The Halo Effect

Healthy ice cream.

Hm. Interesting.
…Anybody else feeling really suspicious about those words being put together?
To be honest, that’s how I felt when I first heard of the Halo Top ice cream frenzy. The company had recently released ten new flavors to the world and I watched from afar as people went straight up Red Wedding, Game of Thrones, crazy over it.

As an aspiring dietitian, you can only imagine how quickly my interest in this product sparked after witnessing this type of reaction. I had this all of a sudden desire to try it, research it and then, hopefully… tear it apart on my blog for being a fake testament of health.  A girl can only dream.

So there my journey began, in search of the glorious Halo Top pint. And yes, by ‘journey’, I mean, I went on a real-life JOURNEY for this thing. I’m talking about a Jurassic Park, zombie apocalypse, Raiders of the Lost Ark, kind of journey. I had to fight off a hangry sorority girl, a Jordan Rodgers haircut-guy… a dragon.

That got weird. Moving right along.

The search for my Halo Top continued as I walked in and out of various Kroger’s, only to find that the freezer shelves were completely cleared out at every location. After two days, and a new presumption that this ice cream for sure had crack in it- I finally found one.

The ice cream came in a 1 pint serving size container and was priced around $5.00, which I got for $4 dollars by using my Kroger Plus membership. Holla.

As soon as I brought it home, I began investigating.

The brand notoriously market’s itself on their use of all-natural ingredients, high protein content, low amounts of sugar and fat, and low calorie content ranging from 240-280 per pint. Note: some of the newer flavors contain 320-360 per pint.

So how does this nutritional content compare to other ice creams?

halotop1-600x356

Image Source

Pretty amazing, huh? So amazing that you may be seriously considering eating this stuff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but– not so fast there, buddy. How is this low calorie count really achieved?

According to the nutritional blog Fooducate, if compared by weight, a 1/2 cup serving of Halo Top weighs 66 grams vs. a 1/2 cup serving of Haagen Dazs, weighing in at 102 grams. So basically, Halo Top “fluffs” their ice cream to make a small amount fit into a normal size container, which obviously reduces the calorie, fat, and sugar amounts.

*Starts slow clap*

Smooth move, my dudes.

Soon after recovering from that intense burn I had just endured, it was time to investigate the ingredients. Here’s what’s listed:

Milk and cream, eggs, erythritol, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate,organic cane sugar, vegetable glycerin, sea salt, natural flavors, vanilla extract, organic carob gum, organic guar gum, organic stevia

Ok. Cool. So… What does it all mean, Basel?

What I found that I really wanted to hone in on, was the types of added sugars, as well as the milk protein concentrate.

Because many people have claimed that this ice cream product is “diabetes friendly”, I found it extremely important to research the specific sugars used. Erythritol, one of the main sugar ingredients, is a natural sugar found in fruits and is said to have no effect on blood glucose levels [Source]. This is obviously a plus one in the ‘safe to consume’ category for those diagnosed with diabetes.

My concern lies more towards the words “organic cane sugar” sneakily thrown into the ingredients list, which is just a fancy phrase for table sugar. For all of you who may not know- this is something you may want to avoid if you are diabetic. However, remembering the overall sugar content within the product, I would have to assume that there are low levels of table sugar present. Still, even knowing this, I came to the conclusion that I simply cannot promote this ice cream for safe diabetic consumption… because, well, I don’t need that stress in my life right now. Lol, double check with your doctor please.

As for the milk protein concentrate’s- MPC’s are complete dairy products, containing both whey and casein [1]. They are processed through the ultra filtration of skim milk, in which the lactose (milk sugar) and water is removed, and high amounts of protein remain [1]. Because skim milk has already been reduced in milk fat prior to this process, MPC’s are usually also extremely low in fat. This powdery product is added into common foods in order to fortify them. You will see many company’s use this ingredient in order to increase the amount of proteins in their product without increasing fat and sugar content.

Although, this sounds pretty amazing, the production of MPC’s is said to be poorly regulated, causing many to question the source used to obtain the milk, and the nutritional components found within it. But, don’t worry. We won’t dive deeper than that, just know that this is not exactly considered an “all-natural” source of protein.

So, there that was. And there I was, feeling a bit distraught after finding out all of this freaky food info. But don’t let me make you think I wasn’t still going to eat it, because I totally was.

I got my spoon out, popped the top, and started going innnnnnnn.

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by it’s initial texture and quality. As Halo Top explains on their container, in your average ice cream product, you are likely to find high amounts of fat and sugars, as well as additional artificial softeners. Without these components, ice cream would most likely come out of the freezer flavorless and harder than that one time I took organic chemistry (really stupid joke).

So this is where the confusion lies- how does an ice cream in low quantities of sugar and fat still uphold its somewhat creamy texture and fatty, whole milk flavor?

Halo Top’s claim to “all natural” ingredients takes another turn at the carob gum, guar gum, and glycerin additives employed within their product in order to create these fat flavors and (not rock hard, but still not amazing) texture.

So, there you have it. Halo Top sits on a throne of lies. But!  Just remember that, all in all, minus the few nutritional “fast ones” this ice cream tried to slide by us, Halo Top is still probably one of the “healthiest” ice creams you can find in your grocery store.

As a dietetics major, I will never recommend the overindulgence of this product (it is still ice cream, people), but it’s low sugar and fat content help make it an appropriate splurge on those days you feel like treating yourself. Not to mention, it’s absolutely delicious.

With that being said, if you see me in the freezer isle in the next few weeks to come, I’m very sorry.

Enjoy!
❤ Mikayla


Main Image source:
Charlton Lee

Additional Informational Sources:
[1] Patel, Sonia et al. Innovative uses of milk protein concentrates in product development.  Journal of Food Science. 2015; 80(S1): A23-A29.

 

 

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