test-7 Healthy Ice Cream Hacks
Recipes & DIY
7 Healthy Ice Cream Hacks
Lindsey Toth, MS, RD • July 13, 2020

Ice cream may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to eating healthy, but let’s be honest—sometimes you just crave a sweet, icy treat! And that’s okay because being your best self is about balance and moderation, not deprivation. There are plenty of ways you can up the nutritional value of your ice cream, either by making your own healthier version from scratch or adding nourishing mix-ins and toppings.

So, enjoy some fun summer fitness activities, focus on eating a diet based on nutritious, real foods, and indulge in these delicious hacks for healthier ice cream.

But First, the Ice Cream Bases

You don’t need to make ice cream from scratch to enjoy healthy mix-ins and toppings, but if you have some spare time and an ice cream maker, there’s nothing better than making it yourself.

By making your own ice cream you get to control what goes in it, and you can try even more healthy ice cream hacks like switching out heavy cream for Greek yogurt, using coconut milk for a vegan treat, or using frozen bananas as a super healthy base.

Here are a few of our favorite, healthier ice cream base recipes to try.

25-Minute Healthy Vanilla Ice Cream1

How to make it

    1. Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker the night before so it’s ready to use
    2. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 1 minute or until frothy
    3. Quickly remove your frozen ice cream maker bowl from the freezer, place it on the machine with the paddle and lid in place according to the machine’s instructions, and turn it on before slowly adding this mixture to the bowl
    4. Let it churn for 15-20 minutes or until frozen, then serve immediately

Two Ingredient Vanilla Nice Cream2

How to make it

    1. Peel and slice the bananas, lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze completely (about 6 hours)
    2. Add frozen banana pieces to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth
    3. Add vanilla extract then continue blending
    4. Serve immediately or put in the freezer for an hour or two before serving

Bonus: If you want chocolate nice cream, use just 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Also, you can add a few tablespoons of almond milk if your nice cream seems too thick.

Coconut Milk Vegan Ice Cream3

How to make it

    1. Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker the night before so it’s ready to use
    2. Shake the coconut milk well before opening
    3. Set aside 1/2 cup of the coconut milk and add the rest to a saucepan along with the sweetener and salt
    4. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sweetener has dissolved
    5. Put the remaining 1/2 cup of coconut milk into a bowl and whisk in the starch until dissolved
    6. Slowly mix the starch and coconut milk mixture into the saucepan with the warmed coconut milk and heat (don’t boil) until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (6-8 minutes)
    7. Mix in the vanilla, then pour the mixture into a bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature on the counter before refrigerating for at least 4 hours
    8. After the mixture is chilled, churn in your ice cream maker for 10-20 minutes

Healthy Ice Cream Mix-ins and Toppings

#1 Matcha Ice Cream

Matcha has quickly become an “it ingredient” among the health-conscious. Matcha powder is finely ground, high-quality, young tea leaves. It’s packed with antioxidants, including a class of antioxidants called catechins. Research has linked one of those catechins, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), to numerous health benefits, as well as weight loss.4

Matcha is delicious and works well as a mix-in for ice cream. If you’re making your own ice cream, you can add matcha powder directly to your ice cream base. Start by adding a heaping tablespoon to a small amount of the liquid already in your recipe and whisk until smooth before adding to the rest of your base. Adjust the amount to suit your tastes.

Not up for making it from scratch? That’s okay too! Dissolve 1-2 teaspoons of Swanson’s 100% Certified Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder in 25-50 mL of warm water or milk—just enough liquid to dissolve the matcha. Then hand mix or blend into your ice cream. Matcha ice cream with cocoa nibs is one of our favorite treats.

#2 Activated Charcoal Ice Cream

You may have noticed a trend of pitch-black ice cream popping up across your social media feeds lately. The black coloring is from activated charcoal, and this detoxing ingredient is good for a lot more than wow factor! Activated charcoal is used for removing toxins and supporting kidneys and healthy blood lipid levels, as well as gas reduction and teeth whitening.5

You can make your own Instagram-worthy, activated charcoal ice cream by breaking open a couple of Swanson Premium Activated Charcoal capsules, mixing them with a small amount of water or milk, and then blending the mixture with a serving of your favorite ice cream. Or you can add 3-4 tablespoons of activated charcoal to your homemade ice cream base to make a whole batch. Just be sure not to consume more activated charcoal than your product label recommends per serving.

Read What is Activated Charcoal? to learn more about activated charcoal and the benefits of activated charcoal.

#3 Protein Ice Cream

We add protein powder to our smoothies and shakes, so why not try it in ice cream? We're not saying you should try to turn your ice-cream into a replacement for a healthy meal, but getting extra protein in your diet definitely has its benefits. Protein helps keep you feeling fuller longer and nourishes tissues for growth and repair, helping maintain muscles and support healthy hair, skin and nails.6

Enjoy protein powder in your ice cream simply by mixing a serving of vanilla or chocolate protein powder with a little water or milk, then blending with a serving of ice cream. You can re-freeze the mixture for a while if it’s too soft after blending. Or you can make a batch of protein ice cream by adding 2-3 scoops of vanilla-flavored protein powder to your favorite ice cream base. The coconut milk recipe above is a great choice for adding protein powder.

#4 Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil Extract or CBD Oil

Hemp plants are non-psychoactive varieties of Cannabis sativa L. that have been grown and used industrially for centuries. Hemp oil extracts, including CBD oil (cannabidiol oil) from full spectrum hemp), stimulate many functions in the body that help support stress reduction, sleep, digestive health and overall wellbeing.7

Due to its many potential health benefits, and the fact that CBD oil is nearly undetectable in recipes, CBD-infused foods and beverages, including ice cream treats, are showing up on menus across the country.8 And this is the simplest DIY ice cream hack yet! Just add a few drops of high-quality CBD hemp oil (be sure to follow your CBD product label for serving amounts) to your favorite ice cream or topping and blend away. This would work well with the matcha ice cream hack above (#1), or you can blend it into the DIY chocolate syrup recipe below (#7).

#5 Cinnamon for Flavor & Health Benefits

Cinnamon is absolutely delicious and offers health benefits that are too good to pass up. In fact, cinnamon may be one of the healthiest spices on the planet!9 It’s loaded with antioxidants, aids with tissue repair, supports heart and brain health, and more.9

Adding cinnamon to your ice cream couldn’t be easier. Simply sprinkle some 100% certified organic Ceylon cinnamon on top or mix some in with a spoon. It will taste amazing with the sweetness of vanilla, chocolate or even coffee ice cream. You can also add it directly to your ice cream base recipe for a delicious cinnamon treat straight out of the freezer.

#6 Ginger-Mandarin Ice Cream Sauce

Ginger is another healthy spice with superfood status. It calms the stomach, soothes muscles and joints, supports healthy blood sugar levels, lipid levels, and more.10 Sure, you could just sprinkle some candied ginger on top of your sundae, but why not take it up a notch with a delicious ginger ice cream sauce? Here’s a recipe to try!

DIY Ginger-Mandarin Ice Cream Sauce

How to make it

    1. Combine the cornstarch and water in a bowl and stir until smooth
    2. Combine orange juice, salt and guava or honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil
    3. Reduce heat, whisk in the cornstarch mixture, then simmer while stirring until thickened and bubbling
    4. Remove from heat then stir in mandarin slices and crystallized ginger
    5. Chill completely before use (or you’ll melt your ice cream!)

#7 DIY Chocolate Syrup with Coconut Sugar

Does the thought of ice cream make you daydream of a hot fudge sundae? Chocolate gets a bad rap sometimes, and experts say it actually packs in a noteworthy nutritional punch.11

Chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants that may offer heart health benefits, including stimulating nitric oxide production, which helps arteries relax and may support healthy blood flow, as well as blood flow to the brain.11

You can make a quick, healthier alternative to store-bought chocolate sauces with just a few simple ingredients. That way you’ll know exactly what you’re getting and skip the preservatives.

DIY Chocolate Syrup12

How to make it

    1. Heat the water or nut milk and cocoa powder over medium heat
    2. Add sweetener and bring to a boil, stirring constantly
    3. Simmer until the syrup thickens slightly (5-7 minutes)
    4. Add the vanilla extract and pinch of salt and stir until blended
    5. Cool at room temperature then refrigerate in a glass jar before using

Better Health Through Balanced Choices

Making truly impactful changes to our health and wellbeing takes more than fad diets and seasonally-motivated fitness. Getting healthier, and staying that way, is a long game, and completely depriving ourselves of the foods we love is one of the quickest ways to lose momentum toward our fitness goals.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we should indulge every single day. But by setting attainable goals, balancing our choices and looking for healthier ways to enjoy the pleasure and nourishment of food, we can all work toward a healthier future.

If you enjoyed our hacks for healthier ice cream, check out these 4 Delicious, Healthy Baked Donut Recipe Hacks. And balance your treats by packing your pantry with healthful, nutritious options for everyday meals. Learn how in Pack Your Pantry: How to Make a Real Food Pantry.

Lindsey Toth, MS, RD | Swanson Health Products

About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD

Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products

Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food. Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.


1 Amy’s Healthy Baking. 25 Minute Healthy Vanilla Ice Cream. https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2016/07/14/25-minute-healthy-vanilla-ice-cream/

2 Recipe Adapted from Pure Ella. Two Ingredient Vanilla Nice Cream. https://pureella.com/two-ingredient-vanilla-nice-cream/

3 Recipe Adapted from Kitchn. How To Make Dreamy Dairy-Free Vegan Ice Cream. Emma Christensen. https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-vegan-ice-cream-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-204755

4 Should You Drink Matcha Tea? Time. http://time.com/5188377/matcha-tea-benefits/

5 What Is Activated Charcoal Good For? Benefits and Uses. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/activated-charcoal

6 The Benefits of Protein. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/men/features/benefits-protein#1

7 7 Benefits and Uses of CBD Oil (Plus Side Effects). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cbd-oil-benefits

8 This American Cafe Just Debuted CBD-Infused Ice Cream. The Fresh Toast. https://thefreshtoast.com/cannabis/this-american-cafe-just-debuted-cbd-infused-ice-cream/

9 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon#section11

10 11 Proven Health Benefits of Ginger. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-ginger#section10

11 7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate. Heathline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate#section6

12 Adapted from The Coconut Mama. Homemade Chocolate Syrup. https://thecoconutmama.com/homemade-chocolate-syrup/

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.