New frozen alternative offers guilt-free indulgence

He may have stolen your heart, but Ben & Jerry’s stole your waistline. When the games of love turn rough, who isn’t guilty of cold comfort and shamelessly indulging while watching Sex and the City?

With Arctic Zero, those late night romps may result in fewer belly bumps.

Frozen yogurt has given many people a way to indulge a sweet tooth with far less guilt. Slow-churned ice creams make midnight munchies a little safer, but trips to Yogurtland gradually add up, and slow-churned ice creams are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients.

Arctic Zero is something different. It’s made for the home freezer. It’s all-natural. And a full pint has about 130 calories.

“We see it more as a healthy alternative,” said Arctic Zero vice president Garrett Blood. “We tell people it’s the 10 o’clock answer to their sweet tooth, like when they want to eat and watch a movie. Because ultimately, you wear what you eat.”

Unlike Dreyer’s Slow Churned, which relies on emulsifiers, sugar and unpronounceable chemicals, Arctic Zero has no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. It is made from whey protein instead of milk or cream and uses plant fibers such as xanthan gum to mimic fat. For sugar, Arctic Zero uses Whey Low, a natural sweetener rarely used because of its high price.

The resulting product is fat free, high in protein and low in sugar. In addition, people who are lactose intolerant, or those with celiac disease, type II diabetes and soy allergies can enjoy it without fearing the consequences. Those tired of junky Weight Watchers products, take note.

This innovative product comes in a variety of flavors: vanilla maple, strawberry banana, chocolate and chocolate peanut butter. The tastiest comes down to personal preference.

The chocolate peanut butter sang the sweetest. While stronger on the chocolate front than the peanut butter, it nevertheless nipped a Reese’s craving, and made her late night studying a little less stressful.

Coming in second, the chocolate is as strong as standard milk chocolate and carries none of that maltitol-derived saccharine taste found in sugar-free chocolates.

For the vanilla maple, imagine milk with a chunk of French toast.

While Blood said strawberry banana is the least popular flavor, tasters disagree.

“It tastes like a really cold Jamba Juice,” said Cara Bickers, a junior majoring in biology.

According to Blood, these flavors will soon be joined by cookies and cream, coffee, pumpkin pie and chocolate mint.

But taste is only part of the frozen dessert experience. There is also the creamy-rich silk of real ice cream as it slides down your throat. Arctic Zero makes a respectable effort. It is surprisingly creamy, and goes down incredibly smooth. Think of a harder version of soft-serve.

Where the mask comes off, however, is when you leave it on the counter too long. In a half-melted state, the silk takes on a slimy quality, most likely from the plant fiber. And if it’s gone, it’s gone — like most ice creams, Arctic Zero cannot recover texturally from a total meltdown.

At the same time, Arctic Zero is an ice cream alternative, not ice cream. Tasters agreed they would not mistake it for the real thing.

“It’s a good alternative, but it’s nothing I would crave,” said Jessica Choi, a junior majoring in business administration. “I’d be down to eat it before rugby practice.”

But Arctic Zero is a good way to satisfy a craving for something cold and creamy and makes a fitting accompaniment for prime-time television.

It won’t break the bank, either. Most stores carrying Arctic Zero charge between $3.50 and $3.89 per pint, while Ben & Jerry typically charges $3.79 per pint.

Though people now rely on Amazon and select natural stores for their Arctic Zero fix, the creators are rapidly expanding. It just debuted in Whole Foods and has entered the testing phase in Vons and Safeway. It won’t be long before Arctic Zero is as accessible as Skinny Cow.

“Fifteen percent [of the market] is healthy, alternative-type ice cream,” Blood said. “We’re in that 15 percent niche. That’s all we’re interested in being, but we figure we are a superior alternative to all those sugar alcohols and chemical-laden ice cream products that are out there.”

Even with limited distribution, Arctic Zero has its followers, from professional bodybuilders to the Olympic beach volleyball team.

Arctic Zero has many interesting possibilities — one can mix it into regular ice cream to increase volume or even use it for milkshakes. Since no one has yet to test Arctic Zero’s culinary versatility, an enchanting window of possibility remains.

Even though Arctic Zero’s future is wide open, some just care for the present.

“It’s good for a sleepover,” Gish said. “You can eat the whole thing and not feel fat in the morning.”

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