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Put the Freeze on Portion Control

One of the biggest issues in preventing an occasional cool treat from derailing your diet is portion control.

Contrary to popular belief, a pint of ice cream -- no matter how healthy it may be -- is NOT intended to be eaten at as a single serving in front of the TV. Those nutrition facts printed on the side are based on a single, half-cup (4-ounce) serving, which translates to four servings per pint.

"I don't know how many people that live in America that can go into a container of, whether it be light ice cream, fat-free ice cream, frozen yogurt, or a low-carb dessert, and pull out a half of a cup," says Jackson. "Most of the time there is a crater on the side so you want to clean up and eat that, or there's some on the lid so you have to eat that. It's very difficult to control portions yourself."

That's why it's usually better for people who are watching their weight to keep things in the freezer that are already portion-controlled, such as frozen fruit bars, ice cream sandwiches and cones, or small ice cream cups.

"As much as you can opt for things that are in a sandwich, a bar, or something that's already been portioned, you're going to be far more likely to eat a portion-controlled item than one you [scooped] yourself," says Jackson.

If you want to eyeball a half-cup serving of ice cream, Jackson recommends visualizing half a tennis ball, which isn't a portion widely served in scoop shops unless you order a kiddie cone or make a special request.

Homemade Heat Busters

It's not unusual for low-carb and low-fat ice creams to cost significantly more than plain old ice cream. But that doesn't mean that your pocketbook has to suffer for the sake of your stomach.

Jackson and Dorfman recommend stocking the freezer with these low-cal and healthy homemade treats to take the edge off even the hottest days:

  • Frozen unsweetened fruits: Blueberries, grapes, strawberries, and raspberries are great by themselves or topped with a little low-fat yogurt.
  • Homemade fruit and cream pops: Fill small, Dixie-style, cups or a Popsicle mold with a blend of fruit and low-fat vanilla yogurt.
  • Banana chips: Slice and freeze bananas, 12 slices to a bag, to enjoy a cold, creamy treat.
  • Chilly chocolate chips: A tablespoon of chocolate chips has about 70 calories and offers a cool, quick chocolate fix.
  • Cold S'mores cups: Place a graham cracker, one large marshmallow, and a few chocolate chips in a small cup and microwave for a few seconds, then freeze.
  • Diet-friendly floats: Mix a scoop of low-fat vanilla ice cream with diet root beer for a root beer float.
  • Coffee Coolers: Blend ice with coffee, cocoa, and low-calorie sweetener to taste for a 15- rather than 500-calorie coffeehouse-style cooler.

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