1) Fresh Milk
Unlike ice cream, which uses mainly cream as the base, traditional Italian gelato uses fresh milk, reducing its overall fat content.
“The target fat content of gelato is 7 per cent. Some cream may be required to achieve this ratio; a gelato with too little fat will hurt the teeth while you’r eating it,” says Simon Seah, managing director of Segafredo Zanetti Trattoria.
However, not all gelatos are alike. “There are some brands that exceed 10 per cent fat, which makes it similar to ice cream,” says Jaclyn Reutens, clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants.
“So, where possible, consult the nutrition label before making a decision.”
2) Lesser Chemicals
“Compared to ice cream, traditional gelatos may use fewer stabilisers, sweetening agents and binding agents, making it more wholesome,” says Jaclyn. “In this respect, gelato is better.”
For traditional flavours of the dessert, such as hazelnut and pistachio, you’ll also stand to benefit from the variety of antioxidants, phytochemicals, essential minerals and additional protein these nuts provide, not to mention proven cholesterol-regulating benefits. “The nuts are added to the base in paste form with no extra sugar,” says Simon.
3) Fat-Free But Not Sugar-Free
While gelato may, in general, be lower in calories and fat, some brands may go heavy on sugar, warns Jaclyn. This is especially true for fruit-based sorbet gelatos. If you’re looking to cut out fat altogether from your dessert, the option of these fat-free gelatos might seem appealing. But a look into its contents reveals otherwise.
“Sorbet gelatos are a mixture of pureed fruits and sugar syrup,” states Jaclyn. The abundance of high-GI sugars in sorbet gelatos may thwart your diet plans and put the kilos back on instead. According to US food-science writer Harold McGee, sorbet gelatos may contain 10 per cent more sugar than gelatos and ice cream.
Instead of resorting to a fruity delusion, foucs on losing the toppings to minimise dessert-related guilt. “Add-ons such as chocolate syrup, caramel and sweets deliver about 50 to 100 calories per tablespoon. If you add two toppings, you can effectively double the calorie content of your desserts,” warns Jaclyn.