The frozen-dessert aisle sure isn’t frozen in time.
Häagen-Dazs now has an Artisan Collection with mix-ins like banana rum swirl. Ben & Jerry’s has a line with a “core” of fillings like peanut butter fudge. And nearly every brand now has a line of gelato.
But if you’re careful, you can still cool off without a calorie, sugar, and saturated fat overload. Some of the best frozen desserts, like yogurts and kefirs, even offer a decent dose of protein and calcium. Here’s the scoop.
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Ready, label readers? Take note:
On Nutrition Facts labels, a serving is just a half cup. That’s less than a tennis ball’s worth of ice cream. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a one-cup serving (based on surveys of what people eat).
So that serving of Häagen-Dazs Butter Pecan may someday jump to 600 calories and 20 grams of saturated fat. Until then, labels will show a half cup. But check your bowl. Need to multiply? Those might not be the best frozen desserts after all.
Super-premium ice creams like Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs hit 250 to 300 calories per half cup. Gelatos typically range from 200 to 250 calories, and regular ice creams are around 150 to 200. With “½ the fat” or “light” ice creams, sorbets, and frozen yogurts, you’re talking 100 to 150 calories. Look for frozen desserts that have no more than 150 calories.
“Fat free” and “no sugar added” ice creams can drop below 100 calories, but most no-sugar-addeds contain acesulfame-potassium, sucralose, or monk fruit extract, sweeteners that need more testing.
Choose frozen desserts that have 2 ½ grams of saturated fat or less. Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs (which often hit 10 grams—half a day’s worth) miss by a mile. And that’s if you stick to just a half cup.
Look for products that have no more than 5 teaspoons of the “sugars” that Nutrition Facts labels list. That number includes the naturally occurring sugar in milk and fruit.
We estimate that most ice creams and frozen yogurts have about 1 teaspoon of milk sugar, which leaves up to 4 teaspoons of added sugars in some of the better options. (They’re better, not best, because 4 teaspoons isn’t far from a day’s limit—6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men.)
What about sorbets and sherbets? It’s hard to estimate how much of their sugar comes from fruit. At least a handful of sorbets—they’re pricier—list fruit or fruit purée (not juice) as the first ingredient.
Read on for our favorite picks among the better frozen yogurts and light ice creams.
Frozen yogurt and kefir:
- Dannon Oikos Greek Frozen Yogurt. They deliver 6 or 7 grams of protein and 20 percent of a day’s calcium—about what’s in non-Greek, non-frozen Dannon Fruit on the Bottom. Yum.
- Lifeway Frozen Kefir. This “tart and refreshing cousin of yogurt” tastes like the tangy yogurts at shops like Pinkberry and Red Mango. For just 90 delicious calories, you get 4 grams of protein and 15 percent of a day’s calcium. (It’s sold at some Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, ShopRite, and Wegmans locations.)
- Häagen-Dazs Frozen Yogurt. They’re a little higher in calories (160 to 180). But if you want creamy frozen yogurt, go no further. Bonus: you’ll get a good dose of calcium (10 to 20 percent of a day’s worth) and protein (5 to 9 grams).
Half the fat of ice cream:
“½ the fat” and “light” lines trim fat and calories…with no more sugar than regular ice creams. What’s not to like?
- Dreyer’s or Edy’s Slow Churned ½ the Fat. Choose from two dozen or so flavors with around 110 calories and 2 grams of sat fat. And so delish.
- Breyers ½ the Fat. All three Breyers ½ the Fat flavors trim calories and saturated fat. But so do 10 of the flavors in Breyers’ regular line.
- Turkey Hill Light Recipe. The company adds enough calcium and vitamin D to its four Light Recipe flavors to reach 20 to 25 percent of a day’s worth. That’s fine…just don’t mistake them for health food.
- Lovin’ Scoopful. Most flavors have no more than 150 calories and 2 ½ grams of sat fat in this line of “gourmet light ice cream” that’s available in the West, Texas, the mid-Atlantic, and most of the Northeast. Mmm.
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