The Diet Detective: Keep Cool and Fit With Healthier Frozen Treats

28 07 2011


By Charles Stuart Platkin

Summer is upon us, and any kind of frozen treat provides welcome relief from the heat. Here’s some information you can use to help choose the healthiest options.

First, here’s a cheat sheet to what the popular frozen desserts are made of:

  • Ice Cream: Ice cream is made with cream, milk, sweeteners, flavorings, stabilizers and emulsifiers. To be shipped in interstate commerce, it must contain at least 10 percent milk fat.
  • Frozen Custard: Also called French ice cream or New York ice cream, frozen custard has egg yolks added.
  • Gelato: Gelato is served in a semi-frozen state similar to “soft-serve” ice cream. However, it’s denser because it contains less air. Typically, gelato has milk and also can contain sweeteners, egg yolks and flavoring.
  • Low-fat Ice Cream: Low-fat ice cream, or ice milk, is made from milk, stabilizers, sweeteners and flavorings and contains not more than three grams of fat per four-ounce serving. Ice creams advertised as “reduced fat” or “light” must have a lower fat content than “regular” ice cream but may not meet the standard for “low-fat.” Soft-serve frozen desserts are similar to low-fat ice cream, but are specially processed.
  • Sherbet: Made with milk, fruit or fruit juice, stabilizers and sweeteners, sherbet has about twice the sweetener as ice cream. It must have one to two percent milk fat.
  • Sorbet: Sorbet and water ices are similar to sherbets but contain no dairy.
  • Frozen Yogurt: Frozen yogurts, containing sweeteners and flavorings, are available in regular and low-fat varieties.

Baskin-Robbins Rocky Road Ice Cream vs. French Vanilla Ice Cream
At 580 calories per cup (two scoops), the Rocky Road is richer than the French Vanilla, but only by 20 calories. Most Baskin-Robbins ice creams ( Cream) range from 240 calories to 320 calories per half cup, with Peanut Butter ‘n Chocolate Ice Cream coming in at the high end. Keep in mind that most of the serving sizes listed on supermarket ice creams are a half cup; however, most people eat at least one to one and a half–that’s about 500-750 calories.

Dairy Queen Blizzard vs. Sundae vs. Baskin-Robbins Banana Split
The medium sundae at Dairy Queen ( has 410 calories, whereas a medium Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard is 790 calories. You think that’s high? The medium Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard is 1,030 calories. A Banana Split Sundae at Baskin-Robbins is 1,030 calories for 20 ounces.

Dairy Queen Vanilla Soft-Serve vs. TCBY Soft-Serve Creamy Frozen Yogurt (96 Percent Fat Free)
TCBY serves up seven ounces at about 240 calories, the same as a small DQ cone. Dairy Queen is famous for those chocolate-dipped cones, but if you go for a large, that’s 670 calories; a medium is 490 calories. The good news is that TCBY offers a four-ounce non-fat soft-serve version for 193 calories. If you go with the TCBY Butter Pecan Perfection Hand-Scooped Frozen Yogurt, a half-cup serving is 110 calories. Dairy Queen also offers low-calorie treats like the 50-calorie DQ Fudge Bar with no sugar added (about 2½ ounces) and the Dairy Queen Vanilla Orange Bar–also with no sugar added–at 60 calories.

Häagen-Dazs Vanilla & Almonds Ice Cream Bars vs. Good Humor Candy Center Crunch vs. Klondike Bar
The Häagen-Dazs bar ( is 320 calories, but most bars are high in calories, including the Starbucks Mud Pie Ice Cream Bar (350 calories for 3 ¼ ounces), and the Dove Dark Chocolate with Vanilla Ice Cream Bar (320 calories for 2 ¾ ounces). The four-ounce Good Humor Candy Center Crunch ( is 310 calories. An Original Vanilla Klondike bar is 250 calories for 4.5 ounces. A Good Humor Chocolate Éclair bar might be your best bet at 220 calories.

Edy’s / Dryer’s Berry Rainbow Sherbet vs. Ciao Bella Vanilla Gelato vs. Italian Ices
Sherbet, made with milk, fruit or fruit juice, stabilizers and sweeteners is typically lower in calories than ice cream. The Berry Rainbow Sherbet is 130 calories per half cup, and the Baskin-Robbins Wild ‘N Reckless Sherbet is 160 calories per half cup.

Gelato is Italian ice cream served in a semi-frozen state, made mostly with milk (not cream), so it can sometimes be lower in calories than premium ice cream. For instance, Old-fashioned Cream Gelato from a famed Italian gelato maker, Grom (, has 215 calories for a small (half cup). Ciao Bella ( Vanilla Gelato is 210 calories for half cup. Italian ices are probably your best bet at only 50 calories per half cup.

Ben & Jerry’s Berried Treasure Sorbet vs. Chocolate Fudge Brownie Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt vs. Chocolate Fudge Brownie Body & Soul
Sorbet, one of the lower-calorie frozen treats on the market, is similar to sherbet (often using fruit) but contains no dairy. Half a cup of the Ben & Jerry’s ( Sorbet is 110 calories, whereas the low-fat frozen yogurt is 190 calories (still better than ice cream). In Body & Soul, Ben & Jerry’s low-calorie line, the Chocolate Fudge Brownie is 180 calories per half cup.

Some of the best sorbets are Häagen-Dazs, which have 120-130 calories per half cup including the fantastic Brazilian Açai Berry Sorbet.

Starbucks Classic Coffee Ice Cream vs. Ben & Jerry’s Organic Vanilla vs. Häagen-Dazs Light Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
At 230 calories per half cup, the Starbucks is actually lower in calories than other premium ice creams. Häagen-Dazs Light Dulce de Leche Ice Cream has 220 calories for the same amount, even though it’s “light.” Surprisingly, all the flavors in Ben & Jerry’s organic line, at 240 calories per half cup, are lower than most of its regular ice creams.

Skinny Cow Fudge Bars vs. Original Fudgsicle vs. Popsicle
The Fudgsicle is only 100 calories per 2.5-ounce bar, and it also comes in a smaller size, which means fewer calories (60 for 1.65 ounces). That’s really a Calorie Bargain. The Skinny Cow Fudge Bars ( are also 100 calories.

Get this: A classic Popsicle only has 45 calories in 1.65 ounces. A Creamsicle has 70 calories. And fruit bars are typically around 80 calories per bar–just make sure they have real fruit. PhillySwirl (, has a number of great-tasting, low-calorie products, including the Phudge Sundae and the Fudge Swirl Stix–57 calories each.

Flying Saucers vs. Good Humor Ice Cream Sandwich vs. Toll House Cookie Sandwich
Good Humor’s Ice Cream Sandwich (the three-ounce version) is only 130 calories, which is great because it’s portion controlled, which makes it a real Calorie Bargain. The worst of all these is the Nestlé Toll House Cookie Sandwich–two cookies with ice cream in the middle–costing 540 calories. Flying Saucers at Carvel are a better bet at 240 calories. And the DQ Sandwich is even less at 190 calories. The best bet is Skinny Cow’s round sandwiches (vanilla ice cream between two big chocolate wafers), which are 140 calories.

Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Flavor Syrup vs. Kraft Cool Whip vs. Sprinkles vs. Cones
Just two tablespoons of U-Bet have 120 calories, whereas two tablespoons of regular Kraft Cool Whip have only 25. Wafer cones have about 20 calories. Sugar cones have 50 to 60 calories, and waffle cones are about 100 to 160 (the chocolate-covered waffle cones can have as many as 320 calories). Sprinkles (two tablespoons): 110 calories.

Charles Stuart Platkin is an Active Expert , nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and Lighten Up (Penguin USA/Razorbill, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at




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