Founded in 2012, Halo Top kickstarted a new health trend of “diet ice creams” which would allow us to “cheat clean” and eat an entire pint “guilt free”. Introduced to the UK in early 2018, imitation brands have since popped up which all make similar claims. I decided to try a bunch and compare them to see which of these fairly expensive products is worth your purchase.
I first tried the OG of diet ice creams whilst living in Florida last summer, kicking things off with the “sea salt caramel” which clocks in at 320 calories and 20g of protein in the entire pint. It had great flavour which wasn’t watered down like I expected, but it was certainly lighter and a bit icier than other brands.
Whilst I was too keen to dive in to take a second glance at the ingredients list, it seems stevia extract is the main sweetener here but otherwise it’s packed with just as many chemicals as any other ice cream brand. The main reason it is so low-calorie is that they whip a lot more air into it than other brands, meaning a pint weighs less than its Ben and Jerry’s counterpart.
I’ve since tried Oatmeal Cookie, Chocolate, and Vanilla Bean and had the same experience with each; great flavours but they’re a lot easier to eat more of than traditional ice creams. Also worth noting that, whilst they recommend you eat the pint (the labels literally say “No bowl, no regrets”), I had a slight stomach ache after half and can recognise that this is more them encouraging you to buy more product than anything else. At £5 per pint in Tesco, it’s not cheap – but then again, neither is Ben and Jerry’s.
After a summer enjoying Halo Top from my local Publix, I was faced with having an increased ice cream appetite but only fatty, sugar-plugged options to satisfy it – to compare, one fifth of traditional ice cream contains as many if not more calories as an entire Halo Top pint.
Oppo was the brand that came to my rescue, stocked in Sainsbury’s and Asda. They literally advertise themselves as “healthy ice cream”, made from “cold-pressed, wild harvested virgin coconut oil, stevia leaf, and fresh milk”. Unlike Halo Top, they advertise per scoop (around 40 calories) and have just four key flavours.
I’ve tried all but the mint (stop mixing toothpaste with treats please) and surprisingly found the Madagascan Vanilla to taste the most indulgent and pretty much identical to any full-fat counterpart. Whilst the range available is smaller, for your core flavours I’d put this one just above Halo Top.
Another recent US import, at 290-350 calories per pint they’re also keeping things simple with just four flavours available to the UK right now. For some reason I found their cookies and cream to be the sickliest of all the brands tried, which possibly means it’s the best in terms of imitating regular ice cream if that’s what you’re looking for. It also took the longest to melt, meaning it all around felt heavier to eat. This is probably down to the fact that, unlike the others, they use skimmed milk rather than merely including less of the full fat stuff.
Which is best?
Overall, Halo Top is my favourite (surprise surprise) just because their flavours are the most interesting and I also enjoy the lightness of the ice cream. However if you’re looking for your classic staples, I’d go for Oppo as, disregarding its dietary bonus points, it’s some of the best store-bought ice cream I’ve had for a while; they managed to make me fall in love with vanilla so it must be good!
However any brand that lets me sit on the sofa with a single spoon to enjoy my entire pint with is worth trying for me.