Low calorie and high protein ice creams are taking over the diet and fitness world, and I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon and giving them a try. Enlightened's brand of such ice creams are my first foray into these trending treats. They have a large line-up of fun flavors, even more than I've tried here. I'm a calorie counter during the week and treat myself on the weekends - that's when all of the naughty recipes on this blog are created - so I admit to being a sucker when I find a treat that I can eat during the week while keeping my calories low since I started my own diet.
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These ice creams have between 280 - 400 calories per pint, or 70-100 calories per ½ cup serving. Each one has 6-7 grams of protein via the use of milk protein isolate, and the fat content is lowered through the use of skim milk. The ice cream is sweetened using erythritol, a natural fruit-based sweetener, and monk fruit extract. Click here to learn more about the ingredients used to create these desserts. I was impressed by the fact that, despite the impressive Nutrition Facts, a suitable substitute for "regular" ice cream was able to be created without a bunch of artificial junk added to the ingredients.
Ready to plow through some ice cream, I opened the lid only to be met with this label. Fully intending to be a rebel and ignore the warning, I ripped off the label, grabbed a spoon, and attempted to nosh. Nope, wasn't happening, this is definitely an ice cream that needs to sit out of the freezer for a little while before you can easily get a spoon in there. I liken it to the texture of homemade ice cream after it's been in the freezer a few days - you have to (tortuously) let it sit on the counter before you can eat it. So, I waited, and when the pints had softened, I continued.
Enlightened Birthday Cake Ice Cream - You can't name any flavor "birthday cake" and not include rainbow sprinkles. This flavor has sprinkles on the packaging and in the ice cream, so things were looking up. The ice cream base had a mild flavor, not quite vanilla and more sweet cream which hints at a birthday cake taste. The little buttercream sprinkles are pleasantly sweet and it is them that completes the birthday cake flavor. I detected a very slight aftertaste from the natural sweetener (erythritol) used, but for only 70 calories a serving and 280 calories for the whole pint, I can overlook it.
Enlightened Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream - This is one of my favorite ice cream flavors in general, so the idea that I could eat it on calorie-controlled days is quite appealing. I dug my spoon into the strawberry swirl and was met with a powerful fresh strawberry flavor - the ingredients list tells me there are actual strawberries used - and a soft texture which was impressive as many fruity swirls end up being hard and icy. The cheesecake flavor in the ice cream base hits late and is mild, but when both the strawberry swirl and the ice cream are eaten together the combination works.
Enlightened Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream - ah yes, the quintessential ice cream flavor, the flavor to compare across all ice cream brands, low calorie or not. Will Enlightened's version stand up to the test? It's not a bad offering, to be sure. The little chips are extremely chocolate-y and I would have loved to see even more of them sprinkled throughout the base. I had to dig a little to get to the cookie dough bits, but they are the star and are what will keep you digging your spoon into this stuff. The sweet cream base is used again in this flavor and, yet again, I found it to have a mild flavor. If it had some molasses or brown sugar notes in the base this one would be a 100% home run. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is a little higher in calories than other flavors, 100 per serving and 400 for the entire pint, but still significantly lower than its fully-loaded full-fat cousins. If you like cookie dough flavors, though, you will probably like this.
Enlightened Caramel Oatmeal Cookie Crunch - I was most excited about trying this flavor and just as I expected, it ended up being my undisputed favorite. I love oatmeal, I love caramel, I love ice cream, and I love cookies, so... yeah. The base is caramel instead of sweet cream and has a ton of flavor. The ice cream is swirled with soft caramel swirls and dotted with plenty of oatmeal cookie clusters, which are the standout feature of this flavor. There are hints of cinnamon and nutmeg in the soft cookie bits and the oats pair well (naturally) with the caramel. Totally awesome all the way around.
Enlightened Fudge Brownie Ice Cream - starting with the chocolate varieties, Fudge Brownie was the first one out of the gate, and it brought its A-game. The base is milk chocolate ice cream studded with chunks of chewy fudge brownie and chocolate chips. If I'm going to eat chocolate ice cream I want the chocolate to punch me in the face, and this one doesn't disappoint. The milk chocolate plays well with the chunks of brownie and the chocolate chips, both of which add little explosions of fudge-y goodness in your mouth. If you're a chocolate lover and are new to trying low calorie ice creams... try this one first.
Enlightened Frozen Hot Cocoa Ice Cream - Frozen hot cocoas were born to be an ice cream flavor. The base here is chocolate that has a nice smooth finish with little-to-no sweetener taste. Those same strong chocolate chips from the cookie dough flavor also make an appearance here and are heartily welcomed. The hot cocoa flavor is driven home by the soft swirls of sweet marshmallow. This was my husband's favorite flavor and the pint didn't last too long in our freezer. Once again the chocolate versions of Enlightened proved to be consistently delicious.
Enlightened Red Velvet Ice Cream - while this is another of the lowest calorie offerings at 280 calories for the whole pint, I was pleased to find that this one packs a mighty flavor punch. It has that spot-on red velvet flavor, you know the one. Not quite chocolate but not quite not chocolate, you know? Though the photo doesn't show it well, there are abundant swirls of cream cheese frosting. This is one of my favorites of the whole line-up and one that I would purchase again.
Overall thoughts: I was a skeptic going into this taste test and I'm gonna be honest, nothing is going to 100% replicate the experience of a creamy full fat, full sugar ice cream. But eating Enlightened's products with the mindset that I can still have a delicious substitute without the fat and calorie hit of the real thing makes me a believer in the recent trend of skinny ice cream. In short, these pints impressed both me and my slightly pickier husband, and I feel confident in recommending them to Brownie Bites readers. Overall, our favorite flavors were the chocolate bases - Fudge Brownie, Frozen Hot Cocoa, and Red Velvet, though my absolute favorite was Caramel Oatmeal Cookie Crunch. The remaining 3 flavors - chocolate chip cookie dough, strawberry cheesecake, and birthday cake - were pleasant, but they weren't the standouts of the 7 varieties that we tested.
Where to find: Use Enlightened's Store locator to find out where you can find pints or other products (including the broad bean crisps that I reviewed here) near you. You can also order ice cream pints online right here.
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I was provided a sampling of ice cream pints for the purpose of this review. We do not accept compensation or free product in return for a fully positive review. We are dedicated to honest reviews. Remember our motto: if we think it sucks, we'll tell ya!