Frozen Custard or Ice Cream: Which Is Better for Your Kids?

Two little boys and a girl in sunglasses, eating ice cream

Being a mother means living with kids clamoring for sweet treats. The classic cold treat is ice cream, of course, but there are lots of other frozen desserts out there, from frozen yogurt to gelato to frozen custard. Sometimes it can be hard to know which is the right choice for your kids. For instance: Is frozen custard healthier than ice cream? The two desserts are very similar, but a few key differences in the recipes make one generally a little healthier than the other.

The Differences

Both ice cream and frozen custard are made by beating and freezing a mixture of milk and cream. Despite their similar recipes, there are two main differences between them. The first difference is in their ingredients. In addition to milk and cream, frozen custard contains a high proportion of egg yolks. Many ice cream recipes include eggs, but when the percentage of egg yolk in a dessert exceeds 1.4 percent, it becomes frozen custard. If you're used to making your own ice cream with egg yolks, you may be surprised to learn that you're technically making frozen custard; it just goes to show how similar ice cream and frozen custard are. Some frozen custards are even marketed as ice cream, usually with the description "French ice cream."

In addition to the differences in ingredients, frozen custard is also usually churned differently, with a process that introduces much less air into the mixture than the one used to make ice cream. The result is a frozen dessert with a smooth, dense, creamy consistency.

Nutritional Information

The basic similarities between frozen custard and ice cream mean that they're roughly similar in terms of their nutritional qualities. Both are typically high in calories, particularly calories from sugar. Overall, though, frozen custard is typically higher. A single serving (1/2 cup) of ice cream can contain anywhere between around 90 and 310 calories. By contrast, a typical serving of frozen custard contains around 200 calories or even more. Frozen custard is definitely a rich dessert best reserved for special occasions.

Alternatives to Ice Cream and Frozen Custard

Neither ice cream nor frozen custard may be the healthiest snacks around, but kids typically don't pay attention to nutritional value. If you want to provide a cold treat for your kids without overloading them with sugar, try freezing low-sugar yogurt and adding fresh fruit to sweeten it. Blended frozen banana slices with peanut butter and honey creates another cool, sweet snack, though don't overdo it with the honey.