Browse the frozen foods section of your local supermarket for a treat that tastes good but won't pack on the pounds and you could very well get brain freeze: Ice cream alone comes in premium, light, reduced-fat, fat-free and sugar-free versions, and then there's frozen yogurt, sherbet, sorbet, ices…you get the picture. Choosing can be daunting-but never fear, I'm about to help you find the best-tasting, healthiest ones around.
The Frozen Facts
We tend to refer to most frozen dairy concoctions as "ice cream," but the FDA actually has strict labeling criteria for this type of dessert:
• Ice cream is a mix of dairy products, and contains at least 10 percent milk fat (but many versions have much more).
• "Reduced fat" ice cream contains at least 25 percent less total fat than the "original product"-which is either an average of leading brands' products, or the company's own.
• "Light" ice cream has at least 50 percent less total fat, or 33 percent fewer calories, than the referenced product.
• "Lowfat" ice cream contains a maximum of 3 grams total fat per 1/2-cup serving.
• "Nonfat" ice cream contains less than 0.5 grams of total fat per 1/2-cup serving.
"Lowfat" and "nonfat" labels are standard, so you know you're getting no more than 3 grams of fat per serving when you see those words. But premium ice creams, such as Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's, have more than 10 percent milk fat, which means that even "reduced fat" or "light" versions can be high in fat (and calories). For example, 1/2 cup of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food light ice cream has 210 calories and 6 grams of fat. That may not sound like a lot, but most flavors of Edy's/Dreyer's Slow Churned, Breyers Smooth & Dreamy, and Turkey Hill light ice creams clock in at about 120 calories per serving and 3 grams of fat.
Is Frozen Yogurt Healthier?
The main difference between frozen yogurt and ice cream is the addition of yogurt cultures, which can help keep up the "good" bacteria levels in your stomach and help prevent digestive issues. Problem is, not all yogurt cultures survive freezing, and since dead ones don't do you any good, you're better off choosing based on taste and fat and calorie content. Many frozen yogurts have the same amount of calories and fat as light ice creams (see my favorite picks below). If you want more "culture" in your diet, go for regular (non-frozen) yogurt with live, active cultures.
Sherbet and Sorbet Sorted Out
Most sherbets and sorbets have about the same number of calories as a "light," "low-fat" or "nonfat" ice cream or frozen yogurt, but what they lack in fat they make up for in sugar, which in my opinion makes them no healthier. They also don't have the calcium and protein content of dairy-based desserts-and I'd rather you pick a treat that has a little nutrition in it. Ices are even worse, because they're just water, sugar and usually artificial coloring. Some brands, such as Whole Fruit Sorbet, contain puréed fruit in the top three ingredients. This can mean they're healthier, as long as they don't have tons of added sugar. The main difference between sherbet and sorbet? Sherbet has a small amount of milk fat (1 or 2 percent) and sometimes a bit of egg white or gelatin for texture. Calorically speaking, these additions don't add up to much, but if you're a vegetarian, or allergic to milk or eggs, this can be quite important.
No Dairy, No Problem
Nondairy frozen desserts (other than sorbets and ices) are usually made with soy or rice milk, or even coconut or hemp milk. They're not healthier than dairy desserts, but they do allow those who need or want to avoid dairy to indulge in one of life's true pleasures (I do scream for ice cream!). Some of the soy-based brands keep a lid on calorie and fat content, but the stats on the rice, coconut and hemp products blew me away. For example, Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss line has 200 to 250 calories, 12 to 18 grams total fat, and 11 to 13 grams saturated fat per 1/2 cup! That's more than even some regular ice creams.
Bauer's Best Bets
Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt
• Breyers Smooth & Dreamy Fat Free
• Breyers Double Churn Light, No Sugar Added
• Blue Bunny Fat Free, No Sugar Added
• Edy's/Dreyer's Slow Churned Light
• Turkey Hill Light Recipe, Fat-Free No Sugar Added Recipe
• Turkey Hill Frozen Yogurt (no Peanut Butter Pie or Chocolate Marshmallow)
• Whole Fruit Strawberry Sorbet
• Julie's Organic Mango Passion Sorbet
• Sharon's Sorbet (except Dutch Chocolate, Coconut and Lemon)
• It's Soy Delicious
• Soy Dream Vanilla and French Vanilla
• Whole Fruit Bars (noCoconut)
• Edy's or Dole Fruit Bars
• Fudgsicle Fat Free, Low Fat and No Sugar Added Bars
• Tofutti Chocolate Fudge Treats
• Skinny Cow Fudge Bars, Truffle Bars, Dippers
On the Go
• McDonald's Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream Cone
• Baskin Robbins BRight Choices (21⁄2-oz scoop)
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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