鈥淚 need an excuse to eat ice cream,鈥 said no one ever. America鈥檚 obsession with the frozen treat dates back to our founding fathers, whose personal sweet tooths helped make ice cream mainstream. And ever since, people have been experimenting with ways to satisfy our cravings.

In the past few years we鈥檝e seen an explosion of 鈥渉ealthy鈥 ice creams 鈥 there are enough high-protein, low-calorie, and vegan versions to appeal to every palate and dietary requirement. Low-calorie favorite Halo Top has become the best-selling pint in America, and even traditionally indulgent Ben and Jerry鈥檚 now has light and dairy-free options. Despite all that, it鈥檚 still a bit of a stretch to call ice cream a healthy food. One brand, Snow Monkey, wants to change that.

Snow Monkey was born when Rachel Geicke and Mariana Ferreira, two female entrepreneurs and former collegiate athletes, weren鈥檛 able to find an indulgent treat that also satisfied their nutritional needs, so they decided to make their own. The result is what they call a 鈥渟uperfood ice treat,鈥 a dairy-free, vegan, and paleo-friendly ice cream alternative that could become part of your new morning meal. It uses only natural-based ingredients such as banana puree, fruit, and hemp seeds, making it an ideal base for a chia bowl or protein shake and giving you a perfectly acceptable excuse to eat ice cream for breakfast.

While other brands slash calorie counts by adding artificial sweeteners and filler chemicals, Snow Monkey focuses on plant-based ingredients, protein, fiber, and superfoods. In developing their recipes, Geicke and Ferreira researched a number of superfoods and their benefits and landed on five delicious flavors (each has 130-135 calories and 7g of protein per serving):

  • Goji Berry: Goji berries are low-calorie, low-sugar, and packed with antioxidants that promote skin and eye health.
  • Matcha: Matcha contains 17 times more antioxidants than blueberries and 60 times more than spinach. Other聽reported benefits include boosting your immune system, protecting your cells from DNA damage, and aiding digestion.
  • Passion Fruit: The tropical fruit is a great source of soluble fiber, which helps avoid spikes in blood sugar. It is also rich in vitamins and anti-inflammatory antioxidants that help your immune system.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon has been shown to help control blood sugar. Ceylon cinnamon, which tends to be healthier than the more common Cassia cinnamon, has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, and it鈥檚 low in coumarin, a polyphenol known to cause inflammation in the liver.
  • Cacao: Cacao, the natural, minimally processed form of chocolate, contains flavonoids (also found in green vegetables and fruits), which have been shown to help prevent various afflictions such as cardiovascular disease.

When life gives you watermelons, make Snow Monkey bowls out of them.

A post shared by Snow Monkey (@eatsnowmonkey) on

Geicke and Ferreria are careful to point out that they don鈥檛 claim their products have medicinal properties, but that the superfoods in Snow Monkey were selected for their 鈥渋ndividual nutritional benefits and the potential benefits they could offer consumers even in low doses.鈥 Every ingredient was carefully chosen for each pint of Snow Monkey to provide nutrients and prevent empty calories. For example, all of the sugar is either from natural fruit ingredients or maple syrup, which is an unrefined natural sweetener with antioxidant properties. The passion fruit flavor has turmeric 鈥渘ot necessarily because it needed it taste-wise, but because it went well with the flavor profile and turmeric is an anti-inflammatory goldmine. So, we thought, 鈥榃hy not include it?'鈥

Since Geicke and Ferreria both have athletic backgrounds, they also developed Snow Monkey to complement an active lifestyle as pre- or post-workout fuel. Say the founders, 鈥淪now Monkey is packed with antioxidants, fiber, and Manitoba Harvest hemp. As one of the only complete plant-based proteins, hemp contains all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential ones that your body cannot produce, and allows athletes flexibility to incorporate protein into their diets at any meal, while providing heart and bone strength, muscle recovery, and digestion benefits.鈥

Make no mistake: If you鈥檙e a die-hard pure ice cream enthusiast, no light version is going to be a direct substitute. But Snow Monkey is deceptively tasty for a healthy treat and won鈥檛 give you guilt pangs or a sugar coma afterward, which means you can go ahead and eat it anytime, whether it鈥檚 for a snack, dinner, dessert, or yes, even breakfast. And if you鈥檙e not comfortable carrying around a pint of ice cream first in the morning, here are a couple of recipes to help:

Snow Monkey Chia Bowl (courtesy of Alix Turoff, RD)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of any Snow Monkey flavor
  • 1 Tablespoon聽of chia seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon聽of nut butter

Instructions:

Scoop the Snow Monkey into a bowl and top with the nut butter and chia seeds.

Post-Workout Cacao Protein Shake

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Blend all the ingredients in a blender, pour into a cup, and enjoy!

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(Featured photo via @eatsnowmonkey)