It’s a common misperception that because gelato is made with milk it’s lower in fat than American and French-style ice creams. Wrongo. Though on average they’re a little lower in milk fat, gelatos can weigh in at up to 18% total fat, which is up there with the chubbiest of the ultra-rich (so-called “super premium”) ice creams. I mean brands like Ben & Jerry’s, though being a Louisville resident now, I’ve converted to Graeter’s out of Cincinnati, the king of the super-decadent ice creams. Just how decadent is it? Suffice to say it’s Oprah’s favorite brand. Draw your own conclusions. I like to tell people that the first time I ate Graeter’s black raspberry chip I saw God (though interestingly, He was eating coconut almond fudge).
Super premium ice creams can reach as high as 20% total fat, which is pushing it as far as I’m concerned, even for a religious experience. Down from there you’ve got most name brand and supermarket ice creams, which weigh in at about 12-14% fat. Tillamook out of Oregon is probably my favorite of these (oh, the mountain huckleberry…). House-brand ice creams and generics come in at about 10%, which is the minimum fat required for a frozen dessert to qualify as “ice cream”. Below that they must be labeled “low fat”. Some gelato’s are as low as 8% fat, but as I previously mentioned, these are increasingly becoming a rarity.
Most people are surprised to find out how low in fat soft-serve ice cream is: anywhere between 3 and 10%. Low fat ice creams check in at about 4% fat, sorbet and sherbet usually around 1%. But don’t forget that where there is little fat, there is usually quite a bit of sugar, so these fat-savers won’t necessarily be any bargain from a total calorie standpoint. As Seinfeld’s famous frozen yogurt episode taught us, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.