The RenalTracker Team
March 10, 2021

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. It has been written and vetted by RenalTracker's team of kidney experts and researchers. The same team was awarded the KidneyX Prize organized by the American Society of Nephrology and HHS for pre-dialysis solution in Washington DC in 2019.   

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There are numerous kinds of food in the world. Different cuisines boast unique delicacies, all with their own unique flavor. But when it comes to universal appeal, few food items can compete with one delicious frozen treat.

We're talking about ice cream, of course!

The simple satisfaction of a cold scoop on a hot day is something anyone can enjoy, young or old. And with a plethora of flavors, well, there really is something for everyone.

You probably have one or two favorites of your own, right?

Ice Cream Around the World

And not only is there an endless array of flavors, you’ll find different types of ice cream as well.

You’ve probably heard of gelato from Italy and Indian kulfi. There’s also the Turkish dondurma, which is chewy like taffy and stretches like mozzarella! A similar Middle Eastern frozen treat called booza has been becoming more popular in recent years as well.

Then there’s rolled ice cream, which originally came from Thailand and is known there as i tim pad. Another Asian-inspired favorite is Japanese mochi ice cream, which is a traditional Japanese rice cake with an ice cream filling.

And this is just the top of the list! There are many other frozen treats to be found around the world. Of course, we also can’t forget about the frozen yogurts, sorbets, sherbets, and countless other cold desserts that you can count as part of the ice cream “family.”

But while it may be a global food favorite, ice cream is also at the top of a different list. Unfortunately, it is one of the foods you need to cut back on if you have chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Why Say No to Dairy Ice Cream?

The main issue is that it's a dairy product. Ice cream is usually made from cow's milk. That means it's chock-full of nutrients like protein, potassium, and phosphorus. Although it would be strange to describe it as "salty," ice cream does contain sodium, which is a major component of table salt.

Your body requires a certain amount of these nutrients to function properly. So getting them from ice cream may not sound like a bad thing at all, right?

But actually, if you have kidney disease, you have to limit your intake of these nutrients. Otherwise, you risk negatively impacting your remaining kidney function and damaging your health. 

This is the reason why ice cream isn't exactly the best food choice if you have CKD. Click here to learn more about ice cream and CKD.

But while you may not be going on a scooping spree at your local ice cream parlor any time soon, there are options for you.

4 Renal Diet Ice Cream Brands for CKD

Here's a list of brands you may want to try if you have CKD. These are non-dairy ice cream options, so they would have less protein, potassium, and phosphorus. We've kept an eye on the sodium content too, just for you!

1. Arctic Zero

With a faba bean base, not only is Arctic Zero non-dairy, it's also gluten-free, non-GMO, and kosher. And yes, a “faba bean” is the same thing as a “fava bean” -- Arctic Zero just prefers the spelling closer to the plant’s scientific name: vicia faba.

If you're watching your sugar intake, you'll be happy to know that these frozen desserts have a low glycemic index. They’re also relatively low calorie, ranging from 160 to 320 calories a pint.

There are eleven flavors to choose from, so Arctic Zero also does a good job at providing variety. They have the crowd-favorites, like the aptly named Classic Vanilla. If you’re more adventurous, there are options like Cake Batter and Cherry Chocolate Chunk to try.

The exact nutritional contents vary depending on the flavor. But for reference, here's what you can expect from their Purely Chocolate pint:

  • Serving size: 1/2 cup (58g)
    • 1 pint container = 2 cups = 4 servings
  • Calories: 40 per serving
  • Protein: 1g
  • Sodium: 60mg
  • Potassium: 5mg
  • Phosphorus: 0% of recommended daily value*

*Percent daily value is calculated according to a 2,000 calorie diet. This doesn’t mean there’s no phosphorus in this product. It’s just that the amount is small enough that it comes up to less than 1% of the recommended daily intake for someone on a 2,000 calorie diet.

It’s important to note here that many companies are not required to disclose the phosphorus content of their products.

2. Halo Top

Another non-dairy ice cream contender is Halo Top, which is also vegan and gluten-free. Instead of cow's milk, these desserts are made with coconut milk. Specifically, it's a coconut cream base mixed with water, which reduces the fat content.

There are seven flavors in Halo Top's Dairy-Free Roster, ranging from 280 to 380 calories per pint. And with flavor names like Birthday Cake and Candy Bar, there's a wonderful sense of whimsy to these treats.

Here are the nutrient contents of their Chocolate flavor for comparison:

  • Serving size: 2/3 cup (87g)
    • 1 pint container = 3 servings
  • Calories: 100 per serving
  • Protein: 4g
  • Sodium: 110mg
  • Potassium: 130mg
  • Phosphorus: Not indicated

3. Cado

We've had bean-based and coconut-based options... what could be next? According to vegan frozen dessert brand Cado, it's none other than avocados.

Cado ice creams are non-dairy treats that are gluten-free, non-GMO, and organic. They use avocado fat to recreate the creamy texture of dairy-based competitors.

That avocado fat makes the calorie content higher than other brands on this list. But it still has fewer calories than your average dairy ice cream. And the protein and sodium content is the lowest of the bunch.

Their scrumptiously named Deep Dark Chocolate is well worth a try. Check out the nutrient content here:

  • Serving size: 1/2 cup (75g)
    • 1 pint container = 2 cups = 4 servings
  • Calories: 170 per serving
  • Protein: 1g
  • Sodium: 45mg
  • Potassium: 100mg
  • Phosphorus: Not indicated

4. Breyers Non-Dairy (Not for Diabetics)

If convenience is a deciding factor for you, then Breyers Non-Dairy might be a good choice. This is the brand you're most likely to find in major grocery stores - no long waits and shipping fees!

Breyers currently has four Non-Dairy ice cream flavors, all with an almond milk base. The calorie content is on the high side, mainly because of added sugars. If you have diabetes or are limiting your sugar intake, this would NOT be the best option. 

Learn more from our "Ultimate Guide to Diabetes and Kidney Disease Management" article.

That said, their Chocolate Chocolate Chip has a classic charm that's hard to resist.

  • Serving size: 2/3 cup (99g)
    • 1 quart container = 9 servings
  • Calories: 170 per serving
  • Protein: 2g
  • Sodium: 10mg
  • Potassium: 170mg
  • Phosphorus: Not indicated

Important Kidney Healthy Reminders

We’ve shown you some options that should be a bit more kidney-friendly than your average dairy-based brands.

But before you go celebrate with a nice, cold pint (of ice cream, of course!), we have some reminders for you:

1. Ice cream is a treat, not a necessity.

We’ve shown you healthier alternatives today. But ice cream is still a relatively high-calorie food with only a few nutrients, plus it is considered processed food. There are sugars and fats to watch out for, among other things. So ice cream really shouldn’t be part of your daily diet routine. Think of it as a treat - something you only get to have once in a while. And that’s why it’s special!

On our article about "Kidney-friendly Snacks and Desserts" we listed possible foods you can try.   

2. Stick to the recommended serving sizes.

When it comes down to it, quantity is what will make or break your diet. No matter how low sodium, potassium, or phosphorus a food item is, it can still take you over your limits if you eat too much. So remember to read the label and stick to the recommended serving size.

And there you have it! We hope this list of ice cream brands for chronic kidney disease has been helpful to you. Always do your research (see links to sources below) and ask your doctor before changing your diet.

Don’t forget our final reminders as you enjoy your first scoop!