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When it comes to eating healthy, you might think you have to skip dessert. (Example: A slice of ice cream desserts like Banana Split Supreme is reserved solely for cheat day.) But in today’s ever-changing food scene, this sentiment may be outmoded! Lower-calorie treats like Halo Top ice cream and frozen yogurt have become widely popular. But with so many options to choose from, it can be hard to determine which is best for your diet—and which are too good to be true.
Follow along as we break down the most popular frozen desserts and what they mean for your health.
Ah, froyo! It’s such a trendy dessert. We’ve seen frozen yogurt shops like Sweet Frog, Yogurtland and Pinkberry crop up in almost every city, touting their low-fat, sugar-free or non-fat offerings. Ounce-per-ounce, the average chocolate frozen yogurt has half the calories and a third of the total fat of the typical chocolate ice cream. But before you head straight to your local froyo place, be aware that any extra toppings can add diet-busting empty calories.
However, getting more yogurt in your diet can add live bacteria, or probiotics, having a positive impact on overall health. Probiotics help with digestion and your immune system. Some companies include live and active bacteria in their frozen yogurt recipe—but watch out, because many brands don’t. Freezing seems to reduce the good bacteria count a little, so for the biggest bang, eat regular yogurt.
Pro tip: For a healthy choice, we recommend making this Frozen Berry & Yogurt Swirls recipe using low-fat yogurt that contains live bacteria.
Low-Fat Ice Cream
Halo Top, Arctic Circle—and even Breyer’s—are all offering low-calorie, low-fat alternatives to ice cream. When compared to traditional ice creams, Halo Top offers about a quarter of the calories of Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Dazs flavors. The brand also offers a fraction of the fat. It’s worth noting that Halo Top, in particular, sweetens their flavors using organic stevia, a sugar-free product. That’s a win for diabetics and eco-friendly consumers.
Heads up: Because many of these ice creams are sold in personal pint-sized containers, you may end up overindulging by accident. Think: An entire pint of Halo Top ice cream can add up to 300 calories (and 10g of fat). That’s just like eating a Butterfinger candy bar! If you prefer to make your own ice cream, and control the ingredients, learn how to make homemade ice cream or how to make ice cream in a bag.
Borrowed from the boot country, Italy, gelato is ice-cream’s richer and more densely flavored cousin. Gelato typically offers fewer calories, less sugar and lower fat content per serving than ice cream. The typical 3.5 oz. serving of vanilla gelato contains 90 calories and 3 grams of fat, compared to 125 calories and 7 grams of fat in the average vanilla ice cream. However, because this is a fairly dense dessert, those calories can stack up fast. Portion control is a must if you plan on digging into this cool dessert when you’re on a diet.
In regard to added sugar, it’s important to note that gelato varieties are often made using real fruit or fruit juice. Some might consider the addition of natural fruit ingredients to be of nutritional value, but remember that fruit may increase the amount carbohydrates (that’s sugars) per serving. Always check the nutrition label first if you’re concerned.
Don’t miss our full list of frozen treats from around the world!
The Final Verdict
Which frozen dessert is healthiest? It depends on what you call “healthy.” Each option has its benefits and a few pitfalls to look out for. Here’s what we’ve concluded:
- If you’re counting calories: Low-fat ice cream may be your best best. Just make sure you scoop out a small portion!
- If you’re a fan of flavor: Just small serving of gelato may satisfy your sweet tooth without wrecking your diet.
- If you’re looking for extra benefits: The probiotics found in certain frozen yogurt brands can have some pay-offs for your health.
We’d gladly tack on a few extra calories if it means sharing a homemade dessert with the people we love!