I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for National Ice Cream Month!
July tops the charts as one of my top three favorite months of the year, not only because we get to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and festivities, the sun heats up the lake just enough to enjoy submerging my full body (as opposed to just dipping my tootsies in), and we have gatherings to celebrate the birth of many near and dear family and friends, but because it is NATIONAL ICE CREAM MONTH.
Thank goodness President Ronald Reagan understood the importance of this delectable treat! In 1984, Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day. Now, these are proclamations I can stand behind! He even encouraged all people of the United States to observe these events with ‘appropriate ceremonies and activities.’ Mr. President, you don’t have to tell me twice.
In more recent years, the ice cream and frozen dessert case has expanded exponentially. As a registered dietitian, it confuses me, so I can only imagine what the average consumer must feel when scouring the aisles for their favorite frozen treat. So, let’s take a look at the definition as noted by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) of some of the common varieties on our grocery shelves today:
- Ice Cream – consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients such as milk and nonfat milk, and ingredients for sweetening and flavoring, such as fruits, nuts and chocolate chips. Functional ingredients, such as stabilizers and emulsifiers, are often included in the product to promote proper texture and enhance the eating experience. By federal law, ice cream must contain at least 10% milkfat, before the addition of bulky ingredients, and must weigh a minimum of 4.5 pounds to the gallon.
- Frozen Custard – must contain a minimum of 10% milkfat as well as at least 1.4% egg yolk solids.
- Sherbets – have a slightly higher sugar content than ice cream, and have a milkfat content between 1% and 2%. Sherbet weighs at least 6 pounds per gallon and is either flavored with fruit or other characterizing ingredients.
- Gelato – characterized by an intense flavor and is served in a semi-frozen state that is similar to “soft serve” ice cream. Italian-style gelato is more dense than ice cream, and usually has more milk than cream and contains sweeteners, egg yolks and flavoring.
- Sorbet – similar to sherbets, but contain no dairy ingredients.
- Frozen Yogurt – consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients, along with ingredients for sweetening and flavoring.
- Novelties – individually packaged frozen desserts, which may or may not contain dairy ingredients.
Although the definitions on paper seem very clear, it can still be a challenge when you’re standing face-to-face with all of the options in the dairy case. In my opinion, one of the greatest challenges – and at the same time – one of the greatest assets of dairy foods is the variety of options it provides, and ice cream flavor is no different. According to the International Ice Cream Association, vanilla still takes the highest honors and remains the most popular ice cream flavor, followed by chocolate, cookies ‘n cream, strawberry and mint chocolate chip.
Here are a couple quick tips from IDFA to keep ice cream in its most scrumptious form:
- Make the ice cream aisle your last stop during your shopping adventure.
- In an open top freezer, always select the ice cream stored below the freezer line.
- Insulate ice cream products for the ride home.
- Keep the ice cream container lid tightly closed in the freezer.
- Don’t allow ice cream to repeatedly soften and re-freeze.
- Store ice cream in the main part of the freezer, not in the freezer door, where temperatures can fluctuate more.
So the next time you’re shopping, be sure to pick up your favorite flavor of ice cream because everything fits into a healthy diet in moderation and now is the time to celebrate. Even President Reagan said so!
I’m definitely a flavor girl when it comes to ice cream, in fact, I’m still on the hunt to find the remarkable “Red Pop” ice cream that stole my heart when I was in high school vacationing with my family in Traverse City. So, if anyone reading this knows where I can find Red Pop ice cream circa 2003, please drop me a line at Amy@MilkMeansMore.org.