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Sweet Showdown: Is Gelato Healthier Than Ice Cream?

Both ice cream and gelato are wildly popular around the world. Whether you’re relaxing in a gelateria in Italy or sneaking a midnight snack from your freezer, gelato and ice cream have a unique position in the world of desserts. Many people confuse the two because they have a similar look, but they are actually made using different techniques and ingredients.

We’ve talked about what sets gelato apart from ice cream, but knowing they’re not the same doesn’t tell the whole story. Sometimes a treat is just a sweet indulgence, it’s true, but sometimes you want to make a healthier choice. All the sweetness with a little less guilt. We’re putting these two creamy classics head to head to find out which is the healthier choice.

Let’s dive into the differences between gelato and ice cream.

What Makes Gelato a Beloved Italian Dessert?

It’s no surprise that people wonder if gelato is a type of ice cream – they’re very closely related. In fact, in Italy, all ice cream is called gelato! Once you put the two side by side, though, it’s clear that they’re sisters, not twins. 

What makes gelato beloved in Italy and around the world is its reputation for quality. There is a wide range of ice creams available of varying styles and qualities, but gelato means something specific, especially here in the US. Authentic artisanal gelato hearkens back to the best of Italian gelato-making traditions, starting with prioritizing high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. The better the ingredients, the better the gelato, after all!

Using traditional methods to make gelato from scratch may take more time, but it is a labor of love. These techniques have been handed down through the generations, each one innovating and building what came before. Using real ingredients for each flavor – ground coffee beans for the coffee gelato, ground hazelnuts for the nocciola, and so on – adds an intensity of flavor that you don’t tend to get with ice cream. Once the ingredients are mixed together, they’re heated to temper and pasteurize them. Gelato is also churned differently to ice cream, incorporating less air for a smoother result.

Gelato vs Ice Cream: Taste, Nutrition & More

So now we come down to it: Is gelato healthier than ice cream?

The main difference between ice cream and gelato is their fat content. Gelato is made with milk, but ice cream is made with – surprise, surprise – cream. This adds some extra fat to the mix and changes the texture, making it firmer than your average gelato. The lower fat content in gelato contributes to the intense flavors, while in ice cream, the flavors are smoother and linger on the tongue. The use of cream also means that ice cream usually has more calories than gelato, even though gelato is much denser. 

Nobody is claiming that either ice cream or gelato are health foods. They are both made with sugar, putting them firmly in the category of occasional treat rather than everyday staple. We believe gelato should feel like a celebration, the icing on top of a healthy diet – and we’re very good at thinking of reasons to celebrate! 

So there you have it – when you’re looking for a treat that isn’t going to knock your diet for a loop, gelato is the answer! But then, for us, gelato is always the answer.

Vegan Gelato With Plant-Based Ingredients

If you’re lactose intolerant or following a vegan diet, we have great news: Gelato can be vegan! 

Unlike ice cream, which usually uses yolks as a binding agent, gelato can be made without any egg at all, making it easier to create vegan-friendly versions. As the variety and availability of non-dairy milk alternatives have grown, gelato makers have experimented and developed new recipes that capture the essence of gelato in a dairy-free form. Depending on the combination of vegan-friendly substitutes, the taste and texture of the gelato may be a little different from the original recipe.

And just because you’re going the vegan route doesn’t mean that your gelato experience has to stick to the standards. Trust us – our vegan Peanut Butter & Chocolate gelato is a taste adventure in the best way. We also have some smooth, summery, sweet, (un)surprisingly delicious flavors for you to try, so check out our whole menu when you visit.

No matter your dietary restrictions, there’s a gelato for you! Treat yourself – explore our fantastic flavors at Bambina Blue.

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