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Although less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day, many Americans are still making efforts to lose weight. That’s something that the diet industry — which brings in a gross annual income of approximately $60 billion per year — is counting on. While frozen desserts may have been once forbidden for those who were counting their calories, there are now more diet-friendly options available than ever. And what’s more, they actually taste pretty good.
The typical American diet may be rife with indulgences, as 87% of Americans have ice cream in their freezer at any given moment. But there are some ice cream makers who are changing the way we think about low-calorie sweet treats. We might have once thought of “healthy ice cream” as a misnomer or as something so fake and unappetizing that no reasonable person would even bother with it. Now, that’s all changed thanks to some newer brands that have skyrocketed to popularity.
Halo Top came on the scene a few years back, but it’s only recently become a mainstay in most grocery stores. According to Slate, Halo Top sales increased by 2,500% between 2015 and 2016, launching its first national advertising campaign the following year. Reuters also recently reported that the brand may now be valued at around $2 billion. It helps, of course, that customers actually really like what Halo Top is bringing to the table (or bowl). An entire pint of one of its various flavors (of which there are currently 46, with more on the way) has about as many calories as one would expect to consume in a single serving of regular ice cream. They’ve also recently launched ice cream pops, which have less than 60 calories each and are reportedly a good source of protein, just like the ice cream pints. There are even dairy free flavors made with coconut milk, for those whose lactose intolerance usually keeps them from screaming for ice cream. It’s no wonder that dieters are rejoicing about being able to enjoy these offerings. And while they might not taste quite like the real thing, most people agree that it’s a good substitute when you’re battling a craving and can’t afford to give in to full-blown temptation.
Halo Top isn’t the only healthy ice cream brand making waves, however. Enlightened ice cream, which is low in sugar and high in protein, is a plant-based line that’s helping people finish their meals on a sweet note without consuming too many calories. There’s also Chilly Cow (a brand whose claim to fame is using “ultra-filtered non-fat milk”), Arctic Zero (which uses faba bean protein and swaps fake sweeteners for monk fruit and cane sugar), and Nada Moo! (a non-dairy organic brand), along with other offerings that have been on the shelves for a while. Trader Joe’s also has plans to add its own low-calorie, high-protein ice cream option to its stores sometime later this year.
But low-calorie ice creams aren’t the only frozen treats that might make you a bit healthier. Some might reportedly help you sleep better, too. The premise of Nightfood, whose pints hit store shelves only a few weeks ago, is that eating this ice cream might make it easier to get your beauty sleep. It doesn’t contain any kind of sleep aid; the brand merely says that these products won’t cause digestive disruption. When you consume regular ice cream before bedtime, you might experience a night of tossing and turning due to how your body processes those ingredients. But Nightfood contains low-caffeine cocoa powder, fiber, magnesium, calcium, and other sleep-friendly ingredients to ensure you experience a more restful sleep cycle. Funnily enough, the Nightfood brand is based in Tarrytown, NY — the hometown of famed author Washington Irving, who wrote Rip Van Winkle.
While some experts are skeptical that eating anything before bed, even an ice cream like the ones made by Nightfood, won’t really help you get some shut-eye, most agree that it’s merely a way to appeal to late-night snackers and perhaps help them to improve upon their existing habits. Ultimately, that’s what all healthy ice creams are about. Instead of trying to tell consumers they should never eat ice cream again (which would be a real problem for an industry that brings in over $6 billion every year), these options are a way to indulge a bit without wreaking havoc on one’s diet. And even though most of these products probably won’t rival their calorie laden counterparts, it’s nice to know that you can still enjoy a frozen treat without the guilt.