On a hot day, there's nothing better than a refreshing treat from Ralph's Italian Ices. But what's the deal with Ralph's ices' ingredients? Are they even remotely nutritious? They can be a lower-calorie alternative to ice cream, but it all depends on what size you order and how often you indulge.
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Ralph’s Ices Nutrition
What are Ralph's Italian Ices made of anyway? The brand sells three different types of products: water ice, creme ice and ice cream. The water ices are made without dairy, and Ralph's lists them as an ideal option for those with food allergies, including people who cannot tolerate nuts. Creme ices do contain dairy, but are still much lighter than traditional ice cream. Finally, Ralph's ice cream can be compared to other ice creams made with milk and cream.
Ralph's Italian Ices does not provide online nutrition information for its products, but the USDA lists nutrition facts for ice pops, which have similar ingredients. One 55-gram single ice pop contains 43 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates, and 8 grams of sugar, with no protein or fiber and almost no fat.
The Ralph's ice creams are heavier than the water ices, and more calorically dense, thanks to added milk and cream. The USDA lists one 1/2 cup of standard vanilla ice cream as having 137 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrates, and 14 grams of sugar. It has 2 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat.
The nutrition information of Ralph's products could be compared to these, with creme ices falling somewhere between water ice and ice cream in terms of calories. These numbers will vary based on the flavor and size of your treat. The Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting your intake of all added sugars, so it's best to keep these ices as a once-in-a-while treat.
Read more: Does Ice Cream Make You Fat?
Healthy Ice Cream Alternatives
Depending on what you order at Ralph's, it can be a healthier alternative to traditional ice cream — but don't think of it as nutritious. Ralph's ices still contain relatively high amounts of sugar and carbohydrates, and in many ways, they are similar to other types of frozen treats like ice pops and milkshakes.
What does make Ralph's different from a traditional ice cream shop is that it offers nondairy options, which are ideal for lactose-intolerant people who still want to indulge in a cold dessert.
If you're looking for low-calorie substitutes for ice cream, another possible place to start is Rita's Italian Ice. Like Ralph's, Rita's has a nondairy Italian ice option, as well as creme ice and frozen custard. These franchises are both good choices for groups, as you can hang out with your friends and get different desserts, depending on your food allergies and preferences.
If dairy doesn't bother your stomach, you could also try frozen yogurt. According to Michigan State University Extension, frozen yogurt typically contains milk instead of cream, resulting in a lower calorie count than ice cream.
Gelato also has a lower fat content, and is typically served in smaller portions. Sorbet is a dairy-free choice made with fruit juice, but it often has added sugar. Ultimately, your choice in desserts will come down to your individual health goals and priorities.