Can Ice Cream Really be for Breakfast?

Author: Maggie Dagosto, RD, LDN

Did you hear about the study that claimed eating ice cream for breakfast makes you smarter? Apparently, a scientist claimed that after feeding his patients ice cream in the morning, they had overall better attention and mental focus than those who did not eat ice cream.

To the disappointment of many, there is no actual research study to back these findings. Fake news anyone? As an aspiring dietitian who loves to indulge in some ice cream every now and then, I was hopeful that this story was true. Yet you may still wonder: Is ice cream a viable breakfast within a balanced breakfast?

In this blog post, you’ll learn about:
  • The saturated fat and added sugar content of ice cream
  • Tips for portion control
  • Cold dessert alternatives
The Scoop on Saturated Fat and Added Sugar

As this cold, delicious treat hits your tongue, it is easy to forget that most brands of ice cream have high amounts of saturated fat and sugar. Because of this, ice cream should be eaten sparingly.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugars—those that are added to a product—to be no more than 10% of daily calories. Based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, this equates to 200 calories or roughly 12 teaspoons of sugar. Similarly, the recommendation for saturated fats is 10% of daily calories or 22 grams of fat daily based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

A half-cup cup serving of ice cream can have as much as 16 grams of sugar and 4.5 grams of fat. Add on a sugar cone, hot fudge, and sprinkles, grams of sugar, saturated fats, and extra calories can quickly add up. You can imagine that if you were to overindulge in ice cream regularly (especially during breakfast time), sugar can add up quickly, leaving no room for the rest of the day.

The study stated that eating ice cream in the morning improves mental focus. Yet in reality after the sugar rush dies down, we crash! Refined sugar lacks healthy vitamins and minerals to curb hunger and fuel up our bodies. Nutrient quality of our food is like finding the most premium gas for our cars. The better the gas, or the higher the nutrient quality, we put in our system, the better our bodies and minds will run throughout the day.

Everything in Moderation

Every now and then it is okay to indulge in some sweets (registered dietitians do this too!), but the key is to limit the amounts we eat. This involves portion control.

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends keeping ice cream to a half-cup serving, about the size of half a baseball.
  • Treat ice cream as a celebration (such as on National Ice Cream Day!)
  • Order the kiddie or small size, or split it with a friend
  • Opt to have fresh fruit as a topping
  • Skip the cone and place ice cream in a cup to avoid extra sugar (also saves on drips and messes too!)
Cold and Delicious Alternatives

Since the summer days are long and hot you and your family may desire a cold treat, try these healthy alternatives to cool you down, as the heat beats down.

So What’s the Verdict?

Remember: Ice cream can be a treat. When you do desire a cool dessert on a hot summer days, these simple ingredients can make a satisfying alternative.

This post was written by our former intern Maggie Dagosto. At the time, she was a dietetic intern graduate from the University of New Hampshire. She is now a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. 

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