Sacramento’s sizzling July heat can leave residents of all ages hankering for a cold, sweet treat on a sunny afternoon. Whether strolling through Old Sacramento or making a pit stop on a road trip, the opportunities for delicious deviance abound.
Health-conscious folks may find it hard to ignore the buffet of frozen delicacies on every corner – from the award-winning Gunther’s Ice Cream in Curtis Park to the trendy Vampire Penguin shaved-ice delicacies downtown.
Still, there are choices to make when it comes to dessert – and we mean more than just waffle cone vs. wafer cone. Here’s a breakdown of what exactly you could be lapping your tongue around this summer.
By far the most cherished of frozen desserts, ice cream is traditionally a blend of milk and/or cream, egg yolks, sugar and flavored syrup – churned and chilled by the ice cream maker (mechanical or otherwise) into a dense, spoonable substance. It’s defined as being at least 10 percent composed of milk fat, but that number can get as high as 16 percent in some premium brands.
In a recommended half-cup serving of vanilla ice cream, one can expect about 8 grams of fat, about 150 calories, and about 15 grams of sugar.
Monica Monedero, a Sacramento-based personal trainer and nutrition specialist, said that for people counting calories, the combination of fat and sugar in ice cream makes it something to eat only on a special occasion.
“You do get calcium in ice cream – it’s not horribly bad,” she said. “You do have more fat, so that’s bad if you have a weight problem because then you’re looking at a fat and a sugar problem. The fat isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just caloric.”
Unlike ice cream makers, who go heavy on the cream, gelato makers use a higher proportion of milk than cream and often skip the egg yolks, slightly lowering fat content. Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, and is made in much the same way. The difference? It’s churned at a slower speed, which allows less air into the product, creating a denser and more filling dessert, which can help with portion control.
Like ice cream, sugar content for gelato varies with flavor, but typically contains less. In a typical half-cup serving of gelato, you’ll find about 3 grams of fat, about 90 calories, and about 10 grams of sugar.
Next time family or friends are pushing for a gelato night, just get the kiddie size, Monedero said.
“If everybody’s getting it, just use moderation,” she said. “It’s when you go in and have a huge amount, that’s when it’s bad. Like I always say – taste everything, eat nothing.”
Gourmet frozen pops
Perhaps the newest member of the frozen dessert clan, gourmet ice pops are staking their claim in Sacramento. And we’re not talking about the sticky-sweet pops from the ice chest, or the chocolate fudge bars from the ice cream man. A few neighborhood foodies have taken to crafting eclectic ice pop flavors from local ingredients, such as rhubarb, hibiscus mint or Thai tea and sweet potato.
Where the pops sit on the nutritional scale is entirely dependent on what goes in them. At DavePops, a local company that uses a proprietary frozen-twice process called “duBle,” makers use nut milks, whole fruits, juices and sometimes soda as a base for the product, making them lower in fat then cream-based delicacies. They ring in at around 100 calories, and while the DavePops have variable sugar counts, their sister product LukePops are sugar-free.
“You can’t live on it – I’m not saying that,” said owner Dave Feldpausch. “These aren’t health food, but they are relatively low in calories unless you start adding a lot of chips and peanut butter.”
Shaved ice or snow
Shaved ice is an umbrella term for a family of treats made from scraping ice off of a block and adding syrup or other ingredients to flavor it. The resulting texture is finer than that of a snow cone, which is typically made from crushed ice. Because the primary ingredient is water, the fat content is typically zero, but sugar counts can climb depending on the syrup.
Shaved snow is a Taiwanese-inspired delicacy that starts with a frozen block of milk mixed with syrup or flavoring, rather than just frozen water, that is then shaved off into ribbons for consumption. It has a silkier texture but a higher fat content, and sugar content, as with everything, varies by flavor.
For those watching their calories, water-based treats can be the best bet, Monedero said, but consumers should aim for whole fruits, not sugar syrups, for their flavoring.
Though the Great Fro-Yo Craze of 2012 may be waning, there’s still plenty of demand for what many see as ice cream’s slimmer, savvier cousin. Frozen yogurt is inherently lower in fat then regular ice cream, given its base in yogurt rather than cream. It also has the potential to offer live bacteria cultures, which are beneficial to the digestive system.
Even so, there’s a large margin for error at self-serve fro-yo establishments, where patrons are handed a small tub to fill with yogurt and set loose on a buffet of decadent toppings and syrups. It’s hard to know until you weigh your creation at the register how far you’ve veered from the healthy, more basic yogurt you might buy in the grocery aisle. A half cup of vanilla frozen yogurt contains 115 calories, 4 grams of fat and 17 grams of sugar.
“If you think you’re getting a healthy treat by getting this yogurt that comes out of a machine, it’s not the same,” Monedero said.
Where to find it?
Sacramento’s popular spots for:
- Ice cream: Gunther’s Ice Cream, 2801 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento
- Gelato: Devine Gelateria & Cafe, 1221 19th St., Sacramento
- Handmade ice pops: DavePops at the Oak Park farmers market every Saturday, and FatFace pops at the Davis farmers markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays
- Shaved ice or snow: Osaka-Ya (shaved ice), 2215 10th St., Sacramento, or Vampire Penguin (shaved snow), 907 K St., Sacramento and other locations
- Frozen yogurt: Pretty much everywhere