The inside scoop on lower-calorie ice cream

“Save the bowl. You’re going to want the whole pint,” urges Halo Top, which proudly displays its “calories per pint” front and center.

Gee, thanks. Just what we needed: a nudge to eat a 280-to-360-calorie pint of ice cream.

That said, Halo Top and its look-alikes—Breyers Delights and Enlightened—do shave roughly a quarter of the calories and half the sugar off a typical light ice cream like Dreyer’s or Edy’s Slow Churned. The three newbies average just 80-or-so calories and 6-or-so grams of sugar per half cup.

What’s more, their protein (5 to 7 grams) doubles light ice cream’s. And some flavors hit 15 to 20 percent of a day’s calcium. Based on those numbers, all three are better choices than your typical lower-calorie ice cream.

How do they do it? Milk protein concentrate or isolate boosts the protein and calcium. And stevia extract, erythritol, and/or monk fruit extract cuts calories and replaces some sugar. So do sweet-tasting processed fibers like isomaltooligosaccharides and soluble corn fiber.

What about taste? It depends on the flavor and the taster. Overall, Breyers Delights are a safer bet than Halo. Enlightened was our least favorite.

If you want to try Halo Top, start with the classics Chocolate, Mint Chip, or Peanut Butter Cup. Be wary of off-the-wall flavors like Pancakes & Waffles, Chocolate Covered Banana, or Mochi Green Tea. All three missed the taste mark.

Gelato fan? Try Talenti Crafted with Less Sugar.  For just 120 calories per half cup—about half of Talenti’s regular gelato—they’re a steal.

Tip: Let your pint sit out for 5 to 10 minutes to soften, since lower-sugar, lower- fat ice creams freeze harder.

What to look for

No matter how you scoop it, ice cream is dessert. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a better choice. Here’s what to check on the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list:

Serving size. On most Nutrition Facts labels, a serving of ice cream is just half a cup. (That’s smaller than a tennis ball.) But on the new labels—the ones with calories in big print and added sugars—a serving is two-thirds of a cup, to reflect our expanding portion sizes. If you—like many Americans—don’t stop at half (or two-thirds of) a cup, don’t forget to multiply the calories, added sugar, etc.

Calories. Look for no more than 150 calories in half a cup (or 200 in two-thirds of a cup). Super-premium ice creams like Ben & Jerry’s pack 250 to 350 calories into half a cup, or up to 450 in two-thirds of a cup. May-day!

Saturated fat. Look for no more than 2½ grams per half cup. With super premiums at 10 grams or so, that’s a bargain.

Added sugars. Not many foods bear the new Nutrition Facts label, which lists added sugar, yet. (We estimate that roughly three-quarters of the sugar in most ice cream is added, not naturally occurring milk sugar.) But watching calories helps put a lid on added sugar.

Low-calorie sweeteners. Avoid unsafe acesulfame potassium, aspartame, or sucralose. Stevia leaf and monk fruit extract are okay. (Monk fruit extract hasn’t been well tested in animals, but the fruit has been eaten in China for centuries.) So are maltitol, sorbitol, and other sugar alcohols, though they can cause diarrhea or—for erythritol—nausea if you eat too much.

The information in this post appeared in the May 2018 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.

Photos: Jennifer Urban/CSPI. doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government donations. Any products recommended by have been vetted by our staff of nutritionists and are not advertisements by the manufacturers.


Find this article interesting and useful?
Nutrition Action Healthletter subscribers regularly get sound, timely information about staying healthy with diet and exercise, delicious recipes, and detailed analyses of the healthy and unhealthy foods in supermarkets and restaurants. If you don’t already subscribe to the world’s most popular nutrition newsletter, click here to join hundreds of thousands of fellow health-minded consumers.

Have a comment, question, or idea?
Send us an email at While we can’t respond to every email, we’ll be sure to read your message.