Beat the heat with cool, low-fat treats

July 20, 1999|By Lynn F. Little

On a warm summer day, nothing hits the spot like cool, smooth ice cream.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Thanks to new formulas and a variety of fat replacers, there are dozens of reduced-fat and fat-free frozen desserts on the market. These products boast the taste and texture of traditional ice cream with half the calories and little or no fat. How are these frozen desserts made, and how do they stack up nutritionally to the real thing?

Most reduced-fat and fat-free ice creams are made with skim milk instead of whole milk and cream. These products used to be called "ice milk" or "frozen desserts." Today, they can be called ice cream with a qualifying term indicating how much fat has been removed from the traditional formula.

Light or reduced-fat ice cream must contain one-third fewer calories or less than half the fat found in the original version. The higher the fat content of the original version, the higher the reduced-fat version will be. Because of this, light versions of gourmet ice cream actually may contain more fat and calories than regular forms of basic ice cream.


Low-fat ice creams are more standardized in fat content. Such products may contain no more than 3 grams of fat per half-cup serving. Fat-free versions are what they proclaim - virtually free of fat. In low-fat and fat-free versions, vegetable gums such as carrageen, carob bean, xanthan and cellulose often are added to help simulate the feel of fat in the mouth. These gums are considered safe and may even help lower blood cholesterol, though probably only if eaten in much larger amounts than desirable.

Tired of ice cream? Try frozen yogurts, sorbets, ices, fruit bars and rice- and soy-based desserts.

Some are quite low in calories and good choices from a nutritional point of view. With so many choices, what should you look for in the frozen dessert section of your grocery store?

Serving size: Standard serving size on the label is one-half cup. Some bars may be smaller. If you gobble down a two-cup bowl, you'll get four times the fat and calories listed on the label.

Ingredients list: Most manufacturers boost sugar content to make up for the taste lost when fat is removed. The added sugar also adds back some of the lost calories. Products that list sugar or corn syrup as one of the first ingredients are mostly sugar.

If you are lactose-sensitive, read the labels carefully. Some products may use reduced-lactose milk, rice milk and/or soy milk. Many sorbets are lactose-free, but be sure to check the labels.

To further tempt your palate, try making frozen desserts.

Here are two ideas:

Citrus Granita

  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, about 4 lemons
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice, about 4 oranges

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool. Pour into 13-by-9-inch baking dish, cover and freeze at least 8 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer; scrape mixture with a fork until fluffy. Store in an airtight container; cover and freeze for up to 1 month.

Yield: 7 cups

Serving size: one-half cup

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frozen Bars

  • 2 1.3-ounce packages chocolate pudding, regular or sugar-free, instant or cook type
  • 3 1/3 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 27 2 1/2-inch graham cracker squares

Mix pudding according to package directions, using 3 1/3 cups milk. Beat in peanut butter. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with half of the graham cracker squares. Spread pudding mixture over graham crackers. Top with remaining crackers.

Freeze for 4 hours.

Cut into squares and remove from pan. Store in a plastic bag in freezer.

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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