substitute for ice cream for you:
- Your medical needs (Are you allergic to dairy? Lactose intolerant? Do you have a history of disordered eating?)
- Your budget (It doesn’t matter if the health food store ice cream is the most nutritious if you can’t afford it.)
- What satisfies you (More on ice cream cravings below!)
- Your personal preferences (What do you find delicious? What are your personal health goals?)
- Your preferred special diet (If you are on a vegan or keto diet, a healthy ice cream not fitting with these preferences may not be best for you.)
- Lifestyle factors (For example, a 24-step recipe for a super healthy ice cream substitute may not work for busy parents of young children.)
If you want sweet treats but they don’t have to be ice cream, here are some nutritious alternatives:
- Fresh Fruit
- Dried Fruit
- Vegan Banana Cookies
- Greek Yogurt
- Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas (use low carb chocolate)
- Blended Frozen Bananas (Add peanut butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract to make a soft serve like treat!)
The benefit of all of the treats above is that they contain no added sugars, and most are low fat as well. The disadvantage is that trying to stop a sweet craving with healthy substitutes can backfire with some people. The craving isn’t fully satisfied with the healthy alternatives, so they end up binging on ice cream later on.
⭐ How to Stop Craving Ice Cream
Need to curb your ice cream craving? The answer to how to stop eating ice cream will vary by individual. Some of us function well as moderators and others do best as abstainers.
Moderators can mindfully enjoy a little regular ice cream, satisfy their craving, and move on. If they try to stop the craving with a healthier alternative, they may just end up overeating the regular treat later. In turn, they end up eating an excessive number of calories compared to if they just enjoyed regular ice cream in the first place.
Dietitians generally advise mindful eating and moderating food choices. This method advises against creating food rules for yourself that can lead to strict food restrictions and disordered eating. (Note: regular ice cream may be a challenge food for a person recovering from an eating disorder, and the healthiest choice for them at the moment.)
Food moderation is great if you find it a benefit to you. However, some people report that they do better completely abstaining from treats such as regular ice cream.
Abstainers may benefit from using healthy ice cream substitutes because they help satisfy a sweet craving so they can move on. This may be a better alternative for them than keeping regular ice cream in the house that they always overeat.
Personally, I enjoy regular ice cream on special occasions and when I really want it. If I just want a little something sweet, I’ll use a healthy ice cream substitute instead. The best person to answer whether a healthy ice cream alternative may benefit you is YOU!
🍨 Low Fat Alternative to Ice Cream
Some people may want a low fat substitute for ice cream. The pros of these alternatives are that they’re often low calorie and low in saturated fat compared to regular ice cream. A con is that low fat ice cream often has just as much (or more) sugar as its regular counterparts.
The reason that low fat ice cream is usually also fewer calories is that fat is the most energy dense micronutrient. While protein and carbs provide 4 calories per gram, fat provides 9 calories per gram. That’s over twice as many calories by weight!
Luckily, there are a lot of options for light ice cream from the store if that’s what you’re looking for. There are also frozen desserts, like Italian ice, that are ice cream-like low fat options. Here are some of the best low fat ice cream substitutes:
- Halo Top Ice Cream (has options where you can eat the entire pint of ice cream for under 300 calories!)
- Enlightened Ice Cream (they also make high fat keto ice cream substitutes)
- Arctic Zero (under 200 calorie ice cream pints, and they offer non-dairy options)
- Yasso Ice Cream Bars
- Skinny Cow Ice Cream
- Shaved ice
My recipe for coffee popsicles below is another low-fat ice cream alternative. These are nonfat ice pops depending on the type of liquid coffee creamer you use. Additionally, they are only about 15 calories per popsicle.
🍭 Low Sugar Alternative to Ice Cream
Low sugar ice cream substitutes are the best bet for those on low carb and keto diets. A pro of these products is that they often contain no added sugar and use erythritol instead (or another low carb sweetener). A con is that they may be so high fat, they’re just as high in calories as regular ice cream.
If you want a low fat AND low sugar ice cream, keep an eye out for protein ice cream. (Makes sense, right? If we cut out the carbs and fat, the only macro left is protein.) Here are some low sugar ice cream substitutes:
- Enlightened Keto Ice Cream (some options are only 5 grams net carbs per ice cream pint)
- Rebel Ice Cream
- N!ck’s Keto Ice Cream
- Breyer’s Carb Smart Ice Cream
If you’re choosing a low carb ice cream alternative, skip the ice cream cone. This will save you a lot of carbs and calories. (And you don’t have to worry about ice cream spills if you use a bowl.)
😋 Ice Cream Alternative for Diabetics
For ice cream substitutes for diabetes, I’d recommend using the low sugar ice cream substitutes above. These alternatives should help make carb counting easier whether you’re doing carb exchanges or a very low carb diet. Keep in mind that low sugar doesn’t necessarily equal low calorie, so these might not be great picks for weight loss.
❤️ Heart Healthy Alternative to Ice Cream
For a heart healthy ice cream alternative, we need something low saturated fat and low sugar (low added sugar). My top picks would be unsweetened nice cream made with frozen fruit (such as frozen bananas) and other frozen fruit treats. Here are some heart healthy ice cream substitute recipes that are rich in fiber:
One downside of all of these is that you need a food processor or high speed blender. Also, they take a bit more planning and preparation than just buying ice cream from the store.
🥛 Ice Cream Alternative for Lactose Intolerant
Ice cream substitutes for lactose intolerance should either be dairy free or use lactose free milk. Lactaid ice cream is available at some grocery stores. You could also use any of the dairy free ice cream substitutes in the previous section, or make homemade ice cream with sweetened coconut cream or soy milk.
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). Is ice cream unhealthy? As I’ve stated above, it all depends on you and how the food fits your needs.
All ice creams are not created equal. You can find ice cream options that are under 100 calories per ½ cup. Others are over 300 calories for the same sized portion.
If you have a weight loss goal, choosing a low-calorie ice cream alternative may be a smart move. You can save a couple hundred calories per serving, potentially making maintaining the calorie deficit needed for weight loss easier. On the flip side, ice cream can be a fun way to pack in extra calories if you are feeling unwell.
The exact calorie count of this popsicle recipe depends on things like the size of your ice pop molds and whether you add a caloric sweetener. Even using liquid coffee creamer, my pops came out to only 15 calories each. That’s because each popsicle mold only holds about ¼ cup liquid.
Unlike ice cream, popsicles provide a little automatic portion control with your snack. That said, remember it’s what you do consistently with your diet that matters most, not one treat.
One indulgent splurge generally won’t make or break you. There's no need to worry if you don’t choose the “healthiest” ice cream every time. It’s so much better to keep snack time free of guilt and other mental drama. Enjoy! 🙂
Frozen yogurt is generally lower fat than regular ice cream and may be lower in calories. However, like regular ice cream, frozen yogurt is typically packed with sugar and not suitable for low carb diets.
Sorbet is a lower fat alternative to ice cream and generally contains more fruit. That said, sorbet may be higher in sugar than ice cream. Additionally, you don’t get the calcium and protein in sorbet that you get in dairy ice cream.
As a dietitian, I can’t responsibly answer this question without knowing your needs. Are you looking for ice cream with no sugar? Low carb? Low calorie? High calorie? Gluten free? Dairy free? There isn’t one answer that fits everyone.
The healthiest vegan and dairy-free ice cream depends on your needs. In general, “nice cream” made with frozen fruits and no sugar added is a nutritious choice. So Delicious makes some very tasty vegan ice cream with coconut milk and almond milk. Unfortunately, it’s just as high in calories and saturated fat as dairy ice cream.
Make a milk shake without ice cream using cream and ice cubes instead. Alternatively, thicken milkshakes without ice cream using frozen fruit. Frozen bananas add sweetness to milk shakes and blend up thick with a creamy texture.
There are many low calorie and low carb ice cream sandwiches. Some brands to check out include Yasso, Skinny Cow, and Rebel ice cream sandwiches. You can also make your own with whole grain graham crackers and healthy ice cream.
👩🏻🍳 Ice Cream Alternative Recipes
Looking for more homemade healthy ice cream alternatives? You might just need these frozen sweet treats in your life:
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Healthy Alternative to Ice Cream (Ice Cream Substitute Ideas!)
- 1 cup chilled coffee
- 1½ tablespoons flavored liquid coffee creamer (or your preferred low carb or regular sweetener, optional)
- Mix the cooled coffee with the liquid creamer.
- Fill the popsicle molds with the mixture. I was able to fill 4 molds.
- Put the popsicle sticks in the molds and freeze overnight. Enjoy!