FOOD

Are 'Protein' Ice Creams And Yoghurts Healthy?

A dietitian weighs in on Halo Top, FroPro and YoPro.

22/09/2017 7:34 AM AEST | Updated 22/09/2017 7:46 AM AEST
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If you've walked into the ice cream and yoghurt sections of the supermarket recently, you would have seen a few colourful, enticing additions -- namely, Halo Top and FroPro ice creams, and YoPro protein yoghurt.

On the packaging of these products you'll find the words: low-calorie, high-protein, low-sugar, all-natural ingredients. But after a quick glance at their ingredients, we have to ask: how healthy are these products, really?

HuffPost Australia asked accredited practising dietitian Chloe McLeod to weigh in.

Are alternative 'protein' ice creams and yoghurts healthy?

"I have a few thoughts," McLeod told HuffPost Australia. "I think it's great that so many companies are putting in an effort to provide somewhat healthier options, for yoghurt and ice cream particularly.

"However, the main thing I don't like is a lot of these products are using artificial sweeteners to provide the sweetness that sugar once provided, and I just don't like recommending artificial sweeteners."

While artificial sweeteners do reduce the sugar content (and therefore calories) in a product, the jury is still out on whether they are safe to use in the long-term. Recent research has shown that artificial sweeteners may be associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.

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YoPro

YoPro yoghurts have a milk, enzyme (lactase) and live yoghurt culture base, and boast a high protein content while also being low in sugar. Although the plain flavour contains no added sweeteners, the other flavours contain stevia, a herb which is considered 100 to 200 times sweeter than sugar.

"If we're looking at YoPro, ingredients-wise it's pretty good, but it does contain stevia," McLeod said. "Some people are totally fine with stevia, while others don't like using it. I like to leave it up to the individual on whether they feel comfortable incorporating it in their diet."

Within the YoPro range, McLeod recommends sticking to the plain flavour, or choosing another regular natural yoghurt (which will naturally be high in protein, anyway) and sweetening it yourself.

"Even if they are lower-sugar versions, I'd still say get the plain one without sweeteners and add your own drizzle of honey or berries to it to give it the sweetness you're looking for. This will make it a healthy choice."

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Try sweetening your yoghurt with healthy berry coulis. Simply cook down berries with lemon juice and water, and puree.

Halo Top and FroPro

FroPro ice cream uses whey protein isolate, water and coconut cream as its base, with flavours coming from ingredients like cocoa powder, green tea powder, peppermint oil and peanut butter. The sweetener FroPro ice cream uses is xylitol, a sugar alcohol.

Halo Top ice creams, on the other hand, have a milk, cream and egg base, with flavours coming from ingredients like carob, vanilla extract, lemon peel and peanut butter. The ingredient lists are longer than FroPro ice cream, and the ice creams use erythritol (a sugar alcohol), stevia and organic cane sugar (aka plain ol' sugar) to sweeten.

"These ice creams should still be considered a sometimes food," McLeod explained.

"If you compare the FoPro to the Halo Top: with FroPro, the ingredients are water, whey protein and xylitol, and Halo Top is milk and cream, eggs and erythritol.

"This means the artificial sweetener used is in the first three ingredients for both -- by weight it's making up quite a significant portion of the product.

"Even though you could argue it's a 'natural' sweetener, I'm not super keen on it as they're still sweet. Research shows artificial sweeteners stimulate the desire to want other sugars. So it's easy to eat the whole tub, and then you might also be looking for something later on to satisfy that sugar craving."

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For a healthy ice cream fix, try a smoothie bowl made with frozen berries and banana.

So, what's the better option: protein ice cream or regular ice cream? Probably protein ice cream if you're not worried about artificial sugars -- but really, according to McLeod, neither.

"Yes, these alternatives make a better choice in that they're high in protein and lower in sugar. But you'd be better blending up plain natural yoghurt with fruit, almonds and peanut butter, and making your own dessert," McLeod said.

If you don't like yoghurt, make your own banana ice cream by blending frozen bananas with healthy flavourings of your choice, such as cacao powder, natural peanut butter, mint leaves and other fruits like berries and mango.

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