With the start of summer, ice cream treats are a staple and gelato is becoming more popular. Do you know the difference between ice cream and gelato? Does gelato contain less dairy or have fewer calories than ice cream? Here’s the scoop!
Ice cream and gelato may look similar but are made quite differently and also have unique textures and different nutritional qualities.
How they’re made: Ice cream’s first ingredient is cream, followed by added sugar. Ice cream is churned fast, whipping in a lot of air. This is makes ice cream fluffy and light.
Gelato on the other hand is made primarily with milk and added sugar. Gelato is churned very slowly, limiting the amount of air that’s mixed in. This gives gelato a thick and dense texture.
Nutritional qualities: Gelato is denser than ice cream so a scoop of gelato weighs a bit more than the same size scoop of ice cream. (See chart below.) Calories in gelato are similar to those in ice cream and depend on the type of ingredients used. If you are concerned about fat content, gelato usually has less fat than regular ice cream because it is made with milk rather than cream. Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar and the major carbohydrate in milk. Both ice cream and gelato contain lactose at about 3-6 grams/125 ml serving.  Overall, gelato has more added sugar than ice cream resulting in higher carbohydrate content compared to ice cream.
Dietitian’s Tip: Both ice cream and gelato are high calorie treats so stick to a small portion (1/2 cup or 125 mL) per serving. Where possible, check the ingredient list and nutrition label to help you make informed decisions.
|Key Ingredients||Cream, sugar||Milk, sugar|
|Density||Fluffier, more air
(serving size weighs less per volume)
|Denser, less air
(serving size weighs more per volume)
|Serving size||½ cup (125 ml) 90 grams||½ cup (125 ml) 100 grams|
|Fat||12 g||9 g|
|Carbohydrate||20 g||25 g|
|Protein||4 g||4 g|
|Calcium||12 % DV||15 % DV|
 Dietitians of Canada, Food Sources of Lactose (2013)
 Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File Vanilla Ice Cream Food Code # 4158
 Vanilla Gelato Nutrition Facts Label