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Is it healthier to make your own ice cream?

Ice cream is a delicious frozen treat that many people love to indulge in, especially during the hot summer months. Store-bought ice cream comes in many tempting flavors and can satisfy your sweet tooth, but it often contains added sugars, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients. For those looking for a healthier alternative, making homemade ice cream is a great option. But is it really better for you? Let’s take a look at the ingredients, nutrition, and benefits of homemade vs store-bought ice cream.

Ingredients

When making your own ice cream at home, you control exactly what goes into it. Most homemade ice cream recipes contain just a few whole food ingredients like heavy cream, milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. You can customize the ingredients to suit your dietary needs by using lower fat milk, less sugar, or egg substitutes. On the other hand, commercial ice cream tends to contain things you wouldn’t use at home.

Store-bought ice cream often includes added sugars, stabilizers and emulsifiers like guar gum or carrageenan, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives. Even “all natural” branded ice creams can contain up to 20 ingredients. Here’s a comparison of common ingredients in homemade vs store-bought ice cream:

Homemade Ice Cream Store-Bought Ice Cream
Heavy cream Milk fat
Milk Nonfat milk
Sugar Sugar
Eggs Egg yolks
Vanilla extract Natural and artificial flavors
Guar gum
Locust bean gum
Carrageenan
Annatto for color
Preservatives

As you can see, homemade ice cream sticks to the basics, while commercial ice creams add many extras. The natural, minimal ingredients of homemade varieties are a major perk for those looking to avoid additives.

Nutrition

When it comes to nutritional value, homemade ice cream has the upper hand. Since you control what goes in, you can adjust ingredients to create a healthier nutrition profile. Using reduced fat milk, less sugar, no egg yolks, and real vanilla extract allows you to cut back on saturated fat, calories, and additives. Here is a nutrition comparison of 1/2 cup serving of each:

Nutrition Facts Homemade Ice Cream Store-Bought Ice Cream
Calories 137 145
Total Fat 8 g 9 g
Saturated Fat 5 g 6 g
Trans Fat 0 g 0 g
Cholesterol 72 mg 60 mg
Sodium 38 mg 80 mg
Carbohydrates 13 g 15 g
Fiber 0 g 0 g
Sugars 12 g 14 g
Protein 2 g 2 g

As you can see, the homemade version is slightly lower in calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, and sugar compared to store-bought. While ice cream is high in saturated fat regardless, homemade can provide a less indulgent option.

Benefits of Homemade Ice Cream

Making your own fresh ice cream at home offers a few health advantages over the store-bought pints. Here are some of the benefits of homemade ice cream:

  • Higher quality ingredients – You can use wholesome dairy, real sugar, fresh eggs, and pure extracts for better flavor and nutrition.
  • No additives – Homemade ice cream avoids the long list of stabilizers, emulsifiers, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors.
  • Customize for dietary needs – Tailor your recipe to be low sugar, egg-free, lactose-free, or vegan.
  • Control portion sizes – Make single servings to control portions instead of eating from a full pint container.
  • Avoid air incorporation – Commercial ice cream adds air to make it lighter, but this leaves you with less actual ice cream per serving.
  • Fresher taste – Homemade ice cream is churned right before eating, so it avoids being stored for long periods on the grocery shelf.

The overall consensus is that homemade ice cream made with simple, high quality ingredients is a healthier choice over mass-produced commercial ice cream. But of course, ice cream of any kind should still be enjoyed in moderation as an occasional treat in a balanced diet.

Downsides of Homemade Ice Cream

Although it can be a healthier alternative, making your own ice cream does come with a few drawbacks to consider:

  • Time commitment – Making homemade ice cream requires hands-on time to prepare the mixture and churn it in your machine.
  • Access to equipment – You need an ice cream maker, which can be a pricey investment for some households.
  • Lack of variety – It may be hard to replicate your favorite unique store-bought flavors like cookie dough or mint chocolate chip at home.
  • Soft texture – Without commercial stabilizers and overrun, homemade ice cream has a softer, meltier texture.
  • Shorter shelf life – Homemade ice cream is best fresh and doesn’t keep long in the freezer before icing up.

While the taste and quality may be superior, it’s important to account for the extra effort required. Luckily, basic homemade ice cream is relatively easy to whip up for a special treat.

Simple Homemade Ice Cream Recipe

If you want to enjoy the perks of homemade ice cream, here is an easy recipe to try:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.
  2. Refrigerate mixture at least 2 hours until very cold, preferably overnight.
  3. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Serve immediately or freeze for a firmer texture.

For a light and creamy treat, follow this easy method. Feel free to add your own mix-ins like chocolate chunks or swirl in fruit purees. Now that you know the scoop on homemade vs. store-bought ice cream, which do you think is the better choice? Making your own allows you to control the quality and customize the flavors, giving you a cool, creamy dessert to enjoy guilt-free.

Conclusion

Homemade ice cream made from simple, high-quality ingredients provides a healthier alternative to store-bought varieties loaded with added sugars, fats, and chemicals. Though it requires a bit more effort, making ice cream yourself gives you control over what goes into it and allows you to create flavors and textures you prefer. In moderation, homemade ice cream can be a cool, creamy treat that satisfies your sweet tooth without all the extra additives you find in commercial brands.