I think we can all agree there is nothing better than a cold, delicious ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, most ice creams aren’t exactly the friendliest to our waistlines or digestive systems. Many ice cream brands have come out with “healthy ice creams” that are lower in calorie when compared to their usual products (I’m looking at you Ben & Jerry’s) but, their ingredients list is still full of processed ingredients. What if I said you can have your cake (in this case ice cream) and eat it too? Enter Z0Cal, a healthy ice cream alternative with no scary ingredients or gimmicks.
Z0Cal frozen desserts are low calorie, have minimal sugar, are low carb and have a squeaky-clean ingredients list. Oh, AND did I mention they are keto diet friendly? They offer lite healthy ice cream, have a variety of sorbet flavors, and just recently launched a plant-based ice cream line! According to Z0Cal’s website, all of their frozen dessert pints are “only 15-25 Calories, 0-1 g Sugar, 0-1 g Fat, 3-4 Net Carbs PER SERVING!” and even the lite-ice creams are so low in dairy, they contain 0g of lactose per serving. Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming.
Let’s go over the star ingredient that makes Z0Cal’s products possible:
For starters, you are probably thinking WTF is Allulose? Simply put, Allulose is a fruit and therefore is considered a fruit sugar (found in jackfruits, figs, raisins, etc.). Here’s where it gets a little more complicated: according to Z0Cal’s website, Allulose is a sugar with a similar molecular strand to regular sugar but is “twisted just a little different than the rest of its brothers and sisters which makes it just different enough that our body for the most part ignores it and it passes through the body without being converted into calories.” Put simply, the body doesn’t digest Allulose, so you excrete it through your urine (would saying you basically pee it out be inappropriate?). What is important to note is that Allulose is not a sugar alcohol and cannot be reported (legally by the FDA) as a sugar alcohol in the nutrition facts even though it has virtually no effect on the body and isn’t metabolized. Basically, the FDA decided that although Allulose does not need to be reported in sugar content or as a sugar alcohol, it still needs to be reported in the carbohydrates portion and nutrition label even though it goes directly through the body and the body doesn’t metabolize it. Also, unlike sugar alcohols (Erythritol, Xylitol, etc.) Allulose causes no glycemic response unlike Maltitol (a sugar alcohol notorious for its high glycemic index even though it is low in calories) and doesn’t cause the negative side effects that sugar alcohols do (like gas, bloating, digestive issues, etc.) In fact, studies have even demonstrated that the sugar substitute may have health benefits including decreased blood sugar levels, improved insulin levels and weight loss benefits. Oh, and did I mention it’s diabetic friendly? The research on Allulose is promising and only expanding as its popularity grows.
You probably see on the ingredients list that one serving contains 16g carbohydrates which would make it most definitely not a keto friendly treat or a low carb dessert but, here’s where Allulose comes back in. The creators of Z0Cal told me the FDA decided that listing Allulose as a sugar on a nutrition label wasn’t necessary but “wouldn’t remove it from being listed from total carbs because the FDA doesn’t define carbs based on digestion but rather what their structure looks like.” In other words, according to the FDA if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Allulose is a complicated substance but, really all you need to know is that it has been deemed safe by the FDA and is basically a magical sugar substitute, in my opinion.
Now upon scanning the ingredients list you are probably see questionable ingredients like carob bean gum and guar gum. These fillers are what keeps the product creamy. They are common ingredients in both healthy ice cream and regular ice cream. Carob bean gum and guar gum are both completely safe and harmless. Studies on guar gum have even concluded that it can be “effective for reducing fasting blood glucose, improving glycemic control, reducing insulin requirements in insulin-dependent diabetics, and reducing LDL cholesterol,”. Something important to keep in mind is that these gums can cause an increase in gas and disrupt the digestive system but, the quantity of the fillers in the frozen desserts is so small that no side effects should be experienced (although everyone is different).
Now that today’s science class is over, let’s get into the good stuff!
Plant-Based No Allergen Lite Ice Cream – Creamy Coffee
My taste team started off with the Allergen-friendly coffee flavor. I must be honest, i was the most excited for this flavor. I am a die-hard coffee fan and love coffee ice cream but, this flavor fell flat. It tasted exactly like Cheerios to me. I like Cheerios but, i was expecting a rich coffee flavor. Another member of the taste team thought the taste was reminiscent of Bit o’ honeys. The consistency was insanely creamy and not icy at all like other healthy ice creams I’ve tried but, the consistency was not that of regular ice cream. The consistency was like a smoothie bowl, ice cream hybrid. Even the coffee-hater in my group hated it.
“I don’t taste any coffee.”
“(A biased anti-coffee fan) honestly I really don’t like this.”
Ultra-Premium Lite Ice Cream – Double Chocolate
Most of us weren’t excited to try this flavor because we are not chocolate fans but upon dipping into this pint, the whole taste team literally said “ooooooohhhh”. This flavor met our expectations. The double chocolate flavor was creamy, with a nice chocolate taste. There was no funky after taste or artificial flavor. In my opinion, it tasted exactly like a brownie! It had a ton of chocolate chips throughout it and not just sprinkles on top like other low-calorie ice cream.
“This flavor and the caramel waffle cone flavor are the only ones I could keep eating.”
“If someone had put that on my plate and told me it was ice cream, I would’ve believed it and wouldn’t have believed that it was healthy.”
Ultra-Premium Lite Ice Cream – Vanilla Bean
I had high hopes for this one. Vanilla is my all-time favorite ice cream flavor. When first opening the pint, I was immediately drawn to the vanilla bean specks that were all throughout the pint. It was a nice addition to the dessert. The vanilla flavor itself was not overpowering. There was no discernible, funky aftertaste. This one was my personal favorite. The consistency was very ice cream like, and it was super creamy. My whole taste team commented that this flavor would be amazing on top of a healthy mug cake/brownie, mixed into a milkshake or served with fresh fruit on top.
“This tastes like regular vanilla ice cream.”
“The vanilla specks are so cool!”
Plant-Based No Allergen Lite Ice Cream – Mint Chip
I love mint chocolate chip ice cream so I was excited for this flavor. Upon first look, the ice cream had a ton of mini chocolate chips mixed in, which was a nice touch. The flavor itself could have been mintier – it was pretty mild. I noticed all the allergen friendly flavors had a mild/diluted taste but, were still enjoyable. There was no weird aftertaste and the consistency was squishy. I’m not sure how else to explain it. Again, the consistency was on par with the other allergen friendly flavors we tried. My taste team all agreed that it wouldn’t have been as good without the chocolate chips in it. I personally thought the chocolate chips complimented it but, it could stand on its own without it. This flavor would be amazing on top of a protein brownie or with sugar free chocolate syrup.
“I like this but, it’s not minty enough.”
“It’s not my favorite flavor but, it’s not the worst.”
“If I had a dairy allergy, I would happily dig into this ice cream.”
Lite Sorbet Lemon Lime
The lemon lime sorbet was nothing short of amazing. It tasted exactly like Key lime pie. The taste was the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The consistency was so creamy like a sorbet flavor at a frozen yogurt shop. It was very similar to a Disneyland dole in its flavor and consistency. Some of the taste testers noticed an artificially sweet aftertaste but, I did not detect one.
“I could eat this every day.”
“I feel like I’m at Disneyland.”
Ultra-Premium Lite Ice Cream – Waffle Cone Caramel
I wasn’t looking forward to this flavor, to be honest. I am not a caramel or waffle fan. I’m fact, my entire team doesn’t really love caramel. Personally, I did not love the flavor, but the rest of my taste team couldn’t get enough of it. Everyone agreed that the ice cream had a good caramel flavor. The consistency was creamy, like the other ‘regular’ ice cream pints we tried with Z0Cal. The consistency was more similar to the allergen friendly ones, which was delightful. What really stole the show was the little bites of waffle throughout the pint. You didn’t have to search for pieces of waffle cone either, there was a TON of pieces! The caramel and the waffle complement each other nicely and leave you wanting more. You know that last bite of waffle cone and ice cream at the tip of the cone? This ice cream was like enjoying that last bite for an entire pint.
“This is hands down the best flavor I’ve tried today.”
“The waffle chunks are SO TASTY, I love this ice cream.”
“I could eat this entire pint right now, someone stop me.”
Passion Fruit – Fruit Bars
These were amazing. The bars were Insanely creamy. They reminded me of dole whip from Disneyland! They were not icy at all. What I really liked was that the fruit bar tasted natural, like puréed fruit. The consistency was stickier than most popsicles but to be honest i enjoyed it more than a regular popsicle.
“It’s like eating a smoothie on a stick.”
“The bars are too small, I want more!”
All of Z0Cal’s formulas are fantastic but, my taste team and I concluded that the ones made with dairy tasted better in comparison to the allergen-friendly ones. The ones formulated with chickpeas had a milder flavor than the ones made with dairy and were less ice cream like. The texture/consistency was also gummier (but a 3/10 gummy). If you’re really allergic to dairy, then allergen-friendly ones are a really nice substitute for actual ice cream. The sorbets are on a totally different level. The consistency was like a pineapple dole whip from Disneyland. I have been having to hold myself back from eating an entire pint in one sitting! All in all, I do not know how Z0Cal did it but, they managed to create a phenomenal, healthy ice cream product and I can’t wait to try them all. Although Z0Cal was kind enough to send me their products to sample, I will 100% be purchasing more on my own.