Italian gelato is a traditional Italian treat that is served in a semi-frozen state. Similar to soft ice cream, gelato is made from a variety of ingredients, with flavors ranging from the common, like chocolate and vanilla, to the more exotic, like tiramisu and ginger. Whether you're vacationing in Venice and looking for a sweet treat or you're having a serving of gelato stateside, gelato makes a better once-in-a-while treat than a daily indulgence.
The basic nutritional information for Italian gelato depends on the type of gelato you choose. Milk-based gelatos are a common choice and typically have more calories than soy-based gelato, which is served at many gelato shops. Milk-based gelato has a creamier texture that is akin to regular ice cream, while soy gelato will be more like a lighter, airier sorbet. Yogurt gelato, while not as popular, is like frozen yogurt, with a creamy texture and fruity flavor.
The caloric content of a serving of Italian gelato depends on the type and flavor of gelato you choose. Identifying an exact calorie count per serving is difficult since many brands of gelato are made in-house, according to a store's own recipe. In general, milk-based gelato has the most calories per serving, at around 240 calories for a half-cup serving of chocolate gelato. A sorbet-like gelato is only 90 to 100 calories per half-cup serving.
Since gelato is typically made with milk instead of cream, it can have fewer calories than traditional American ice cream. Still, gelato is denser than ice cream, and when made with heavier ingredients, can have even more calories than ice cream, depending on its preparation. Gelato is fairly high in sugar, with around 10 to 24 g per half cup serving. A milk-based gelato will be much higher in fat content than a soy-, water-, or yogurt-based variety. Because of this, the fat content can range anywhere from 3 to 18 g of fat, depending on the brand, flavor and type of gelato. Italian gelato boasts a number of nutrients, like calcium, vitamins A and C, and potassium.
Italian gelato should be enjoyed as an occasional treat and is in no way a health food. If you're craving a sweet frozen treat on a daily basis, Italian ices, with around 50 calories per serving, are a better bet. When choosing gelato, choose low-fat versions over cream-based flavors to help save calories without skimping on the flavor or experience of an authentic Italian gelato.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.