Protein ice cream is like standard ice cream, but with extra protein to up the nutrition content. Some protein ice creams also use sugar substitutes to reduce the sugar content, which is fairly high in traditional ice cream.
While a protein ice cream is no replacement for a high quality protein supplement, it’s still a great way to make even your treats and desserts more beneficial for health and performance gains.
If you are looking to have a healthier dessert with more protein and less sugar, read on. We’ve ranked the ten best protein ice creams on the market.
1. Halo Top Ice Cream
Halo Top Ice Cream is a great all-natural ice cream that’s also low in sugar and high in protein.
The primary source of additional protein comes in the form of eggs and whey, while the sugar is replaced with a mix of erythritol, stevia, and chicory root to give it a sweetness almost indistinguishable from real ice cream, but with only five grams of sugar per serving. These advantages make it our top pick overall.
2. Rebel Ice Cream
Rebel Ice Cream is a seeming paradox: great tasting and great texture, but low in carbs. It uses a bit of added sugar, but its sugar and carb content are far below that of a typical ice cream. For simple and natural protein ice cream, you can’t go wrong with Rebel.
3. Enlightened Keto Collection
Enlightened Keto Collection is one of the healthiest ice creams out there, as it provides only one gram of net carbs per serving. This makes it one of the rare ice creams that is both high in protein and keto-friendly.
4. Nick’s Swedish Ice Cream
This keto-friendly ice cream uses coconut oil and peanut butter to deliver a high fat, high-protein, and low-carb dessert. While it’s a bit heavy on ingredients, the taste is great, and there are a variety of flavors with greater or lesser amounts of total net carbs.
5. Newa Nutrition High Protein Ice Cream Mix
Newa Nutrition High Protein Ice Cream Mix is an instant ice cream powder that’s fortified with whey protein concentrate and egg white powder for a strong dose of protein.
Each serving has an impressive 14.5 grams of protein, and only eight grams of carbohydrates total. The sweetness comes from a combination of stevia and sucralose, and there are no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or coloring agents, making it a solid choice for a high protein ice cream.
6. Peekaboo Ice Cream
Want to sneak some veggies into an all-natural dessert? Peekaboo takes a unique approach, adding vegetables like zucchini to a naturally-based ice cream mix that’s already heavier in protein than your typical store brand. Using organic cream, milk, and eggs, it boosts its protein content, though its sugar levels are still fairly high.
7. Magic Cup Fortified Nutrition Wild Berry
Magic Cup Fortified Nutrition Wild Berry is specially formulated for people who are on restricted diets: it tries to pack all the nutrients you’d normally get in a healthy diet into a frozen but softly-textured ice-cream like product.
It tastes quite a lot like real ice cream, but it is fortified with milk protein, vitamins, and minerals to give it a calorically dense nutritional punch.
Unfortunately, it derives a lot of its caloric content (and sweetness) from high fructose corn syrup, so if you are looking to keep the sugar content low, this is not the right product for you.
8. Arctic Zero Ice Cream
Arctic Zero Ice Cream uses a mixture of whey protein, cane sugar, and chicory root, along with monk fruit for extra sweetness, to make an ice cream that’s completely fat-free and contains only 37 calories per serving.
Unfortunately, the fiber content is low, and the protein content (3.4 grams per serving) is mediocre, despite the fact that whey protein concentrate is the second ingredient (after water).
Arctic Zero Ice Cream is a good option for low calorie ice cream, but if you really want to up the protein content, you should look for another option.
9. Quest Nutrition Vanilla Milkshake Protein
Quest Nutrition Vanilla Milkshake Protein is another ‘next-best-thing’ to real protein ice cream. This protein powder mixes up into a sweet and creamy shake that’s got zero grams of sugar and 22 grams of protein per serving.
Like other specialty protein powders, it is almost devoid of fiber, which might be a downside for some people.
However, the lack of sugar (it uses stevia and sucralose instead) and the lack of a need to freeze makes it a good alternative if you want the benefits of high protein ice cream while on the go.
10. Astronaut Ice Cream
Astronaut Ice Cream is one of the original alternative ice cream formulations, and though it does include whey, it’s mostly for texture and taste, not for protein content.
Unfortunately, despite the novelty and ready to use nature of Astronaut Ice Cream, it’s still high in sugar and fairly low in protein (just two grams per serving).
Best protein ice cream overall: Halo Top Ice Cream
Halo Top keeps things simple with ice cream that’s built on milk protein and eggs as sources of highly concentrated, high-quality protein. For a treat that’s still got excellent protein content, you can’t go wrong with Halo Top.
Best protein ice cream with no added sugar: Rebel Ice Cream
Using cream, erythritol, chicory fiber, and strawberries, Rebel makes a great protein ice cream that’s completely free of added sugar. It’s the perfect treat for low-sugar and low-carb diets.
Best protein ice cream without xanthan gum: Halo Top Ice Cream
Not interested in the synthetic food additive xanthan gum? Halo Top is a perfect choice; it uses natural alternatives like whole egg, carob gum, and locust bean gum to give texture to their protein ice cream instead.
Best keto-friendly protein ice cream: Enlightened Keto Collection
Normally, ice cream is everything keto’s not: high in sugar, high in carbs, and ultra-processed. Not so with Enlightened. This keto-friendly protein ice cream provides a total of one gram of net carbs—for keto-friendly ice cream, what more can you ask for?
Best protein ice cream powder: Quest Nutrition Vanilla Milkshake Protein
Looking for something that doesn’t need to stay frozen? Quest Nutrition makes the next best thing to frozen protein ice cream. Their milkshape protein powder is perfect for recreating the taste and protein content of protein ice cream when you don’t have the freezer or cooler space to manage real ice cream.
Best protein ice cream for smoothies: Halo Top Ice Cream
Halo Top Ice Cream isn’t just great by itself—it’s also an excellent way to add sweetness, flavor, and calories to a shake or smoothie. For an ice-cold way to get a creamier, tastier smoothie, it’s the way to go.
Who Should Buy Protein Ice Cream?
Protein ice cream is great for individuals of any age looking for a healthy alternative to regular ice cream. Persons who are obese or trying to lose weight will benefit from protein ice cream as it will help reduce cravings and improve satiety, which can help you lose weight.
Protein ice cream is also good for individuals trying to maintain their weight. The high protein content can help manage your calories and provide an easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth, without going overboard.
How We Ranked
Since Halo Top came to market, there has been an explosion of healthy and protein infused ice creams to hit the market, both in high and low quality. When creating our rankings we first looked at the overall ingredients. Ice creams that came packed with whey protein, like Quest and Fit Freeze, over other forms of protein were ranked highly. Whey protein is the superior choice for muscle building and fat loss and is low in cost. Per serving, we wanted to see at least 4g of protein, as anything less was considered pretty minimal.
Protein ice creams tend to use sweeteners to lower calories. This is fine as long as they stuck to natural sweeteners, like Arctic Zero, as the potential dangers of artificial sweeteners are not properly studied long term. If products used regular sugar, 5g per serving, was our upper tolerable limit. Products that included more than this, did not make the list.
Halo top and Fit freeze both came out on top because not only did they meet the criteria above of their addition of some prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber helps to feed healthy gut bacteria and increase satiety, providing an excellent guilt-free and healthy dessert option.
We also considered taste. Protein ice cream that tasted too chalky or fake did not make the list, as the customer was more than likely not going to continue using the product, which defeats the purpose of having a healthy alternative.
Protein ice cream is a healthier version of normal ice cream. As the name suggests, it’s fortified with protein, and many of the best brands also swap out much or all of the sugar for alternatives like stevia or sucralose that don’t have the same negative health effects as sugar.
Some protein ice creams even reduce or eliminate the fat content, which comes from the cream included in traditional ice cream.
Regardless of the specific formulation, the primary benefits of protein ice cream revolve around the substantial increase in protein content and decrease in sugar content per serving.
Increasing protein intake and decreasing carbohydrate intake can increase feelings of fullness. A lot of nutrition research has focused on the relative benefits of swapping out one nutrient for another, since when you tell people to eat less of something (refined carbohydrates, say), they’re bound to eat more of something else.
So, with protein ice cream, the obvious question is, “is it better to eat more protein (from whey or milk) and less sugar?”
Scientific research suggests that it is indeed better. A study published in 2007 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition specifically looked at the relative effects of increasing whey protein intake while simultaneously decreasing carbohydrate intake (1).
Whey protein is the ingredient most often used in protein ice cream to up the protein content.
In this study, the researchers found that increasing whey protein intake leads to a substantial increase in satiety, which is the technical term for fullness.
In turn, this increase in satiety leads to less food intake at subsequent meals, and creates an overall effect of caloric deficit, which is great if you are trying to lose weight.
The benefits of whey in particular seem to have to do with the peptide content, as well as whey protein’s unique interplay with the hormone insulin.
Upping your protein intake can help you maintain your weight after successful weight loss. Since greater protein intake seems to be related to food intake at later meals, there’s an obvious implication that greater protein intake could help you lose weight and keep it off too..
Scientific research published by a team of researchers at Maastricht University in The Netherlands tested this proposition.
The researchers gathered 113 overweight people who followed a very low energy diet for four weeks, followed by a six month weight maintenance period (2).
All subjects completed the same weight loss program, but were randomly assigned into two groups: one added 30 grams of protein to their daily diet, while the other group added nothing to their daily diet.
After six months, the researchers found that those in the high protein group were much more successful at maintaining their weight loss.
They gained less weight and experienced a decrease in waist circumference. Moreover, the weight that they did regain was exclusively in the form of lead body mass (i.e. muscle), whereas the people in the control group were regaining fat mass as well.
Increasing dairy intake and decreasing sugar intake can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. High sugar intake is one of the best-established risk factors for type 2 diabetes, which leads many people to replace table sugar with erythritol or other non caloric sweetening agents.
But research also suggests that increasing dairy intake could independently decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes.
A study published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care looked at data on dietary intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in almost 40,000 women who were followed for ten years (3).
After adjusting for potentially confounding factors like weight, smoking status, and physical activity levels, the researchers found that the women who consumed the most dairy had a 21% decrease in risk for type 2 diabetes compared to the women who consumed the least.
This suggests that protein ice cream has a double benefit, as a high quality product will help you both decrease your sugar intake and increase your intake of dairy-based protein.
As a dairy based product, protein ice cream is likely to provoke symptoms in people who are lactose intolerant, unless they also take a lactase supplement prior to eating protein ice cream.
While the lactose content may not be as large as in traditional ice cream, it can still cause problems for people with intolerances or allergies.
A few brands of protein ice cream rely mostly on sugar alcohols for their sweetness, which can cause an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal problems in people who are particularly susceptible to sugar alcohols.
Most protein ice creams, though, use a blend of sugar alcohols and other non caloric sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract, so the risk of experiencing side effects is low.
Why is protein ice cream good for you? By consuming protein ice cream, you could be giving your body a tool to use to fight against a variety of chronic illnesses. There have been many clinical studies that show consuming omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like those found in protein ice cream, might prevent some chronic diseases like heart disease, some autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and even hypertension, etc. (4).
What is protein ice cream? Protein ice cream is similar to regular ice cream, but often contains a less calories as well as extra protein from sources like added whey protein or added flaxseeds. The added protein can help boost muscle growth and promote weight loss.
What happens when you add protein to ice cream? Adding protein, like chia seeds, to ice cream enhances the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, which improves the antioxidant perspectives of ice cream and is a good way to make your ice cream healthier (5). By adding protein, you’re also giving your body additional tools to increase its metabolism and recover from workouts quicker.
What are the benefits of protein ice cream? Proteins like flaxseed and whey powder are functional foods, which can improve your metabolism. Flaxseeds are considered nutritional because they contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), dietary fiber, high-quality protein, and phytoestrogens (6). Whey protein is one of the more common proteins used in protein ice cream and is known to boost muscle growth and stimulate weight loss. A lot of weight-lifters take whey protein as a supplement to give them energy and help increase their performance in the weight room, as it also improves muscle recovery after a workout.
Can you make protein ice cream at home? Yes, you can, and it’s not that difficult. You can make protein ice cream with a blender and just some basic ingredients like coconut milk, protein powder, some sweetener, and frozen fruit like a banana.
Are there any side effects from consuming protein ice cream? If you consume too much protein ice cream, you may experience some side effects like digestive issues. The protein can also stimulate the growth of bacteria in your gut, which can cause an upset stomach.
Can you add protein powder to ice cream? Yes, adding a protein like whey powder to ice cream will give you some of the health benefits of protein ice cream. However, the consistency will be different.
Which store-bought ice cream has the most protein? Halo Top was one of the first brands to make protein ice cream, and they are still considered the gold standard in the industry. They pack in a lot of protein and also have some dairy-free options if you can’t have dairy. Enlightened is probably the next best option, as they also have a lot of protein in their ice cream.
Does protein ice cream taste good? Yes, most brands nowadays have perfected good tasting protein ice cream. That said, it will leave you with a bit of an aftertaste that you weren’t expecting compared to regular ice cream.
Is protein ice cream considered healthy? While protein ice cream might be healthier than regular ice cream, that doesn’t mean it’s considered healthy. Many brands include alternative sweeteners and artificial ingredients, which can cause health problems if you consume a lot of them.
Is protein ice cream expensive? Yes, protein ice cream can be expensive because it is dubbed as a “health food” and is made with some ingredients, like protein powder, that can be expensive by themselves. Like anything else, if you shop around, you might be able to find some cheaper option.
Is protein frozen yogurt a better option than protein ice cream? Frozen yogurt is probably going to have fewer calories because of the lower fat content, but may have more sugar to make up in taste.
Why should you eat protein ice cream? Protein ice cream helps give you a guilt free dessert while adding a powerful macronutrient to your diet. Protein, whether it’s ice cream or just your regular diet, helps add muscle tone and improve your metabolism to speed up weight loss. Protein also helps you recover from a workout so you can build more muscle and train more often. Protein also helps to give you more energy throughout the day.
What ice cream has the most protein? Short of making it at home and adding as much protein to your ice cream as you can, Enlightened Ice Cream has the most protein per serving. Their ice cream usually has about 20 grams of protein per pint, making it the leader in the industry.
Is casein protein in ice cream bad for you? Casein can cause minor side effects in people with a dairy allergy. Due to some casein being free of lactose, a lot more people are able to consume it than they are other dairy protein sources. If you have an allergy to dairy, its best to avoid casein and protein ice cream.
Is whey or casein protein better? Neither is better than the other, they simply serve different purposes. Casein protein acts best as a meal replacement whereas whey protein is ideal post workout to promote recovery and muscle growth.
What else is in protein ice cream? The only real nutritional value you’re going to get from protein ice cream is the protein itself and maybe some calcium since most protein ice creams do not have much else in the way of vitamins or nutrients.
Does it matter what type of protein is in protein ice cream? Unless you have specific allergies, not really. You can use a variety of different proteins from whey powder to flaxseed. Seeds might be a touch better than whey powder, since they offer some other nutritional value that whey powder does not, such as healthy fats and antioxidants.
Is protein ice cream the best way to increase your post-workout protein intake? No, protein ice cream is not the best way to increase overall protein intake. If you’re adding a protein powder like whey to ice cream, you can also add it instead to a smoothie containing vegetables like kale and spinach, or fruits like apples and bananas. A vegetable smoothie is going to do more for your health and your recovery than a pint of your favorite protein ice cream. While the protein content might be the same, you’ll want to get the added benefits of vegetables to make the most of your recovery after working out.
Is a protein milkshake the same as protein ice cream? No, they are not the same thing as milkshakes tend to be ore calorically dense than ice cream.
Are protein supplements, like protein ice cream, regulated by the FDA? No protein supplements, like protein ice cream, are not regulated by the FDA.Protein supplements are viewed as a dietary supplement by the FDA and thus allows manufacturers to evaluate the safety and labeling of their products independently.
What natural sweeteners are used in protein ice cream? Some natural sweeteners that are used in protein ice cream include stevia, monk fruit and chicory root.
What should you look for when purchasing a protein ice cream? When shopping for protein ice cream, you want to look for a product that contains less than 5g of sugar and at least 4g of protein per serving. Bonus points go to products that only use natural sweetness and add some sort of fiber in their product.
Does whey contain vitamin B-12? Yes, whey protein does contain vitamin B12.
Does protein ice cream contain carbs? Yes, protein ice cream almost always contains some amount of carbs. However, it tends to be significantly less than normal ice cream or frozen yogurt desserts.
Is protein ice cream keto friendly? Depending on the brand, protein ice cream may be ketogenic diet friendly. However, it’s important to check the nutrition label before assuming anything.
Is protein ice cream bad for IBS? In general, milk derived products are not great for IBS sufferers. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners, that are often found in protein ice cream, can also cause issues.
Is protein ice cream good for weight loss? Protein ice cream can help with weight loss along side a proper nutrition and exercise program. The protein in the ice cream will help increase the feelings of satiety as well as help workout recovery and support your metabolism.
Is slow-digesting casein protein better for building muscle? As of now, there is limited evidence demonstrating that slow-digesting protein like casein results in more muscle growth.
Is protein ice cream keto? Unless it directly says it on the label, protein ice cream are generally not keto diet approved.
Can you use protein ice cream as meal replacement? Though protein ice cream can be a great part of a balanced diet, they should not be viewed as a meal replacement. Instead, protein ice cream should be used to complement any diet and help limit poor food choices.
Does protein cause kidney stones? Consumers of protein supplements like shakes, bars and ice cream, should be aware that these convenient edibles can increase your risk of kidney stones. However, there is no certainty they will do so.
When is the best time to consume protein ice cream? The best time to consume protein bar ice cream depends on your goals. If your goal is to build muscle, protein ice cream can be consumed immediately post workout to fuel your body and help to repair muscle tissue. For individuals seeking fat loss, protein ice cream can be consumed, in moderation at any point in the day.
Protein ice cream is a great way to swap out a food with low nutritional value (regular ice cream) for something that’s more healthy.
The fact that you are lowering your refined carbohydrate intake while increasing your protein intake has numerous health benefits.
The lower sugar content and high protein content in a high quality protein ice cream work together to help you feel more full, maintain weight loss, and even reduce your risk for type two diabetes.
People who have lactose intolerance might want to take a lactase supplement before eating protein ice cream, and if you are especially sensitive to sugar alcohols, you should limit your intake, but aside from these special cases, protein ice cream is a well-tolerated way to have a healthier and more beneficial dessert.
For BodyNutrition’s #1 protein ice cream recommendation, click here.