Can Ice Cream Help You Lose Weight?

If you've ever tossed a gallon of ice cream into the trash after a marathon session of trying to zip your pants, you're probably not alone. Ice cream and other snack foods take the lion's share of the blame when the numbers on the scale go up. While ice cream isn't exactly the world's healthiest food, there's no need to banish it from your freezer forever. In fact, indulging in the occasion treat might be one of the keys to a successful weight-loss plan, according to Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., authors of the diet book "Intuitive Eating."

A bowl of vanilla ice cream. Credit: Lisovskaya/iStock/Getty Images

All Things in Moderation

An all-ice cream diet won't do your waistline any favors. Eating ice cream every day may even be too often, especially if you have heart disease. But enacting a full-scale ban on ice cream and foods like it may actually set you up for the intense cravings and feelings of punishment that cause weight loss efforts to fail. "When you eat what you really want ... the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you've had 'enough,'" Tribole and Resch say.

Why Ice Cream Gets a Bad Rap

Ice cream typically contains high amounts of saturated fat and calories. The more chocolate, nuts and other goodies a recipe contains, the more calories and fat it will have. Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream, for example, contains 250 calories in a 1/2 cup serving. Of those 250 calories, 108 come from fat. In fact, one serving has almost half of your daily recommended saturated fat intake at 8 grams. Breyers Double Churned Extra Creamy Vanilla contains 150 calories per serving and has 9 grams of fat, 5 of which come from saturated fat. Overconsumption of high-fat, high-calorie foods on a regular basis can lead to heart disease and weight gain.

Exploring Healthier Alternatives

You may be able to eat ice cream more often if you shop with a health-conscious eye. Manufacturers make a wide variety of low-fat, low-sugar and reduced-calorie ice cream flavors. Ice cream made with rice milk, soymilk or fat-free milk may have little to no saturated fat. Fruit purees and sorbets may satisfy your ice cream craving without busting your daily caloric goals. Read the label carefully before choosing your treat.

Striving for Balance

A few servings of ice cream don't make or break a weight-loss plan. The only thing that really matters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the balance between the calories you eat and the calories you burn. If you eat a 250-calorie serving of ice cream but eat fewer calories at other meals or exercise those calories away, the ice cream won't have a negative impact on your weight and may help you lose weight in the long run.

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