Most ice cream found at grocery stores contains natural and added sugars.
The natural sugar in ice cream is called lactose. Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk and dairy products. It’s composed of glucose and galactose and provides dairy-based products their signature sweetness.
Because lactose is a naturally occurring component of milk, it’s not considered an added sugar when referring to nutritional labeling or dietary restrictions. Any natural sugar in a foods or beverages will appear under the total sugars category in the nutrition facts.
The added sugar in ice cream is what the manufacturer directly adds to the ice cream. It’s not just standard sugar that is added but often other sugars such as cane sugar, dextrose, invert sugar, and/or high-fructose corn syrup.
No Sugar Added Ice Cream
Instead of sugar-free ice cream, ice cream manufacturers produce no sugar added ice cream. This is ice cream that contains natural sugar but no added sugar. It is not enormously popular but most major U.S. grocery stores carry it.
In lieu of real sugar, no sugar added ice cream is often sweetened with sugar alternatives such sorbitol, maltitol, or other sugar alcohols. Despite the name “sugar alcohols”, they contain no real sugar, alcohol or ethanol. They are carbohydrates with a chemical structure that partially resembles both sugars and alcohols.
The benefit of using sugar alcohols over real sugar is they that contain fewer calories compared to sugar. They have about half the calories and as a bonus, they don’t contribute to tooth decay.
Sugar alcohols won’t appear under “total sugars” or “added sugars” in the nutrition facts printed on ice cream cartons. They are reflected under their own category appropriately called “sugar alcohols”.
Below is an example of an ice cream that contains no added sugar. It does, however, have natural sugar reflected under total sugars and sugar alcohol.
No Sugar Added Ice Cream Brands
Below are popular ice cream brands that make no sugar added ice cream along with the flavors each produced at the time of this article.
- Blue Bell – country vanilla
- Breyer’s – vanilla, butter pecan, vanilla + chocolate + strawberry
- Edy’s/Dreyer’s – fudge tracks, vanilla
- Enlightened – all flavors
- Halo Top (Keto Series) – mint chocolate cookie, turtle cheesecake, banana cream pie, brownie a la mode, caramel butter pecan, chocolate caramel lava cake, peanut butter chocolate, vanilla bean
- HEB Creamy Creations – vanilla, intense chocolate, peanut butter cup, butter pecan
- Kemps – butter pecan, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla
- Klondike – vanilla bars, krunch bars
- Kroger – vividly vanilla, peanut butter fudge
- Mayfield Creamery – vanilla
- Nick’s – All Flavors
- Simple Truth – mint chip, chocolate chip, vanilla
- Rebel – All flavors
- Turkey Hill – vanilla bean
- Umpqua – strawberry cheesecake, vanilla
Sugar-Free and No Added Sugar Labeling
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) indicates that if a food is labeled “no sugar”, “zero sugar”, or ” sugar free” it can still have a small amount of sugar. It must have less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving to still be able to be labeled as sugar free, zero sugar, etc.
We encourage you to read about nutrient content claims if you are strict about what you consume. This will help you understand the nutrition facts on labels to make better dietary decisions.