Navigating the ice cream truck.  It’s got to be one of the highlights of spring.

It’s kind of crazy that as soon as the weather perks up a bit, the ice cream parks across from my daughter’s school (bringing the drugs right where they’re wanted).  And recently, some mothers began wondering: which was better for their kids, an ice cream cone or an ice slush drink?

The conversation unfolded like this:

  • On one side –  At least the ice cream has calcium and protein in addition to the sugar and the fat.
  • On the other side –But the ice slush doesn’t have any fat.

I’ll answer the ice cream vs. ice slush question in a moment but, before I do, please consider the following …

It doesn’t matter.

Deciding that one frozen treat is healthier than the other will change how you use it, and not in a good way either.

1) Research shows that when people think something is healthy, they eat more of it.

2) Not only that, research also shows that when people eat food they think is healthy, they eat more (other?) unhealthy food too (because they’ve earned it).

If you think ice cream is healthy (at least relative to the ice slush), you’ll more readily give in to your children’s demands for a cone.  And if you decide the slush isn’t so bad, you’ll more willingly provide your kids with their afterschool rush.

Splitting nutritional hairs by focusing on the good nutrients and ignoring the bad ones leads parents astray.

Since good nutrients can be found in almost every item – it’s the rationale behind Healthy Candy: Made with Real Fruit Juice! – you can always find a reason to give your kids the cr*p they crave.  (Be honest: don’t you feel better handing over the cone knowing the ice cream has calcium?)

It doesn’t matter what your kids eat.  What matters is how often they eat it.

Giving your kids regular treats from the truck doesn’t just foster their fondness for frozen treats.  It also…

  • Raises your kids’ sugar threshold so they prefer sweet foods.
  • Teaches them to justify certain treats as healthy, which leads them to eat more (and to eat them more frequently).

It doesn’t matter whether ice cream or ice slush is “healthier” because neither should be considered a source of nutrients and neither should be eaten frequently.   They’re treats!  In this department, it’s frequency that matters most.

Read It Doesn’t Matter WHAT Your Kids Eat and When is a Cookie Not a Cookie?

Ice Cream vs. Ice Slush

I couldn’t find the nutrition information for my local ice cream truck so here are the facts for Dairy Queen’s child size vanilla cone versus their small Arctic Rush (Blue Raspberry flavor)


  • Vanilla Cone: 140
  • Arctic Rush: 240


  • Vanilla Cone: 4g
  • Arctic Rush: 0g


  • Vanilla Cone: 60mg
  • Arctic Rush: 0mg


  • Vanilla Cone: 16g
  • Arctic Rush: 48g


  • Vanilla Cone: 4g
  • Arctic Rush: 0g 

If your kids like rainbow sprinkles add 70 calories, 2.5g of fat and 5g of sugar to the cone.

So which is better for your kids: the cone or the slush?

Whichever they prefer. Treats don’t have to be healthy.  They have to be great.  So teach your kids to love their junk, and to eat it infrequently – once a week or so — but with gusto!

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Sources: accessed 4/18/2010; Provencher, V., J. Polivy, and Herman, C. Peter. 2009. “Perceived Healthiness of Food. If It’s Healthy, You Can Eat More!” Appetite 52: 340-44. Wansink, B., 2006. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. New York: Bantam Books.