Creamy, sweet, cold and refreshing, ice cream contains some protein and calcium; it also contains a large amount of fat and sugar, which drives up the calorie content of the treat. Because of that, ice cream can lead to weight gain if you eat too much of it.
A 1/2-cup serving of vanilla ice cream contains 137 calories and 7.2 grams of fat, of which about 4.5 grams are saturated. The same amount of chocolate ice cream has 143 calories and 7.3 grams of fat, of which 4.5 are saturated. Many of these calories come from the added sugar and high fat content in traditional ice cream. Regularly eating foods high in sugar and fat can lead to weight gain.
Regularly eating ice cream can also decrease the reward part of your brain, leaving you wanting more of the sweet stuff on a more frequent basis as you strive to satiate your desire for something sugary, according to a 2012 article published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." The article notes that frequently eating ice cream and thus increasing your desire for more ice cream is similar to what happens in the brain with a drug addiction. If you eat more ice cream more often trying to satisfy your craving, you'll be taking in larger numbers of calories, and that can lead to weight gain.
Have Your Ice Cream and Eat It, Too
Because of the calorie and sugar content, you shouldn't eat ice cream on a regular basis, but instead reserve it as a special treat every once in a while. When you do have ice cream, go for low-fat, fat-free or sugar-free versions, which will help satisfy your desire for something sweet, but with fewer calories than traditional versions. A 1/2 cup of no-sugar-added vanilla ice cream, for example, contains 115 calories. Reduced-fat chocolate ice cream has 92 calories per 1/2-cup serving.
Choose These Instead
Frozen yogurt sounds healthier than ice cream, and in some cases it might be, but traditional versions contain slightly fewer calories, but even more sugar. A 1/2-cup serving of frozen yogurt contains 111 calories and almost 35 grams of sugar. A 1/2-cup serving of sherbet is a better and lower-calorie option with 107 calories. To cut calories even more, as well as take in more nutrients, such as potassium, freeze a small banana and then puree it in the blender. The result will be a creamy, frozen, naturally sweet treat, similar to ice cream, that contains fewer than 100 calories.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Ice Creams, Vanilla
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Ice Creams, Chocolate
- American Heart Association: Added Sugars
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Frequent Ice Cream Consumption is Associated With Reduced Striatal Response to Receipt of an Ice Cream–Based Milkshake
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Ice Creams, Vanilla, Light, No Sugar Added
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Ice Creams, BREYERS, 98% Fat Free Chocolate
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Frozen Yogurt, Flavors Other Than Chocolate
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Sherbet, Orange
- MedlinePlus: Weight Control
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Bananas, Raw