Why I’m not a Fan of “Diet” Ice Cream

There was a time in my life when I would have done anything to try a pint of Arctic Zero or Halo Top Creamery brand ice cream. Back when I too thought healthy meant weighing less, low-calorie, or made with “clean” ingredients. Around that same time, I would make “cookie dough” out of chickpeas and eat the entire batch because even though I was physically full, my cookie dough craving wasn’t actually being satisfied.

I live on the East Coast of Canada, and living in Canada – especially The Maritimes – means that we don’t have all of the same brands as the U.S. When I first heard of these low-calorie, high-protein, low-sugar ice cream brands, I wished I could get my hands on them. I was so intrigued. You’re telling me I could have ice cream without guilt? And a whole pint at that?!

That was years ago. I have since learned what it truly means to live healthily and guess what? While highly individualized, living a healthy life and fueling your body properly have nothing to do with your body size, calorie counting, or labeling your food choices.

The past few months, Halo Top products were introduced in Atlantic Superstore (Loblaw’s) locations across Nova Scotia and my social media blew up. For days I saw photo after photo of the Halo Top Creamery grocery store display, or a freshly opened pint with “90 CALORIES” plastered on the carton, and a spoon stuck in the top – I couldn’t help but cringe.

What kind of messages do we receive from this branding?

“80 calories PER SERVING!”

“300 calories PER CARTON!”

“High in Protein – Low Calorie – Low Sugar! Tastes just like regular ice cream!”

I visited the Halo Top website and read:

“We decided to make and craft it so we could enjoy ice cream as a regular part of our diets at just 280-360 calories per pint”. 

News Flash: You can enjoy ANY ice cream as a regular part of your diet. And if you do, you may find that eating an entire pint is 100% unnecessary and in fact, rather uncomfortable to do.

I continued on the website and clicked on the page titled “Us Vs. Them” (really???) to find comparisons of Halo Top products to Ben & Jerry’s, Hagen Daaz, and the like.

This is almost encouraging of disordered eating thoughts and behaviours. Encouraging you to feel morally superior by eating a product with less calories or more protein and to feel guilty when you eat ice cream or ANY food for that matter that is higher in calories/carbs/sugar/whatever.

Let’s get something straight. Ice cream isn’t a “health” food. Whether it’s Half Baked Ben & Jerry’s or Cool Whey, Hagen Daaz or Halo Top. That being said, ice cream can be enjoyed as a part of a healthy diet. It doesn’t need to be 300 calories per carton and high(er) in protein for you to eat it free of shame, guilt, or worry. In fact, there is no place for guilt in eating. Period. And frankly, these marketing tactics are only contributing to your poor relationship with food and to diet culture as a whole.

To be quite honest, diet foods aren’t ever as tasty or as satisfying as the real deal, no matter what marketing lead you to believe. This leads us to eat more of them, seeking out that satisfaction that truly, we won’t find in diet foods. In turn, we tend to ditch our hunger and fullness cues and eat more, likely past fullness (like me and my wannabe cookie dough), than we would if we just allowed ourselves to enjoy some regular, less expensive ice cream.

I could last a couple months on $6.99 worth of my favourite ice cream.

So why aren’t I a fan of diet ice cream?

Because I do not believe in pinning foods against each other or labeling them as “good vs. bad” or “healthy vs. unhealthy”. I do not believe in associating ANY food with guilt. I do not believe in disregarding my biological signals and eating the whole damn thing because it’s low calorie so I can – and I won’t encourage you to do so either.

Like I said, ice cream will never be a health food. So why do we try to make it so? If you want ice cream, eat it – to satisfaction. Savor it. Enjoy it. Period.

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