For some reason I really enjoy making visual graphs from data, something which can give new insight into relationships hidden in the data.
I decided to apply this hobby of mine to ice cream, and came with the above graph. It shows calories on the horizontal axis, and sugars (in grams) on the vertical one. Numbers are measured against a single serving, which is typically 1/2 cup.
I have captured data for around 50 products across 7 different brands, and highlighted some of the points on the graph.
As expected, there is a general correlation between calories and sugar, since adding more sugar usually means adding more calories. However there are some cases like Haagen Dazs Peanut Butter Pecan, which has a lot of fat that contributes to calories, but not sugar. We also see the other extreme, Talenti Lisbon Lemon, where the main ingredients (besides water) are lemon and sugar, both which contribute to sugar but not to calories.
When at a sushi restaurant recently with my family, we saw mochi ice cream on the menu and had to try a few. Both the azuki and green tea flavors tasted great, so when we saw the latter sold in a nearby asian grocer, we couldn’t help but pick up a box of six.
When I pulled one from the package I had kept in the freezer, it was covered by a frosty ice coating. This isn’t too appealing in terms of taste of texture, but it it’s easy to wipe off with a wet towel, or by running it quickly under running water.
This dessert consists of green tea ice cream wrapped in a very thin layer of Japanese-style ‘mochi’, made from sticky, glutinous rice. The stickiness and the creaminess really strike a perfect balance here. The ice cream is extremely sweet, with an equally strong flavor of authentic green tea.
I find I get the most enjoyment when I cut this into little slices using a knife, and then pop them into my mouth one at a time to savor. It helps me to appreciate the bold sweetness without getting overloaded.
All in all, great taste in a unique package.
One serving is 2 pieces (80 grams), and has 180 calories with 2 grams of protein. A single serving also has 22 sugars. The sugar/weight ratio is pretty close to high-sugar ice creams such as some of the Talenti products, but the density is much higher here because all that sweetness is packed into a tiny ball.
The ingredient list is pretty safe, with real green tea used in the flavoring and no artificial flavorings. The one exception is “mono & diglycerides”, which are used as emulsifying agents to extend shelf life and to help certain ingredients blend well together, such as oil & water. It is said that these contain fatty acids, which have had a lot of bad press lately because of their tendency to promote obesity and raise bad cholesterol.
Ingredient list: ice cream mix (cream, milk, sugar, corn syrup solids, nonfat dry milk, locust bean gum, guar gum, mono & diglycerides, carrageenan), water, maltose, sugar, rice flour, green tea and pasteurized egg whites.
I bought this at a local asian grocery store in South Florida for around $8.00.
Though the packaging contains the words “ice cream” in Japanese script (アイス クリーム), the product is actually made within the USA by a company called “Sweet Novelty Inc” based in California.
Ratings: Flavor: 8.5 Nutrition/Ingredients: 7.0 Price: 7.0 Overall: 7.5
Though a little pricey, each of these frozen mochi balls is packed with a strikingly sweet green tea flavor inside a gummy mochi shell. I highly recommend it for green tea lovers, or anyone looking for a new way to experience ice cream.
I’ve eaten most of a carton of this product in several sittings, but each time I just can’t get past the odd texture. If you’ve read my other ice cream reviews, you’ll know I am a big fan of creamy texture (heck, who isn’t?). Unfortunately, eating this ice cream right out of the freezer, or even 5-10 minute later, gives an unappetizing rough, icy texture. I even tried to break up the cream into tiny pieces with my spoon to facilitate the melting process, but that was only partially effective. After around ~20 minutes of waiting for it to melt, I finally got one spoonful of something I’d consider partially creamy.
If this was my first taste of a coffee ice cream I might be OK with this, but I’ve had at least two others that are much, much tastier and creamier (Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip and Three Sister’s Milk Coffee). The taste itself in Whole Foods coffee ice cream is only so-so, with a strong element of coffee and milk, and a weak sweetness.
I think the problems with texture, as well as taste, stem from not enough sugar being used. Though I appreciate the effort to try and reduce sugar for health reasons, this reminds me of some experimental batches of ice cream I’ve made in my time.
This ice cream has only 180 calories in a single serving (1/2 cup, 90 grams). That’s near the low end of ice creams of this type.
Sugars are only 13 grams. This is very low compared to Three Twins milk coffee, which has 17 grams. Its also lower than most other ice creams out there, by a large margin.
With only six ingredients, and no artificial flavorings or colorings, it does get much more natural and simple than this. Two differences between the Three Twin’s product and this are the order of the coffee and egg yolks (they are reversed), and the lack of vanilla extract in Whole Food’s product.Full Ingredient List: Pasteurized milk, pasteurized cream, cane sugar, egg yolks, and carob bean gum.
I got this for around $4.99 at Whole Foods Market.
Ratings: Flavor: 5.0 Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0 Price: 7.0 Overall: 6.67
Any points this product gets for healthiness and natural ingredients are cancelled out by a completely non-creamy texture and mediocre taste.
I am not the biggest fan of strawberry-flavored products but when my wife saw this for the first time in the frozen section, we had to try it out. I have always felt alliteration is an important technique used in product naming, and this is another of Talenti’s products where it is employed, along with others like “Lisbon Lemon” and “Coffee Chocolate Chip”.
The flavor of this ice cream is in keeping with its name: all you taste is strawberry mixed with milk. Within creamy texture there is occasionally a gritty sensation as you chew on fibrous parts of a whole strawberry, though they are quite subtle so you might miss them.
As this ice cream doesn’t have any mix-ins such as chocolate chips or nuts, it feels a little incomplete to me. And while I do enjoy eating fresh strawberries, much of the enjoyment comes from their juicy, almost meaty texture which doesn’t really translate here.
One serving is 1/2 cup (104 grams) which contains 170 calories, 60 of which are from fat. There is 24 grams of sugars, a bit higher than many other company’s products, but on the low end of the Talenti line (23 – 36 grams). The calorie count is also near the low end for other milk-based Talenti products, although the water-based ones (for example Roman Raspberry) can be as low as 110.
Except for the “natural flavor”, which fortunately is listed last, I don’t have any issues with this ice cream’s ingredients. There is only eight and the rest of them are well known substances. For those of you who don’t commonly read ingredient,s you may not be familiar with carob gum. It’s used as a thickening agent and also goes by the name “Locus bean gum”.
Though I typically scoff at natural flavors, the taste of this ice cream is so… well “simple” that I feel it really doesn’t need any additional mysterious flavor. I’m not sure what they added but I definitely can’t taste it.
The thing I love about Simply Strawberry is that strawberries are used in a higher proportion than sugar, which gives this product its great natural strawberry taste. I checked Bryer’s Natural Strawberry as a comparison and this also have the same order for the first four ingredients. Ben and Jerry’s Strawberry, however, had more sugar than strawberries.
In any case, with the high amount of real strawberries, its reasonable to expect some of their nutritional benefits when eating this product.
Full ingredients list: Milk, strawberries, sugar, cream, dextrose, carob gum, vanilla, natural flavor.
I purchased this at Publix for $5.99 where it had just appeared on the shelves recently. I checked and this flavor has been out for some time in other places.
Ratings: Flavor: 7.0 Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0 Price:8.0 Overall: 7.6
The simplicity of Simply Strawberry is both its best strength and worst weakness. I feel that major fans of strawberry should try this out once, but for the rest of us the lack of a deep or complex flavor limits the enjoyment.
This ice cream has a very different flavor that is hard to put into words, especially if I force myself to not cheat and use the ingredients list as a reference. The best I can do is call it a nutty sweetness, punctuated with many small almond pieces – just enough to strike the perfect texture balance. There is a fudge sauce which winds to and fro within this creamy confection, but doesn’t seem to have much of a unique taste to it. Its nothing like any milk- or coconut-based frozen dessert.
I haven’t had almond milk yet, but will have to try it sometime so I can determine if that is what lends the strongest taste component to this frozen dessert.
Though a foreign flavor at first, if you take a few partially-melted spoonfuls you will soon find yourself yearning for more.
I don’t really detect much coffee or chocolate taste, but the well thought out mixture of ingredients results in a complex flavor that is more than the sum of its parts.
In a 85 gram, 1/2 cup serving (four total in the package), there is only 160 calories and 10 grams of sugars. The calorie count is much lower than Talenti’s ice creams (rough average 200) and many of Ben & Jerry’s (rough average 250), though it’s right in league with So Delicious coconut milk based frozen desserts. The amount of sugars is also very low, nearly one-half to one-third that found in many other frozen desserts or ice creams. At first I was clueless on how they can achieve such a great perception of sweetness with only 10 grams of sugars. Then when I read through the ingredient list I discovered erythritol – a nearly zero calorie sweetener which is also utilized in other sugar-free ice creams to add sweetness.
Erythritol is 50-60% as sweet as table sugar, does not cause cavities, and only effects blood sugar (if at all). Sugar alcohols have gotten bad press because they can intestinal problems, such as nauesa, in large quantities. However, erythritol is claimed to have a less chance of these side effects compared to other sugar alcohols, and they are frequently reported only in doses over 50 grams.
I emailed So Delicious and though they would not disclose the exact amount of sugar alcohol employed, I was told that there is less than 2%. This works out to be at most around 2 grams. To reach 50 grams dosage it would take 25 servings, or over 6 packages of this frozen dessert. Clearly there is little health concern, and I feel in this case erythritol advantages outweigh its weaknesses, especially if your diet does not contain any other products with this sweetener. Having said that, I think those who haven’t had sugar alcohols before should take it slowly – don’t eat a whole carton in one sitting.
Tapioca syrup is listed as the sweetener present in the highest amount. It is made from the cassava root and is said to be a healthy alternative sweetener which is GMO and pesticide free.
Fiber is 5 grams per serving. Protein is 2 grams per serving, a good bit lower than many other milk-based products which have easily have 5-6 grams. But honestly, nobody is going to be choosing which dessert they eat purely based on protein content. And while we are on this topic, even the difference between 160 and 250 calories is pretty minor. Even though its 40% more, for those eating only one or two servings it’s a very small fraction of most people’s daily calories. Having said that, if choosing between two ice creams that both taste great, I’ll usually choose the one that is lower in calories and sugar.
Besides my usual pet-peeve “natural flavors” (present in both the fudge sause and the base), there isn’t too much that bothers me in the ingredient list. Water, used a base in both the almond milk and the fudge sauce, helps to keep the calorie and sugar amount down.
Full ingredient list: ALMOND MILK (WATER, ALMONDS), ORGANIC TAPIOCA SYRUP, FUDGE SAUCE [DRIED CANE SYRUP, WATER, ORGANIC COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), TAPIOCA STARCH, NATURAL FLAVORS, ORGANIC CHOCOLATE LIQUOR], ALMONDS (ALMONDS, COTTONSEED OIL, SALT), CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT, DRIED CANE SYRUP, ERYTHRITOL, PEA PROTEIN, NATURAL FLAVOR, COFFEE, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, KOSHER SEA SALT, MONK FRUIT.
I just purchased mine for $5.99 at Whole Foods Market, where I recently noticed it in the frozen section.
Ratings: Flavor: 7.5 Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0 Price:7.0 Overall: 7.5
This almond-based frozen dessert has a unique, delicious flavor that’s addictive. I highly recommend trying some to bring variation and nutritionally round out your ice cream “diet”, especially to those who eat mostly milk-based products.
In several of my previous blogs I had adjusted by weight (expressed in grams) when comparing across ice cream products. While the amount of weight per serving is an important value and in comparing using it gives useful information, in reality we eat ice cream by volume, not weight. When you scoop up some ice cream the real limiting factor is volume, in other words size, because ice cream will never be heavy enough for you to care about a spoonfuls worth of weight.
For this reason I’ll try to stick to comparing against volume in future posts. Originally I had started comparing using weight because I noticed this different across ice cream producers and thought it translated to different volumes, so it would be the most fair way to compare. However I was wrong – most ice cream/frozen dessert companies use a standard serving size of 1/2 cup, which yields 4 per pint.
Here is a sample of average weight per 1/2 cup serving for a few ice cream companies:
- Talenti: 100 grams
- Haagen Dazs: 100 grams
- So Delicious Coconut Milk: 85 grams
- Bryers: 66 grams
So how can the weight be almost double for the same volume? The basic ingredients, coconut/cow milk and sugar, shouldn’t differ too much in weight and the minor ingredients are in a lower proportion and have only a small effect on the total weight. The answer may be a little surprising to those who haven’t researched how ice cream is made:
Believe it or not air bubbles are actually a necessary component of (tasty) ice cream. If you want to see what I mean, you can try an experiment which I accidentally did the other day. Move a small portion of ice cream into your refrigerator and wait a few hours until it melts into liquid. Then transfer it back to the freezer and wait a few more hours. It will re-freeze but much of the air (and ice crystals) will be gone, so the texture will be ruined. Also you will see the volume is reduced. If you own an ice cream machine you’ll know that its primary purpose is to continually spin the cream so that these air bubbles form.
If you go back and look at the table above again, you might be upset since Bryer’s is essentially filling their ice cream with air. I found a great post which discusses this practice and does some research to discover the cheaper the ice cream the more air is puffed in. You can find it here.
Some might declare we need to stand up to ice cream producers and force them to stop saving money by giving us air-filled ice cream, but I would disagree. At least for a company like Bryer’s that produces great-tasting ice cream, I don’t think there is any reason for them to change. Personally, I have gravitated to more dense ice creams in the last few years, but I have no problem eating some Bryer’s now and then, albeit in small portions.
Besides a cheaper price to the consumer, there are other advantages to adding air – less calories and sugar content. But be careful, since a much larger container size (gallon vs a pint) means you are likely to gobble up more per sitting. You could also argue there is less nutrition, but most people don’t eat ice cream primarily for nutrition.
Regardless on how you judge things, I believe in transparency – consumers knowing what is really in the products they buy. This includes air, which is not listed on the label as an ingredient.
If you have been reading my blog you’ll know I’m a big fan of Talenti gelatos, having reviewed their products here and here. One of my favorite flavors is Mediterranean Mint, but I have eaten that so many times and felt like getting something new to review. I selected Peppermint Mark because I thought it would likely taste similar, while giving me the opportunity to try a new product.
I didn’t quite understand the naming until I did a Google search and discovered “peppermint bark” was a traditional candy consisting of peppermint candy (candy cane, etc.) pieces embedded in a ‘bark’ of white and dark chocolatess. I have never eaten it so cannot say whether it is a fitting name. The base ingredients are pretty much the same, but I can’t see how the texture is even close.
This gelato has an extremely fresh mint taste, backed up by a nice portion of irregularly-shaped chocolate chips strewn about. The experience of eating this pure white cream is quite different from the light green colored Mediterranean Mint because of the color difference, but the actual test is very similar. As I said in the intro, this pretty much lines up with my expectations. The only difference I detected was a slight graininess in the texture (maybe that is supposed to represent the ‘bark’), but it could be my imagination. Until I try these two back-to-back I won’t know for sure.
In a 100 gram serving there is 240 calories, slightly above the average of other Talenti gelatos which is roughly 210-220. This is clearly not something you should eat frequently when counting calories. There is 26 grams of sugar, on the low side of Talenti ice creams (Sea Salt Caramel is a whopping 36 g), but a little excessive for my personal health guidelines. Both of these values are very close to Bryer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, when adjusted by serving size weight, so there is nothing too unusual here.
This product has a few qualifications that make it available to a wide group of people: vegetarian, gluten free, HFCS free, hormone free, and kosher.
There are only 11 ingredients and all natural ones at that. Above all I am very impressed that there is no ‘natural flavors’, because that was present in their Mediterranean Mint flavor. The other differences between these two is that Peppermint Bark has added vanilla and oil (coconut and soybean), and peppermint extract is used instead of fresh mint. The latter explains the color difference between these two products.
Because of the natural ingredients and fresh taste, this is now my 3rd favorite Talenti gelato, after Coffee Chocolate Chip and Caribbean Coconut.
Full ingredient list: milk, sugar, cream, dutched chocolate, dextrose, oil (coconut, soybean), peppermint extract, vanilla, carob gum, soy lechitin
“Dutched chocolate” refers to chocolate processed with alkali, which gives it a browner color and milder taste. Its a pretty common process though I rarely see it listed as “dutched”, but rather as “processed with alkali”. Strictly speaking this is a “unnatural” process that I would like makers to avoid, but it’s a minor nitpick and not sure if how the replacement of natural chocolate would affect the flavor.
(Meditteranean Mint ingredients: milk, sugar, cream, chocolate, dextrose, natural flavors, fresh mint, carob gum, soy lechitin)
I purchased this ice cream at Publix grocery store for around $5.99 and haven’t seen it at any other stores in my area. The packaging is marked as “Limited Edition” so eat it while you can, but it seems to have been around since at least December 2012, making the odds of it suddenly disappearing less likely.
Ratings: Flavor: 8.0 Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0 Price: 7.0 Overall: 7.6
This gelato is a mint-lovers delight with nothing unnatural and would be perfect if not for the excessive sugar and calories hidden within.
During my family’s recent trip to Tennessee, I had an opportunity to pass through Chattanooga and spotted a Ben & Jerry’s store there. I had never seen a stand alone Ben & Jerry’s store like this before, and as the Sweets Reporter I felt compelled to step in and try some tasty sweets.
The menu had a large selection of ice cream flavors (over 25), a few yogurt flavors, sorbet, sundays, shakes, and even smoothies. I quickly decided on having “Coffee, Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz!” flavor, which I had been wanting to try ever since spotting it on their website a few weeks back. My wife and kid shared a “Berry Nice” smoothy.
The coffee ice cream was somewhat of a disappointment. From the title I was expecting more coffee, or at least more caffeine, but found neither. This flavor is supposed to be “coffee ice cream with espresso bean fudge chunks”, but the coffee flavor wasn’t particularly prominent (coffee was 7th ingredient on the label) and the chunks, of which there were far too many, tasted like everyday chocolate chips. It didn’t exactly taste bad but didn’t live up to my expectations either, especially considering it has such a great title. I would recommend Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip (which I reviewed here) for an overall better flavor and better balance of chocolate chips.
The Berry Nice smoothy, another product with a well thought out name, was very tasty with blueberries, pomegranate, strawberries and banana mixed with sorbet. The biggest drawback was the many seeds which were cumbersome to chew, though they indicated there was a good proportion of real fruit. Having said that, I’d like to see the actual ingredient list to see if there was more sorbet than fruits.
I regret not writing down the prices (nor taking pictures since I didn’t have my camera at the time – need to buy a smaller camera), but from what I remember the ice cream was around $3.50 for a small size and the smoothy was a bit over $5 for the smaller size. Of the two I consider the smoothy, which is made from fresh fruits, a much better deal, especially since you can get the same ice cream for much cheaper by buying pints at a grocery store. The only exception is when the flavor you want to try isn’t sold near you (which happened in my case with the coffee ice cream). Still, its a great place to grab some sweet goodness with a group of friends, and the large menu assures everyone will be satisfied.
The service was very friendly and considerate as well, tolerating several children running around the place without a complaint or even a negative expression. Also when they were out of cups for the small smoothy they gave us a large sized cup and filled it up to the top, without any extra charge.
When I first saw this product around a year ago, I was attracted by it’s unique packaging and high price. I didn’t know much about goat’s milk and frankly was a little hesitant, but decided to take the plunge for a new sweet desert experience. It was glad I didn’t chicken out because I ended up discovering a great product!
Its funny because fundamentally I shouldn’t like this product. Several years back I got tired of all plain vanilla and chocolate ice creams, and recently tend to gravitate to things which have nuts, chocolate chips, or something else to provide a balanced contrast of flavors. But there is something special about this which makes me always want to come back for more.
Texture-wise this ice cream is very similar to typical cow’s milk ice cream, and that is no surprise given these two milks are similar in composition. It’s very creamy and doesn’t get hard in the freezer, so I can eat it right away after pulling it out, whereas some other non-milk based products have odd textures or require waiting to get soft enough to enjoy.
When I take in a mouth full of this ice cream my first thought is of plain old chocolate ice cream. But as it sits in my mouth, I begin to notice two things. First, the chocolate (listed 3rd on label) tastes a little stronger than some other brands. I want to describe it’s taste as “refined” or “elegant”, but I think there is some bias on my side since I know the chocolate comes from a name brand chocolate maker (Scharffen Berger). Also, the goat milk adds a new dimension with some subtle flavors not present in typical ice creams. Some describe goat milk as extra sweet, or salty, but I find these words don’t really mean much to me. Just try it yourself and you might just get hooked like I did.
In a 90 gram serving there is a 160 calories and 15 grams of sugars. The sugar content is quite low compared to many milk-based ice creams, and comparable to many coconut milk-based ones. The calorie content is also much less than average compared to both other types of products. For comparison I’ll present a brief table with values for a few other products, adjusted by weight.
- LaLoo’s deep chocolate => 177 calories / 17 grams of sugars
- Ben & Jerry’s chocolate therapy => 250 calories / 23 grams of sugars
- Publix premium chocolate => 205 calories / 21 grams of sugars
- Talenti double dark chocolate => 210 calories / 25 grams of sugars
- So Delicious german chocolate => 212 calories / 16 grams of sugars
Protein is moderate, at 5 grams per serving.
Unlike many other products which are made with unnamed chocolate, this one utilizes Sharffen Berger chocolate, whose chocolate bars you have seen in the grocery store. Scharffen Berger is a chocolate maker founded in 1997 in San Francisco, and was “the first American ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate manufacturer in over 50 years,” according to their website. I haven’t done any direct taste comparison of their bars and can’t say for certain they do anything special compared to other chocolate products, but for chocolate fanatics this is a nice bonus and might have some nutritional benefits as well.
Speaking of nutritional benefits, the main advantage of this product is that is contains goat’s milk instead of the typical cow’s milk found in ice cream. It is claimed that goat’s milk has a few benefits over cow’s milk. For example, it is less likely to trigger allergies, easier to digest, and more friendlier to those who are lactose intolerant. It is also reported to be closer to human breast milk.
I can’t say conclusively that goat’s milk is better than cow’s milk, but in the vein of getting a wide selection of different types of nutrients, I suggest trying to add goat milk products to your diet a little at a time.
This product has only 11 ingredients, and of those the only one that I would consider debatable is carrageenan, used for it’s thickening properties (among other things). I’ve spoke about this briefly in another post (here) but I wish was not used in ice cream products.
Full ingredient list: Goat Milk, Sugar, Scharffen Berger (processed with alkali) semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin, vanilla), Egg Yolks, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan.
This ice cream is quite hard to find. The only place I have seen it sold recently is the Whole Foods Market in Fort Lauderdale (info here), selling at $6.99 for a pint (473 mL).
I remember seeing it for a bit more a few months ago, though I don’t remember the exact price. It was somewhere in the range $7.99 to $8.99. In any case I’m glad they dropped the price. Even $6.99 is quite expensive considering you can get many coconut and milk-based desserts for a dollar or two cheaper. But, given goat milk ice creams are quite rare (I don’t know of any others), it is fair for this to have a certain premium.
Ratings: Flavor: 8.5 Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0 Price: 7.0 Overall: 7.83
This goat milk ice cream, natural and delicious, is a great vacation away from your average milk-based ice cream. It’s a little pricey, but its unique flavor makes up for that.