The only food eaten in its frozen state, ice cream is known to be lower in calories than a cake or a pie. It is often preferred by people looking for a light or "healthy" dessert. Its different forms, its calorie content or its health benefits... Discover all there is to know about ice cream!

How many calories does an ice cream contain and what are its benefits?

Every summer, the ice cream market explodes. In 2018, ice cream consumption had reached a record year, with an increase of 7% compared to its usual, and 237.8 million liters of ice cream sold (Source 1). Popular for its freshness and taste, ice cream is also appreciated for its lightness. But do you know exactly how many calories a scoop of ice cream contains? Can we really include it in the category of "healthy" desserts? 

What are the different types of ice cream and what do they contain?

According to the Association of the companies of the ices, the ice would take its roots in the East: "History retains especially its diffusion in Europe by Marco Polo who would have discovered it in China. However, it seems that the Italians already knew it at the time of Nero. He used to eat sorbets made of fruits crushed in honey and mixed with snow" (source 2).

Although the word "ice cream" is often used, there are in fact different categories of ice cream, which do not have the same composition or the same manufacture. We distinguish :

  •     Ice cream, which is a mixture of water, milk proteins, sugar, natural flavors and/or fruit and/or fruit syrup. It must contain a minimum of 5% fat. Depending on where you buy it (at an ice cream shop, in a supermarket aisle...), it can be served in a cone (ice cream cone), in a jar, in a tub, in a stick;

  •     Ice cream, which is a mixture of milk (concentrated or powdered), cream and sugar and must contain at least 8% milk fat;

  •     Frozen yogurt : this is a yogurt that is frozen in the freezer, often mixed with cream, sugar ... Its texture is very smooth and is similar to that of ice cream;

  •     The Italian ice cream or "gelato": another winner in terms of smoothness, the Italian ice cream is made with a base of whipped cream and egg yolks, which makes its texture voluminous (it would also be called "gelato" to distinguish it from the French ice cream which, at the time of their creation, were harder;

  •     The sorbet is a mixture of water, sugar (glucose) and fruits (25% minimum, 15% for acid fruits, 5% for nuts). It does not contain any dairy products;

  •     The granita or more traditionally "granita": it is a type of granular sorbet invented in Sicily. This semi-frozen liquid made of water, sugar and fruit juice comes in a multitude of flavors.

How many grams is a scoop of ice cream?

Although the weight may vary depending on the form in which it is purchased (in cones or individual pots at an ice cream shop, in tubs in supermarket shelves, in logs, sticks, mini-cups ...), a classic scoop of ice cream weighs about 30 grams, while two scoops of ice cream are about 50 grams, and 3 scoops of ice cream about 100 grams. Do not forget the ice cream sold in tubs in the supermarket shelves: you will find tubs of 450 grams, 500 grams, 600 or 800 grams ... 

Is an ice cream low in calories?

Of course, ice cream is made of sugar, milk, cream or egg yolks... and therefore contains calories. But they are part of the desserts relatively low in calories compared to pies and cakes (a chocolate éclair brings about 260 kcal).

If the caloric intake of an ice cream depends on its ingredients, on average :

  •     A scoop of ice cream brings 60 kcal. This is less than most of the traditional desserts preferred by the French, such as strawberry pie or chocolate fondant;
  •     Two scoops of ice cream provide 130 kcal. If it is thus not question to deprive itself of it, they must however be consumed with moderation. 

While most ice creams contain a minimum of 5% fat, in general the fat content is around 10%, a figure lower than most other desserts. Ideally, an ice cream should contain between 6 and 10% of fat, to remain low-calorie.

Can we say that ice cream does not make you fat, or that it makes you lose weight? It is the same for all desserts: it should be consumed in moderation. If you eat 3 liters of ice cream, it will not be a "healthy" dessert, because the amount of sugar and fat ingested will be important! It also depends on the rest of your diet: ice cream does not make you fat and remains balanced if it is part of a good balanced diet in general.

The cone, an addition of calories

Are you a fan of ice cream cones? Be careful: if you prefer ice cream for its low calorie content, then it is perhaps preferable to skip the cone, made with a waffle batter that is still quite caloric. Otherwise, go for it, because everyone knows that an ice cream cone is simply delicious! 

Sorbet or ice cream: which ice cream has the least calories?

Sorbet is a special type of ice cream, because it contains only water and fruit; no dairy products are used in its composition. It is the lowest calorie ice cream: two scoops of sorbet contain about 90 kcal. In comparison, an apple provides between 75 and 100 kcal depending on its size.

Sorbets are less caloric than ice creams, because they contain no fat, especially if they are homemade with fruit puree (and not fruit syrup). They are therefore to be preferred when you are watching your figure.

It is important to remember that the caloric intake of an ice cream depends on its composition and its form: an ice cream based on cream will be fattier than an ice cream based on egg yolk, a frozen yogurt will contain less fat and sugar than an ice cream, while a sorbet will not contain any fat, but may contain more sugars. And if there is a topping (peanuts, almonds, honey...), a chocolate shell or other, the calories will increase!

How much sugar in an ice cream?

There is no precise figure, but in general the carbohydrate content is 20% on average. Be careful, because sometimes sorbets can be false friends: they are less caloric because they have less fat, but they are higher in sugar. Once again, everything depends on the base with which they are made. Remember to check the carbohydrate (sugar) and lipid (fat) content when you have the chance!

The health benefits of ice cream

How much calcium do we need?

Calcium is important for the growth and strength of bones and teeth. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium for a child aged 4 to 9 years is 800 mg. For a teenager between the ages of 10 and 18, the RDA is 1200 mg. And it turns out that ice cream contains it! In fact, two scoops of ice cream provide about 80 mg of calcium.

But if ice creams contain milk and therefore calcium, they do not replace a dairy product. For example, a plain yogurt alone provides 155 to 210 mg of calcium.

What energy intake?

Ice creams, sorbets and ice creams are quick sugars that provide a dose of energy with an immediate effect. To give yourself a boost, you can enjoy a fresh ice cream! But don't overdo it. From time to time, it allows to give back to the body, for a limited time. And don't forget that ice cream, and especially sorbets, are rich in water, and allow you to rehydrate (even if they don't replace water...).

What is the vitamin contribution?

In the milk, we find vitamins B2 and B12, which we will also find in the ice creams! But above all, it is the sorbets which are sources of vitamins, because their concentration of fruits is minimum of 25%.  One type of sorbet in particular called "full fruit" must even contain at least 45% fruit, and vegetable sorbets at least 25% vegetables

Tips for storing and eating ice cream

When you go to buy your ice cream, take an isothermal bag to transport it from the store to your freezer. You will be able to preserve them several weeks, even several months, with -18°C.

Remember that ice cream and sorbets contain additives and can be contaminated with germs. These are very sensitive foodstuffs. It is thus necessary to be vigilant on the conditions of conservation. As with all food products, the use-by date is indicated on the packaging.

Take the ice cream out of the freezer 10 to 15 minutes before consumption. If it is too cold, it will not reveal all its flavors. Once everyone is served, don't let it get soft, put it back in the freezer right away.


Source 1 : Official document of the Association of the ice-cream companies.

Source 2 : Website of the Association of ice cream companies, section "History".