Protein ice cream is so hot right now (pun intended). Sure, strange ice cream flavors and a melt-free version have been making headlines all summer, but there’s a new frontrunner in freezers across America: Halo Top, a low-calorie, high-protein ice cream with little sugar that recently became the top-selling pint in America.
Following the success (and cult following) of Halo Top and and the similarly "healthier" Arctic Zero and Enlightened brands, old-school ice cream brand Breyers recently released its Delights line: low and reduced fat ice creams with 20 grams of protein per pint.
But how do all of these healthier ice creams actually taste? Strictly in the name of research, of course, The Feast recruited a dozen friends to help taste-test 25 different flavored protein-packed pints available in grocery stores nationwide. Here’s what you need to know before you dig into the frozen deliciousness—without the guilt trip.
Halo Top: The first low-calorie ice cream to use 100% all-natural ingredients
The facts: With 24 flavors ranging from Black Cherry to Red Velvet to Birthday Cake, along with more classic varieties such as Cookies & Cream, Mint Chip, and Vanilla Bean, Halo Top has the largest selection to satisfy every kind of sweet craving. The newest over-the-top additions include pints of Pancakes & Waffles, Rainbow Swirl, and Cinnamon Roll. Each pint has 20 grams of protein and 240 to 360 calories, and they cost between $3.99 to $4.99.
The feedback: You’re going to need at least 20 to 25 minutes to melt these babies before you dig in. If you are successful in scooping out a spoonful before then, it’s going to require chewing with your back molars. The majority of the flavors, like Cookies & Cream, are spot on, but there are one or two that aren’t as consistent. “The Cookie Dough tastes like cotton candy,” said a friend of mine with a tight grip on the pint as she ate from the carton. I didn’t disagree—but it still remains one of my favorites. In fact, if I leave Whole Foods without a pint in my cart, either something is very wrong or it’s because I won’t be within the vicinity of a freezer in the next half hour. And if you consume an entire pint in one sitting, expect to be curiously thirsty 20 minutes later. Other comments from the group included:
- “A + + + + + +” (Sea Salt Caramel)
- “F***ing great” (Chocolate)
- “So good! Tastes just like cherry” (Black Cherry)
- “Tastes like medicine” (Strawberry)
- “Smoky. Not like s’mores, but yummy” (S’mores)
Overall consensus: Great and most creative flavor options, creamy consistency once adequately melted, consume water while eating.
Breyers Delights: Low fat and reduced fat ice creams
The facts: Breyers is the only one of the four challengers that started as a conventional ice cream company (read: 150 years of history). With four flavors—Vanilla Bean, Creamy Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, and Mint Chip—the selection skews toward more traditional offerings. Packing 20 grams of protein per pint, each 16-ounce container is 260 to 330 calories total and retails between $4.49 and $4.99.
The feedback: Again, you’re going to need to give these mini-marvels some time to melt (we suggest 20 to 25 minutes), unless you want to break some silverware. This brand (compared to the other three) tasted most like the company’s traditional ice cream—everything from the creamy consistency to the throwback flavors (nothing fancy here, folks). I personally finished an entire Mint Chip pint, all by myself, before anyone showed up, and it was amazing—both satisfyingly minty and with perfect hits of chocolate. But I digress. One of the male tasters noted while eating Vanilla Bean, “Don’t change what’s not broken.” I disagree. We can eat TWICE as much ice cream now, dude! My friends’ further thoughts on the other flavors:
- “This tastes like ice cream—best texture” (Cookies & Cream)
- “Needs more cookies” (Cookies & Cream)
- “Not chocolatey enough” (Chocolate)
- “Good ice-creamy texture” (Vanilla Bean)
- “Good taste, but a little frozen yogurty” (Vanilla Bean)
Overall consensus: Classically tasty, creamy but light, delicious. We’re hoping more flavor options are available soon. Also, definitely easier to trick unsuspecting non-dieters into believing that this is regular ice cream.
Englightened: Packed with protein, fiber, and flavor; light on calories, fat, and sugar
The facts: What started out as ice cream bars has expanded to 22 flavors of “better-for-you” ice creams. Enlightened also makes products beyond frozen desserts, such as bean crisps and marshmallow treats (but that’s for a different story). There are lots of intriguing flavors, such as Snickerdoodle, Frozen Hot Chocolate, Cold Brew Coffee, Bananas Foster, and Pina Colada, in addition to more common flavors like Vanilla, Chocolate, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. The Enlightened ice creams contain 24 to 32 grams of protein in each pint and range between 240 to 400 calories. They’ll typically cost you $4.99 a pop.
The feedback: Set a timer for this one—it’s going to take a wee bit longer to melt. After removing from the freezer, it took around 25 minutes before we could scoop into the pint. These seemed a bit more dense and, depending on the flavor, garned polar opposite reviews. “Great texture, bad flavor,” said one of the testers about the Toasted Almond. Meanwhile, next to her, another one commented, “F*** YES.” For the most part, these mixed reviews continued:
- “My favorite” (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip)
- “Yuck” (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip)
- “Tastes like a real milkshake” (Chocolate Peanut Butter—yes, this is different from the above flavor)
- “Bomb.com” (Chocolate Peanut Butter)
- “Really good. Is it healthy?” (Strawberry Cheesecake)
Overall consensus: There’s a little longer of a wait time for the product to melt. The calorie range is higher than the other brands’ pints, but it’s still delicious and satisfying.
Arctic Zero: Fit frozen desserts
The facts: Split into seven chunky pints and 10 creamy pints (that’s 17 total), flavors include Cappuccino, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cookie Shake, Cherry Chocolate Chunk, and Buttery Pecan. The chunky pints add up to 300 calories per container while the creamy pints are half that, at just 150 calories. The protein limit for Arctic Zero is 25 grams and each low glycemic, lactose- and GMO-free treat costs $4 to $5.
The feedback: Once more, patience is key with these pints. It’s going to take about 25 minutes to reach a point of comfortable consumption. This one didn’t fare as well as the others when presented to the dozen testers. “Meh,” was one comment about the Salted Caramel. Arctic Zero is not as creamy as the others; it has a thinner consistency, which led to a group of comparisons among the crowd:
- “Tastes like nothing” (Purely Chocolate)
- “Arctic Zero = water” (Cookie Dough)
- “Tastes like bad vegan ice cream” (Cookie Shake)
- “Tastes like soap” (Purely Chocolate)
- “Like water” (Cookie Dough)
Overall consensus: Probably not the first pick for those searching for a creamy, childhood favorite. It’s best for those looking for a lactose-free snack with fiber and no artificial sweeteners. It does have the least amount of calories, which is a plus.
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