Sugar in Ice Cream: How Much is Too Much?

Ice Cream Containers and cones |Sugar In Ice Cream| Root Nutrition & Education

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The role of sugar in ice cream is two-fold. It provides flavor and functionality creating a soft yet, thick consistency. Without it, we would be eating a bunch of iced milk chunks.

But how much sugar is too much? Ice cream is loaded with the sweet stuff and too much can be an issue depending on how often you eat it and what else is in your diet.

How much sugar Is typically found in ice cream?

Sugar can be part of a healthy diet depending on how much is consumed.

The problem with ice cream is the amount of sugar found in some products. You will find between 20 and 97 grams of sugar in one serving depending on the size of the ice cream.

Grams may seem an intangible measure so an easy way to think about sugar in terms of teaspoons.

About 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon so 20 grams would 4 teaspoons and 97 grams would be about 25 teaspoons. Think about putting 25 teaspoons of sugar into a bowl. That is a lot of sugar.

This does not even include the sugar found in cones, sprinkles, and other toppings. With those, you could get an additional 16 – 24 grams (4 to 6 teaspoons).

This takes your total intake for one serving of ice cream to 36 to 120 or 9 to 30 teaspoons of sugar. Now that is a lot of sugar!

The sugar in ice cream is higher than the daily recommended intake

We should really strive for NO added sugar in the diet but sometimes it can be hard to do. That is why the World Health Organization has placed limits on sugar intake. Anything above these numbers may pose potential problems for health.

The recommended daily intake of sugar is just 26 grams (~6 teaspoons). Those with health conditions should be limiting their sugar intake and be consuming only about 15 grams (~4 teaspoons) of sugar a day.

So you can see how you can easily consume almost 4x more than what is recommended.

Many foods have hidden sugar in them

Many people have no idea how much sugar they are consuming. If you tend to consume a lot of foods that come from a box or could you may be getting more sugar than you realize.

This is because there is often hidden sugar in food products. The sugar is disguised by a different name. There are actually 56 other names of sugar.

So if you are having ice cream and all these other hidden sugar foods you could be getting way too much sugar.

How sugar affects those with stress

The biggest problem with stress is that sometimes we don’t even feel it. Stress can occur from having too many things on your plate. If this occurs every day then your stress will become chronic.

Other times, people turn to food when stressed. Ice cream is big comfort food and before you know it you may have finished a pint sitting in front of you. That winds up being a ton of sugar.

Stress can increase inflammation. Anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders are associated with inflammation.

Those with stress are more likely to have or develop health conditions.

Pair that with consuming too much sugar in ice cream and you wind up fueling inflammation which could cause more problems.

Sugar may change the way the brain works. Sugar intake may lead to addiction in both animals and humans.

Those undergoing stress should be aware of the amount of sugar in their ice cream.

Sugar content in popular ice cream chains

Here is a list of some popular places that add a ton of sugar to their ice cream treats even in the small and kid sizes.

Cold Stone Creamery

  • Like It size: 28 – 37 grams (7 to 9 tsp)
  • Love It Size: 46 – 60 grams (11.5 – 15 tsp)
  • Gotta Have It: 68 – 89 grams (17 – 22 tsp)

Dairy Queen Blizzard

  • Large 97 – 158 grams (24 – 39.5 tsp)
  • Medium 53 – 121 grams (13 – 30 tsp)
  • Small – 41 – 87 grams (~12 – ~22 tsp)
  • Mini – 41 – 48 grams (10 – 12 tsp)

Dairy Queen Sundaes

  • Large 58 – 84 grams (~15 – 21 tsp)
  • Medium 40- 60 grams (10 -15 tsp)
  • Small 28 – 41 (7 – 10 tsp)

Dairy Queen Julius

  • Large 101 – 151 (25 – 38 tsp)
  • Medium 65 – 99 (16 – 25 tsp)
  • Small 51 – 75 (~13 – ~19 tsp)

Dairy Queen Smoothies

  • Large – 73 – 105 (18 – 26 tsp)
  • Medium – 59 – 86 (15 – 22 tsp)
  • Small – 44 – 64 grams (11 – 16 tsp)

Dairy Queen MooLattes

  • Large – 77 – 108 grams (19 – 27 tsp)
  • Medium – 73 – 84 grams (18 – 21 tsp)
  • Small – 58 – 77 grams (14.5 – 19 tsp)

Dairy Queen Light Smoothies

  • Large 38 – 66 grams (~10 – ~17 tsp)
  • Medium 38 – 52 grams (9.5 – 13 tsp)
  • Small 32 – 39 (8 – 10 tsp)

Dairy Queen Other Options

  • Banana Split 73 grams (18 tsp)
  • Peanut butter parfait 74 grams ( ~18 tsp)

Rita’s Ice Cream

  • Kids Size Ice Cream 41 – 64 grams (10 – 16 tsp)
  • Kids Size Custard – 20 – 24 grams ( 5 – 6 tsp)
  • Regular Size Cream Ice – 44 – 113 grams (10-28 tsp)
  • Large Ice Cream 69 – 179 grams (17 – 45 tsp)

Rita’s Italian Ice

  • Kids Size Italian Ice – 22 – 73 grams (5.5 – 18 tsp)
  • Regular Size Rita’s Ice – 40 – 96 grams (10-25 tsp)
  • Large Size Rita’s Ice 90 – 148 grams (22.5 – 37 tsp)

Dairy Queen Waffle Cone/Bowl

  • Baked Waffle cone – 14 grams (10 tsp)
  • Baked Waffle bowl – 14 grams ( 10 tsp)
  • Waffle cone – 6 (1.5 tsp)
  • Waffle bowl – 5 (1.25 tsp)

Dairy Queen Cones

  • Kid’s – 18 grams (4.5 tsp)
  • Small– 26 grams (6.5 tsp)
  • Medium – 36 grams (9 tsp)
  • Large – 52 grams (13 tsp)

Cold Stone Waffles

  • Waffle Cone or Bowl – 14 grams (3.5 tsp)
  • Dipped Waffle Cone – 31 grams (7.75 tsp)
  • Sugar cone – 3 grams (0.75 tsp)

Sugar in Sprinkles

  • Rainbow/Chocolate Sprinkles 1/2 oz – 10 grams (2.5 tsp)

Mom-and-pop ice cream joints

Do you normally get ice cream from a smaller mom-and-pop type of ice cream parlor? If you’re concerned about the sugar levels ask for nutritional information to see the sugar content of their ice cream and toppings.

Playabowls and other power bowl places

Playa bowls have become popular for their acai and other fruit bowls. Beware the additional toppings you put on your bowl as they can increase your sugar intake anywhere from 8 to 28 grams.

This will give you an additional 2 to 7 teaspoons of sugar in one serving.

Store-bought ice cream

Store-bought ice cream can have just as much sugar as those ice cream parlors. Portions eaten at home should be noted. This way you won’t go overboard on your intake.

Look for an ice cream that has a limited number of ingredients. Ice cream usually only needs milk, cream, ice, and flavoring to be made.

Small containers are great to purchase if you’re looking to limit your sugar intake.

What about sugar-free varieties of ice cream?

Think the sugar-free version is better?

Some sugar-free ice creams still have added sugar in addition to the sugar alternatives in these products. Sugar alternatives include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, stevia, and monk fruit.

Like regular sugar, these substances have been known to affect the digestive system by altering bacteria in the gut.

Animal studies showed alterations in gut bacteria when animals were given Splenda, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and saccharin.

Though there could be no added sugar in these cold treats they still contain simple carbohydrates.

So even sugar-free ice cream may elevate blood sugar depending on how much you consume.

Could ice cream cravings signal something else?

Ice cream can be a nice treat but if you are eating it a few times a week it could lead to some major sugar intake.

If find yourself constantly jonesing for ice cream it could be a sign of dehydration. Often when we crave cold foods we are dehydrated. Too much sugar was also shown to cause dehydration even in healthy individuals.

It could also be that sugar consumption leads to more sugar cravings.

Anecdotal evidence also points to this. I crave more sugar after consuming ice cream or other sweetened foods. That is why I try to watch my sugar intake.

Tips for consuming less sugar in ice cream

If you want a cold treat try to get the least amount of sugar possible.

When buying ice cream

Look for ice cream brands with under 16 grams (~4 teaspoons) of sugar per serving. This includes if they have non-sugar sweeteners.

When getting ice cream out

Take the size of the serving into account. Getting a kiddie cone or smaller cup will cut back on the amount of sugar in your ice cream.

Drink some water first

Ice cream cravings can mean you may be thirsty. Try having some water first to quench your cravings. Then see if you are still craving it.

Make a fruit smoothie

Make a smoothie with frozen fruit and full-fat yogurt or non-dairy milk. The sugar from the fruit will naturally sweeten the drink.

I like making both green and dessert smoothies in my Vitamix blender*. The Magic Bullet* and Ninja* are also great for making these treats.

Make your own ice cream

If you truly want to control the sugar content in your ice cream the best thing you can do is make your own.

I recently got the Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment* and I love it! It has made making ice cream so fun and easy.

If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid Mixer* you can also invest in an ice cream maker*. This one comes highly rated* on Amazon*.

*Some of these links are affiliate links, which means that I will earn a percentage of any sales, at no extra cost to you. Learn more in our disclaimer

How to avoid excess sugar in ice cream

Ice cream can have a lot of sugar. That’s what makes it tastes so darn good. So it’s a good idea to think about how much sugar overall you’re taking in from other sources. If you are exceeding the daily recommended intake can have negative effects on your health. Especially if you are suffering from stress.

The best thing to do is to consume a diet rich in whole foods like vegetables. This will give you more nutrients and less sugar.

More nutrition tips

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2 thoughts on “Sugar in Ice Cream: How Much is Too Much?”

  1. Sharon Rosen Lopez

    Thank you for this easily understandable analysis of sugar in ice cream and general nutritional facts about sugar. Your equivalence of grams to teaspoons brings it all home.

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Glad to be of help. The use of grams on nutritional labels can be hard to decipher as to how much sugar is really in a serving size.

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