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Which Treat to Eat: Ice Cream or Sorbet?

It’s hard to resist a frozen treat on a hot summer day. However, there are still diets to consider when choosing that creamy or frosty delight.

We asked a nutritionist what to do when faced with ice cream vs. sorbet. Marcy Kirshenbaum, MS, CCN CNS, LDN, a private practice nutritionist at Enhance Nutrition, breaks down the pros and cons for all of us who just can’t decide between a bright raspberry sorbet and a creamy vanilla or chocolate.

Ice Cream

Pros: “There is some calcium,” Ms. Kirshenbaum said. “If there is fruit in it, then there is some fiber and vitamin C.”

Translation: strawberry ice cream has double nutritional benefits of plain old vanilla or chocolate.

Cons: “The negative is the sugar,” she said. “If the milk or cream is not high-quality fat, then that doesn’t provide any nutritional benefit. Also, any artificial fillers, colors, and chemicals aren’t good for you.”

Plus, “dairy is very inflammatory,” she said. Obviously, people who are lactose intolerant or even have a dairy sensitivity cannot even consider ice cream for their cool treat.


Pros: “You should get fiber benefits from any fruit,” she explained.

Cons: “Sorbet is basically water with sugar and fruit puree,” she said. “There is not any calcium.”

Forget what Grandma told you about any sorbet being a digestive aid. “It’s the lemon sorbet that aids digestion,” she said. “You don’t need to eat sorbet to get the benefits and you can avoid the sugar of the sorbet by just having fresh lemon squeezed in your water.”

So, which one is best for you from a nutritional standpoint? According to Ms. Kirshenbaum either—as long as they are made by you.

 “Homemade is absolutely the way to go,” she said. “You’re getting real ingredients. People focus on the calories, but so many of the ice creams are just chemicals and not good quality fat. There is tons and tons of sugar in both sorbet and ice cream and it’s going to metabolize into fat in your body.”

Ms. Kirshenbaum practices what she preaches, so to speak, and makes frozen fruit snacks with pureed fruit and a little apple juice for her family. “This way, I have made a treat without having all this unhealthy sugar.”

While that sounds great when you plan ahead, what does she advise for the times when you just want go to the local ice cream parlor with your family and friends?

“Pay attention to the serving size,” she said.” Most of the serving sizes are really a half a cup and how many people only have that much? When confronted with lowfat, nonfat, low sugar, no sugar, I don’t even know what to think. My tendency is to tell people to go towards the more real—whole milk is better than reduced fat milk. I’d rather see people have real sugar than artificial sweeteners.”

This summer, indulge in a favorite cold treat, but do so in moderation and get back to basics with wholesome, simple ingredients to get any nutritional benefits and avoid unhealthy additives. 

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