Sherbet vs Ice Cream for Diabetics: What’s Healthier?

Sherbet vs Ice Cream for Diabetics: What's Healthier?

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In today’s match up we have sherbet vs ice cream for diabetics. They are both cold, creamy, delicious treats on a hot summer day. And yes — people with diabetes can eat treats! (Remember, it’s not about what you “can’t” eat! More on that below.)

So which one will win: fresh and fruity sherbet or luscious ice cream? The winner might surprise you!

Sherbet vs Ice Cream for Diabetics

Sherbet vs Ice Cream for Diabetics

Contrary to some outdated beliefs, people with diabetes can enjoy a sweet dessert. It’s not what you “can’t” eat — it’s how you satisfy your sweet tooth. So it’s just like any other foods you eat.

Here’s what I mean. With diabetes we should be conscious of the fat, fiber, and protein we eat along with our total carbohydrates. Fat, fiber, and protein are slower to digest, which helps lessen the blood sugar spikes after eating. So it’s not that we can’t eat ice cream or sherbet. It’s what’s in it and also what we eat with it that makes the big difference.

How Diabetics Can Eat Sherbet or Ice Cream

Based on what I just explained above, there are a few ways those of us with diabetes can enjoy a sweet treat wisely. Here are some ideas:

  • Eat the dessert immediately following your main meal (that includes fiber and protein).
  • If you choose toppings at a restaurant or ice cream shop, choose ones that are lower in refined sugar like fresh fruit or nuts.
  • Watch other carbohydrate intake. Consider a lower carb main meal when you know you’ll be having carbs in a dessert. Eat your protein and veggies first.
  • Enjoy in moderation. Too much ice cream isn’t good for anyone, no matter how delicious it is.
  • Consider an appropriate portion size. It’s a far better choice to enjoy a small frozen treat and pacify your taste buds here and there than to avoid sweets altogether and binge because of cravings!

Ok. Now that we have our approach out of the way, let’s dig in to the match up of ice cream vs sherbet for diabetics!

Sherbet vs Ice Cream for Diabetics: four bowls of ice cream

What is Ice Cream?

The main ingredients in traditional ice cream are mostly dairy ingredients (milk or cream) and added flavor. This tends to have more protein and fat, and also more calories, than sherbet.

On average, standard run-of-the-mill vanilla ice cream has 190 calories, 9g fat, 23g carbs (13g of which are added sugars), and 3g protein per 2/3 cup serving size.

What Is Sherbet?

Sherbet is a different approach to a frozen dessert. Sherbet is mostly a fruit purée, sugar, and a small amount of dairy. This tends to have fewer calories, less fat, and less protein, but more carbs than ice cream.

On average, sherbet has 150 calories, 1.5g fat, 34g carbs (27g of which are added sugars), and 1g protein per 2/3 cup serving.

sherbet vs ice cream for diabetics: strawberry sorbet with fresh strawberries

The Winner of Sherbet vs Ice Cream for Diabetics

Knowing what we know about diabetes, digestion, and how blood sugar reacts to certain types of foods, I’m declaring the winner to be … (drum roll, please) … ice cream!

It’s not that I don’t love the idea the natural fruit in sherbet. And it’s not just because ice cream is my personal favorite of the two. (I simply can’t help loving that creamy texture!) But I declared ice cream the winner for a few different reasons that make it the best choice and healthier option:

  • ice cream has lower added grams of sugar and lower grams of carbs overall, which means less blood glucose spike
  • ice cream has more fat and also more protein to help balance glucose levels after you eat
  • ice cream gives us the opportunity to add in other sources of fiber and protein as add-ins easier than the fruity flavors of sherbet

How to Choose diabetic friendly Ice Cream

Now that we know that ice cream is a more diabetic friendly choice, let’s talk about how to choose an ice cream. Assuming you’re purchasing it from the grocery store, you will want to check fiber, fat, protein, and added sugars. You’ll want as much fiber and protein as you can find, and also the lowest added sugars you can find when you consider the type of ice cream you’ll purchase.

Here are a few solid choices:

Blue Bell No Sugar Added Ice Cream for Diabetics
Blue Bell No Sugar Added Ice Cream
2/3 cup serving
fat: 4g
carbs: 24g
fiber: 6g
added sugar: 0g
protein: 5g
Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Ice Cream for Diabetics
Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Ice Cream
2/3 cup serving
fat: 3.5g
carbs: 23g
fiber: 6g
added sugar: 0g
protein: 3g
Breyers No Sugar Added Ice Cream for Diabetics
Breyers No Sugar Added Ice Cream
2/3 cup serving
fat: 4g
carbs: 17g
fiber: 0g
added sugar: 0g
protein: 2g
Edy's No Sugar Added Ice Cream for Diabetics
Edy’s No Sugar Added Ice Cream
2/3 cup serving
fat: 4g
carbs: 19g
fiber: 0g
added sugar: 0g
protein: 4g
Halo Top Light Ice Cream for Diabetics
Halo Top Light Ice Cream
2/3 cup serving
fat: 2g
carbs: 21g
fiber: 6g
added sugar: 3g
protein: 6g
Turkey Hill No Sugar Added Ice Cream for Diabetics
Turkey Hill No Sugar Added Ice Cream
2/3 cup serving
fat: 0g
carbs: 26g
fiber: 7g
added sugar: 0g
protein: 4g

A Note About These Options

A couple of these items have zero fiber. And a couple are lower in protein. But, friend. It’s really hard to find many perfectly-diabetic-friendly ice cream choices. Also, we can adjust accordingly based on the nutrition label as needed.

So if you prefer the ones with zero fiber, just be sure to add plenty of fiber to your main meal before enjoying your favorite ice cream. And if you prefer the ones with lower protein, be sure your main meal contains ample protein before you eat dessert.

There are also ice cream varieties with coconut milk, or other lactose-free options. That may be handy in case you have a lactose intolerance.

More Summer Tips

Caution on No Sugar Added Varieties

There is a caveat when looking at no sugar, no sugar added, or light ice creams that you don’t have with regular ice cream. Many, if not all, contain artificial sweeteners. I recently wrote extensively on sugar substitutes like artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and natural sweeteners in my Christmas cookies post.

For this post, I would suggest you do your homework and talk with your doctor or dietician to find out what sugar alternatives are best for you. But the good news is that different ice cream varieties contain different sweeteners, so we have options to find the best types of ice cream!

double scoop ice cream cone dripping on a hot day

Consider Making Ice Cream at Home

When you make your own ice cream (which isn’t as hard as it sounds), you control the ingredients and you know exactly what’s in your food. You can cut down the sugar, add in some protein powder, whatever you want.

In case you don’t have an ice cream maker in your home, you can always make ice cream in a bag. Yes, in a bag! My kids and I have done this ourselves and it actually turns out well. You just have to shake it for 10-15 minutes and you have ice cream. So we wore oven mitts, since it was very cold, and we took turns. It was a family affair that took some effort, but it was far quicker than a machine. (And it was fun!)

More than Just Sherbet vs Ice Cream for Diabetics

There’s more to creamy frozen desserts than just sherbet and ice cream. Here are a few other sweet dessert options, along with their key differences:

  • GELATO is an Italian word that actually means “ice cream,” believe it or not. The two are closely similar, but have different amounts of milk fat and are served at different temperatures. (more info here)
  • CUSTARD is similar to ice cream, but is made with egg yolks. This gives custard a creamier texture and richer taste, along with more fat. (more info here)
  • SORBET is a lot like sherbet, but it doesn’t contain milk. It’s purely fruit puree and sugar with a lower fat content. (more info here)
  • ITALIAN ICE is typically made with fruit juices, sugar, and water. This may or may not be actual fruit juice and it may have a high sugar content, so read the package.

The last two of these items would be a helpful dairy-free option for someone with a lactose intolerance, but they would not be as blood sugar friendly as the ice cream dairy products.

sherbet vs ice cream large ice cream cone with three scoops of rainbow sherbet

The Goal in Sherbet vs Ice Cream for Diabetics

Our ultimate goal with this information is not to never eat sherbet or to eat ice cream every day because it’s easier on blood sugar levels. The goal is enjoying various ice cream flavors in warmer temperatures in balance and moderation. We should talk with our registered dietician, consider the contents of what we’re eating, and balance the fat, fiber, and protein in our meals.

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NOTE: I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietician. Nothing here should be taken as professional medical advice. Any nutritional information provided should be used as a general guideline and estimate only. For the most accurate information, please calculate net carbs based on the specific ingredients and brands you use.

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