Is Italian Ice a Healthy Dessert? Let’s find out.

Italian ice is a popular frozen dessert. Refreshing flavors, easy to eat, smooth textures…it’s perfect for summer.

And because it’s mostly ice, people often think Italian ice is a “guilt-free treat”. Or at least a healthier alternative to traditional desserts like ice cream or gelato.

But let’s read the nutrition label before we decide that.

This comprehensive guide goes over the detailed nutritional content of Italian ice. And the potential impact on your health. So let’s dip into whether Italian ice is best healthy alternative to other desserts.

Key Takeaways

  • Italian Ice is a frozen dessert usually made from fruit juice or puree, sweeteners, and water.
  • It can be a healthier alternative to creamy frozen desserts (like ice cream or gelato) if your goal is to lower calories.
  • Italian ice is low in fat because it isn’t made with dairy products.
  • Italian ice might have less added sugar than traditional desserts, but it still has a lot of sugar.
  • You don’t have to cut out sweets entirely from your diet to be healthy. Portion control and balance are your friends.
  • Ultimately, whether Italian ice fits into your diet depends on your overall diet and health goals.

What is Italian Ice?

Italian ice is a type of frozen dessert made with water, sugar, and fruit or flavorings like lemon or strawberry.

Popular Italian Ice Brands

#1: Wyler’s Authentic Italian Ices

Wyler's italian ice how to read a nutrition label

#2: Luigi’s Real Italian Ice

Luigi's Real Italian Ice

#3: Lindy’s Italian Ice

Ingredients and composition

Italian Ice is a frozen treat made primarily from fruit juice or puree, sweeteners, and water. The base ingredients are mixed together and slowly stirred while freezing. This prevents large ice crystal formation so you get that deliciously smooth dessert.

Wyler's italian ice how to read a nutrition label
wylers italian ice nutrition label

The big brands you find in stores often use sugar or sugar syrup as the main sweetening agent in Italian Ice. There are recipes that use honey or agave nectar instead. These might seem healthier but honey and agave nectar are still sugar.

And fun fact, agave nectar has more fructose than high fructose corn syrup. Seriously. Agave syrup is 85% fructose. High fructose corn syrup is usually 42% or 55% fructose. Sure, a small amount of agave nectar is unlikely to cause any health issues. But use it as a sweetener.

You might find some other Italian Ice recipes that use small pieces of real fruit for added flavor (and nutritional value).

There can be huge variations in the quality of ingredients depending on the Italian Ice brand or recipe.

Nutritional Content of Italian Ice

Comparing Italian Ice to other frozen desserts

Comparing Italian Ice to other popular frozen desserts can give you a better understanding of its nutritional value (based on one serving size):

DessertCaloriesFat(g)Sugar (g)
Italian Ice100020
Ice Cream2071121
Frozen Yogurt159428

Italian Ice is usually considered a healthier alternative to other sweets because its lower in calories and fat.

Calorie content

A typical serving of Italian ice around 100-150 calories. These calories are mainly from the juice and added sugar.

Fat content

Italian Ice is low-fat or no fat because it doesn’t use ingredients with fat in it. Desserts like ice cream and gelato use get their creaminess from dairy. Which has different amounts of fat (ex: skim milk, 1%, 2%, whole milk). Desserts use dairy that’s higher in fat to prevent the sugar from crystalizing (and ruining the creamy texture).

And speaking of sugar…

Sugar content

Italian ice has around 20-34 grams per serving. That’s a lot. A can of coke has 39g of added sugar for reference.

Now 20g seems better than 34g, but even 20g is still a lot for a bar or cup of Italian ice. 20g of sugar is 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons.

So if you’re looking for a low-sugar treat, Italian ice is not your answer. But before you forsake Italian ice, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommend less than 10% of your daily intake come from added sugar.

If you eat 1800 calories in a day, that means 180 calories or 45g should be the max amount you get from added sugar. Even if you eat 1500 calories in a day, you can have up to 37g of added sugar per day.

Now if you’re crushing 3 sodas a day, downing a sugary breakfast cereal and drinking caramel mochas, I’d think about my intake.

But one Italian ice is fine when you follow a healthy eating pattern.

Health Considerations of Italian Ice (aka added sugar)

Like I said, one Italian ice is fine. But a consistent and high amount of added sugar in your diet can cause some health complications:

Impact on blood sugar levels

Added sugar can spike your blood sugar levels. An easy fix is to add a protein or complex carb, so maybe have your Italian ice after a full meal.

Again, the occasional Italian ice or dessert won’t have a noticeable effect on your health….

Increased Risk for Chronic Illnesses

The real problem is when your diet is full of added sugar on a daily basis. A diet high in added sugar can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart problems. Added sugar also adds 4 calories per gram (with no other nutrients) and can contribute to weight gain.

Incorporating Italian Ice in a Healthy Diet

Healthy eating is a balancing act. You need to make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrients you need while limiting nutrients you don’t need much of–added sugar, saturated fats, trans fat, and sodium.

And Italian ice totally fits into a healthy diet. Practice portion control, choose Italian ice with less added sugar, find alternatives, or add nutrition with nuts or fresh fruits.

Portion control

For some people, this is as easy as having only the serving size. You can also have less than the serving size like for these Wyler’s bars:

The serving size is 3 bars. So if you have one, that’s 56 calories and 11grams of added sugar. Not bad.

Choosing healthier options

Look for Italian ice with less added sugar and more micronutrients. If you can’t find one, then focus on what you can add.

That means add fresh fruit or nuts to your Italian ice to increase the nutrients. Simple.

There is a dietitian I follow on instagram who says “focus on what you can add, not what you can subtract”. That is the most practical nutrition advice.

Or find a healthier alternative…

Healthy Dessert Alternatives to Italian Ice

Italian Ice is lower in calories and fat calories, but it’s still high in sugar. And there are other products like Yasso’s greek yogurt bars that have 100 calories and 9g of sugar per serving. Plus some protein and potassium. So between Italian ice and a Yasso’s, a Yasso’s bar is more nutrient dense (aka more nutrition for the amount of calories).

Other Alternatives to Italian Ice:

  1. Fruit Sorbet: Sorbet is similar to Italian ice, but sorbets seem to have more potassium (which you want). Potassium helps control blood pressure and your body needs it for a lot of functions. Most Americans don’t get enough potassium.
  2. Frozen Fruit Pops: Making your own frozen fruit pops with juice. Maybe throw in some fruit chunks. Pour your mixture into popsicle molds (or cups) and freeze.
  3. Fresh Fruit Parfait: Layer fresh fruits with low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese in a parfait glass. You’ll get the sweetness of fruit while adding some protein for a more balanced snack.
  4. Fruit Salad: A simple bowl of sliced fresh fruit can be just as satisfying as Italian Ice. Mix up seasonal fruit and serve with some yogurt.
  5. Smoothies: Can’t beat a smoothie. Blend together frozen fruit, yogurt or milk, chia seeds and some ice for a nutrient dense and delicious treat.

The final verdict on Italian Ice

Italian Ice can be a refreshing and indulgent treat option. It is low in calories and fat-free, which makes it a lower fat and calorie dessert choice when you compare it to other frozen desserts like ice cream.

But it’s still high in added sugar which can increase your risk for chronic illnesses.. So it’s not the holy grail of nutritious dessert. It’s fine in moderation though, especially when you follow an overall healthy eating pattern. Focus on the big picture of your diet and lifestyle.

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