Selecting an ice cream product isn’t rocket science, yet with all the variations of ice cream and other frozen desserts, it can be confusing. What’s the difference between gelato and ice cream? Is low-fat ice cream really healthier than premium? Here’s a quick glossary to help you navigate the ice cream section at your grocery store.
Overrun refers to the amount of air that’s churned into the ice cream. The more air, the higher the overrun, the fluffier it is and the thinner it is. The less air, the lower the overrun, the denser the product. Overrun is expressed as a percent, so 100 percent overrun means you get 2 gallons of ice cream for every gallon of the original cream base.
Ice cream contains dairy, sweeteners, and flavors. It must contain at least 10% milkfat by weight, and no more than 100 percent overrun.
Light or lite ice cream has one-third fewer calories.
Low-fat ice cream contains no more than 3 grams of fat per serving.
Nonfat ice cream has less than .5 grams fat per serving.
Reduced-fat ice cream has at least 25 percent less fat.
Premium ice cream has a higher fat content and a lower overrun compared with regular ice cream.
Super premium ice cream has a higher fat content than premium and regular ice cream, and a very low overrun.
Sugar-free ice cream contains less than 0.5 grams sugar per serving. It can contain sugar alcohols or other artificial sweeteners.
No added sugars can appear on an ice cream label if no sugar is added in the processing. But if it contains lactose or milk sugar, it can’t be labeled sugar free.
Frozen custard, aka French ice cream, is similar to ice cream in terms of its milkfat content, but it also contains egg yolks.
Gelato typically has more milk than cream, which usually makes its fat content lower than ice cream. It also contains egg yolks and sweeteners. Gelato also has a low overrun, which means less air so it’s denser than ice cream. The result is a thicker mouthfeel, which makes it seem like it’s higher in fat, even though it’s not.
Sorbet is typically made from fruit or fruit juice but, because it contains no dairy, it has little or no fat.
Sherbet has more fat than sorbet, because it contains dairy, but it has less fat than ice cream. Sherbet is typically made from fruit or fruit juice.
Frozen yogurt contains yogurt and may contain live cultures. It’s fat content can vary because there is no government standard as there is with ice cream.
Frozen dairy dessert is different from ice cream because it contains less than 10% milkfat and/or has more than 100% overrun.