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Ice cream cones and popsicles are summertime staples, but how many calories and how much sugar is in your dessert?
Some of the ice cream and popsicles within reach are dipped in chocolate, rolled in chopped peanuts or come with gooey caramel centres. Others promise they’re fat-free, low in calories and packed with calcium. Shopping in the ice cream aisle at the grocery store can be misleading.
“Don’t be swayed by common tricks on the front of the box, like pictures of fruit or happy cows, or claims that the treats are ‘natural’ and gluten-free. You have to look beyond the marketing and design to what really matters,” Christy Brissette, a Toronto-based registered dietitian and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition, told Global News.
READ MORE: How much sugar and how many calories are in your summertime drink?
“Buyer beware — many of these treats may be serving up more fat and sugar than you think,” warned Andrea Miller, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Dietitians of Canada.
Here’s what the experts had to say about popular frozen treats Global News picked out:
“These are super high in fat and sugar. If Drumsticks are your treat of choice, choose them without the chocolate topping and caramel filling. Even better, look for the mini Drumsticks because they have all the flavour but in a smaller portion,” Miller said.
Brissette called this option “one of the worst.” Twenty-seven grams of sugar is almost half of a cup.
Both experts say popsicles are a reasonable choice at 45 calories a piece. There’s no fat and it’s low in sugar, too.
“Not bad if you’re trying to wean off of higher calorie sugary treats. They do have four different types of sugar in the ingredients list so it’s definitely not a healthy option,” Brissette noted.
There’s vitamin C in these popsicles, too, but they should not be mistaken as a serving of fruit, Miller said.
Miller calls these a “good choice,” and notes that they come with a bit of calcium.
Brissette says they come with three grams of protein, too. That’s not a lot but it’s more than the other offerings. She likes that they’ve scrapped artificial flavours, colours and sweeteners, but the ingredients list names five different types of sugar.
“Don’t let the marketing fool you — this isn’t something to have all the time. It’s a treat,” Brissette said.
“This is high in fat and sugar. These little ice cream cartons give the impression that you can grab a spoon and go…but keep in mind, there are four servings of ice cream in this little container,” Miller advised.
Brissette likes that B&J’s has real ingredients, but the calories, saturated fat and trans fat are “off the charts.” Twenty-four grams of sugar is akin to eating six tablespoons, she said.
“At only 80 calories each, these can help you control calories when you’re craving a chocolatey treat,” Brissette says. Eleven grams of sugar is like eating a tablespoon of sugar, though.
But Miller says Fudgsicles are a better choice than chocolate coated ice cream. It’s lower in fat and relatively low in sugar.
“If you’re looking to cut calories but still want ice cream and this seems to scratch that itch, have it once in a while,” Brissette said.
Miller warned that frozen yogurt comes with a “health halo.” It sounds healthy because it’s low in fat and calories, especially when it’s stacked next to ice cream. But this doesn’t mean we should load up our bowls and cones.
In some cases, frozen yogurt is packed with sugar.
Brissette calls this “one of the worst choices” because of its sugar and trans fat content.
“Seventeen grams of sugar is like sitting down and eating ¼ cup of sugar. You probably wouldn’t do that, would you?”
If you’re going to indulge anyway, try to forgo the treats like a waffle cone, chocolate sauce and sprinkles on top, Miller said. Instead, put the half cup serving in a big bowl and load it up with fresh or frozen fruit, she said.
Miller calls this a “refreshing choice” because there’s no fat, and is reasonable — as far as the frozen treats go — in sugar content. But don’t let the fruit on the label fool you, there’s no actual fruit in this, she said.
READ MORE: Trying not to overeat? Here’s what your portion sizes should look like
Brissette’s concern is that the sorbet is “loaded with gums and starches” to make the dessert fluffy like ice cream. There are four types of sugar and preservatives, such as sodium benzoate, in the sorbet, too.
What to look for when you’re shopping for ice cream and Popsicles
Decide what your priorities are: Some consumers may be watching their weight, so calories come into play, while others are diabetic or need to manage cholesterol so sugar and fat content are key, according to Laurie Barker Jackson, a Dartmouth, N.S.-based registered dietitian.
“When you’re reading labels, there are so many options so you need to determine what your goals are,” she told Global News.
Watch your portion sizes: Your container of ice cream may say it’s 100 calories for a half of a cup but how many servings are you eating in a sitting? Don’t be fooled by a measly portion size on the label — be conscious of how much you’re eating for dessert.
Pre-portioned desserts, such as Popsicles, or individual-sized ice cream containers may be safer options if you tend to overindulge. Some manufacturers make smaller portions of their full-sized products, too.
READ MORE: This food will make you feel fuller if you’re trying to lose weight
Don’t forget the add-ons: Ice cream cones, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, chocolate chips. All of these toppings will add onto your calorie count and the amount of sugar you’re eating. Your best bet is to stick to a bowl and top your ice cream with frozen fruit.
Frozen yogurt or full fat ice cream? Frozen yogurt is made with yogurt instead of cream so it may be lower in fat and calories, but double check to make sure it isn’t compensating by doubling up on sugar.
“It’s one of those things where you can’t focus on just one component of the nutrition facts label,” Barker Jackson said.
“If you’re an ice cream fan, go for the real thing. Have half of a cup of ice cream and really enjoy it rather than eating a tub of sugary frozen yogurt,” Brissette advised.
READ MORE: Follow this one tip if you’re trying to lose weight, study suggests
Sorbet and sherbet are better choices stacked next to ice cream and gelato, the experts say. They’re made with fruit, water and sugar, or low fat milk and generally have less fat than ice cream.
Can you make it at home? The experts say there are plenty of recipes online for making a frozen desserts right out of your kitchen. Frozen yogurt, for example, can be made using Greek yogurt and blended fruit of your choice. Barker Jackson layers her frozen yogurt with blended berries then sets the treat in the freezer. Popsicles can be whipped up using a mixture of your favourite fruit paired with milk or juice, too.
(Graphics by James Waters/Global News)
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