I scream, you scream, we all scream for … GELATO! Gelato was, for many years, referred to as the Italian word for ice cream (though it actually means “frozen” in Italian). We were used to hearing that gelato is like American ice cream, except not really. At first glance, it’s natural to assume the translation is accurate, but gelato is actually different than ice cream, not only in its translation but in the culture behind it, too.

When you look at the nutrition label of gelato and ice cream, the staple ingredients are predominately the same: milk, sugar, flavor, and your base ingredients. What really sets the two apart are the technicalities of what constitutes either of the frozen desserts being called gelato or ice cream and the way they are produced.

For starters, gelato can be healthier than ice cream. Now, before you start replacing all your fruits and vegetables with gelato, let me clarify that by healthier I mean it can be lower in calories and fat compared to ice cream. How is that possible? Well, let’s take a look at some fun facts of how gelato and ice cream matchup:

  • The FDA claims that in order to classify a frozen dessert as ice cream it must contain a minimum of 10% butterfat, while gelato requires only a minimum of 3%.
  • Gelato is served at a higher temperature allowing a warmer mouthfeel than ice cream.
  • Gelato will typically have about 30-35% air whipped into it, while ice cream will have anywhere from 30-100% (you will see this affect the texture and density of the frozen dessert).
  • Gelato is more dense and less fatty-tasting than ice cream.
  • Gelato on average will be around 60 calories less per serving than ice cream.

As gelato continues to gain popularity, it is important for us to continue to be a resource of information, not only in the dessert industry but the gelato industry as well. Learning exactly what gelato means will not only grow your appreciation for the dessert itself but also for gelaterias and their connection to the Italian origin of gelato.

Gelato may have been born and raised in Italy, but it has spread its wings all over the world. Gelato is not just a frozen dessert in Italy, gelato is imbedded in the foundation of Italian culture. Tourists and natives alike will, if nothing else, have a passion for gelato in common. In Italy, it’s perfectly acceptable to have gelato twice a day or to replace your lunch with a big scoop of gelato. Gelato is not just for kids and a gelateria is always host to friends and family.

As gelato works its way into the hearts (and tummies) of people all over the world, I challenge you, the next time you are sitting on your couch craving ice cream after dinner (or whenever that ice cream craving hits), swap out ice cream for gelato for a different experience.

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