Americans love affair with ice cream has steadily increased over the years. Each year, consumers indulge in about 48 pints per person—more than any other country in the world.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month. The industry has grown to generate more than $21 billion in annual sales and about 9 percent of all the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers makes ice cream.
Flavors have certainly innovated over the years too. Choices used to be as simple as chocolate, vanilla or strawberry. Now you can find Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey or more artisanal flavors like Mexican Chili Chocolate at Steve’s Ice Cream in New York City or Wildberry Lavendar at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio.
Originally, ice cream was a simple mix of cream, sugar and honey—not a health food, but a nice treat every now and again. The recipe has also evolved. Today, many ice cream brands sold in stores or at your local shop are loaded with ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Think artificial sweeteners and colors, trans fats and preservatives.
So how can you enjoy the occasional scoop, but avoid unwanted ingredients?
Be Food Smart, a website dedicated to educating and informing the public about food additives and ingredients, has created a chart to help consumers gage the health of their ice cream. They offer questions to consider like, “Is it homemade?” and “Does it have more than 5 ingredients?”
The site also offers some great tips for healthier ice cream eating including:
1. Read the Label: Only buy ice cream with an extremely short list of easy-to-understand ingredients.
2. Make Your Own: Experiment. There is nothing like fresh, homemade strawberry ice cream.
3. Top Smart: Try homemade whipped cream, toasted nuts or fresh fruit.
4. Go Hormone Free: Support creameries who say no to growth hormones and antibiotics.
5. Buy Local: Chances are you have some fabulous, small-batch goodness in your own backyard.
Friends turned business partners Alexis Miesen and Jennie Dundas established Blue Marble Ice Cream in April 2007 in Brooklyn, N.Y.