The US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit organisation, has published a report criticising the fat content of ice cream. The public health watchdog believes that its findings, which have just been published in the July / August issue of its Nutrition Action Healthletter, may stagger many consumers.
These findings include the fact that a Ben & Jerry's empty waffle cone dipped in chocolate has 320 calories and a half a day's worth of saturated fat - the equivalent, says the CSPI, of a half-pound rack of BBQ baby back ribs. An additional regular scoop of chunky monkey brand ice cream totals 820 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat.
Häagen-Dazs' mint chip dazzler, a portable sundae with three scoops of mint chip ice cream, hot fudge, Oreos, chocolate sprinkles, and whipped cream, amounts to 1,270 calories and 38 grams of saturated fat according to the CSPI.
"It's as if these ice cream shops were competing with each other to see who could inflict the greatest toll on our arteries and waistlines," said CSPI senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley.
"It's not just regular ice cream, but premium. It's not just one scoop, but two or three. It's not just a cone, but a chocolate-dipped waffle cone. It's not just hot fudge, nuts, and whipped cream but every conceivable combination of cookie, candy, and chocolate."
The CSPI found that many ice cream parlour servings exceed 1,000 calories. For example, one large Baskin-Robbins vanilla milkshake has 1,070 calories and 32 grams of saturated fat.
However, the CSPI points out that most ice cream chains also sell low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet. These products often contain only 100 to 200 calories and little or no saturated fat per scoop.
"Häagen-Dazs' delicious sorbet is one of the lowest-calories items we looked at, with only 120 calories in a single scoop," said Hurley.
The CSPI also believes that menu labelling would also encourage restaurants to compete on the basis of nutrition and not just price.
"No one disputes that the obesity epidemic has many causes," said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson. "But certainly the sheer size and caloric density of these indulgences has something to do with the size of Americans' pants."
Most of the numbers in CSPI's analysis come from the companies themselves. CSPI commissioned independent laboratory analyses of a dozen items for which the chains don't provide nutrition data.
The ice cream study is the latest in a series of CSPI studies that have examined the nutritional content of pizza, movie theater popcorn, Chinese, Mexican, and Italian restaurants, as well as steak houses and sandwich shops.