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Celebrate Rocky Road Day with a Healthy Recipe

Rocky Road Day

My oldest daughter (age 11) has informed me that today is “Rocky Road Day,” a day dedicated to the eating of Rocky Road ice cream. Being a mom, I would love to celebrate the day with a big bowl, but as a dietitian, I want to make it healthy as well as fun.

There are two stories about how Rocky Road came to be. According to “Days of the Year,” Rocky Road ice cream was first created in Australia in 1853. Unscrupulous businessmen took confectionery items that had been spoiled by their journey from Europe and mixed them with local nuts as well as low quality chocolate. The name is a reference to the “rocky road” travelers used in order to access gold fields.

Per Wikipedia, Rocky Road was created in March 1929 by William Dreyer in Oakland, CA who cut up walnuts and marshmallows into his chocolate ice cream using his wife’s sewing scissors. Dreyer and partner Joseph Edy gave the flavor its current name to “give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.”

Today, we simply know Rocky Road as a mixture of chocolate ice cream, nuts and marshmallows, sometimes with some chocolate chips thrown in. There are, of course, variations – such as using vanilla ice cream with almonds instead of walnuts.

I completely endorse treats as a part of an overall healthful eating plan (as long as you are focused on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for the most part of the day) but some Rocky Road flavors can be quite calorie-heavy. According to SparkPeople.com, one cup of Breyer’s all-natural Rocky Road Ice Cream contains 300 calories, 34 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of fat.

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But a few of the ingredients do have healthy qualities. For example, using dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate may add some heart-health benefits. Here are a few, from Emaxhealth author Deborah Mitchell:

Benefits of dark chocolate

• A recent BMJ study noted that dark chocolate can lower the occurrence of cardiovascular event such as strokes and heart attacks in people who have metabolic syndrome
• A meta-analysis evaluated the effect of chocolate intake on diabetes, incidence of cardiovascular disease and mortality, and coronary heart disease and found that those who consumed the most chocolate had a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke when compared with those who consumed the least amount.
• Eating chocolate improved muscle function in patients with heart failure and type 2 diabetesin one study
• A Spanish study found that eating dark chocolate reduced damage to the blood vessels in patients with cirrhosis and also lowered blood pressure in the liver.

Nuts also have a combination of nutritional benefits, including protein, fiber, Vitamin E, minerals, and unsaturated fatty acids, making them a healthy addition to any diet. But if you are looking for the greatest bang for your buck, one study found that walnuts have a higher level of antioxidants over other nuts. Almonds, on the other hand, may have the benefit of helping the body fight nasty infections.

Don’t discount the ice cream either for some health benefits. The calcium in dairy is good for the bones, and one study found that dairy protein may even be good for weight loss. Just keep your portions within reason.

So, is Rocky Road your favorite flavor of ice cream? According to a study from Rush University, this can tell us something about your personality. Rocky Road lovers are more likely to be aggressive and engaging – but good listeners.