The Best of the Light Ice Creams

Ready for a healthier treat? Here's a guide to the best of the new light ice cream products.

From the WebMD Archives

Americans love their ice cream - and have ever since Thomas Jefferson brought the recipe for it home from France more than 200 years ago. The combination of sweet taste and creamy texture is in a word, magical. The good news is that you can now find most any flavor you might desire in a low-fat version. And the even better news: Many of these "light" ice cream brands are great-tasting!

All sorts of product lines are now using the new churning technologies, which allow manufacturers to use the same ingredients as in full-fat ice creams while still cutting fat and calories.

You can also find plenty of ice cream treats in which manufacturers have reduced the sugar by adding sugar alcohols. (But keep in mind that sugar alcohols can cause intestinal distress for some people - especially those with irritable bowel syndrome -- if they consume too much of them.)

Do Fat Grams Matter?

Some of the well-known premium (that is, higher-fat) ice cream brands, like Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's, are now making "light" ice creams, too. Of course, their light ice creams can be nearly as high in fat and calories as other brands' regular ice creams.

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Do these richer light ice creams, which have around 8 grams of fat per serving, really taste much better? Well, I've got to say, there are some awesome flavors out there with only around 4 grams of fat. It depends partly on the flavor and the brand, but overall, I don't think you get that much more satisfaction by taking the calories and the fat up a notch.

Some might really enjoy the Slow Churned yogurt blends like Dreyer's/Edy's Cappuccino Chip (with 110 calories and 3.5 grams of fat per serving). Others might be drawn to the Dreyer's/Edy's Loaded Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup (140 calories and 6 grams fat per serving). Both of these taste so good, that I can't imagine that it would that much more enjoyable to eat one of the premium ice creams, with 15 or more grams of fat per serving.

Reading the Label

There are five main things to look for on the label of an ice cream treat. It's not all about fat grams! Per half-cup serving (the standard serving for scoop ice cream), your best bets will have:

  • 4 grams of fat or less
  • Around 120 calories
  • 3 grams or less of saturated fat
  • No more than 10 milligrams cholesterol per serving

15 grams of sugar or less per serving. Many ice creams have almost double this amount.

More Fiber Than Whole-Wheat Crackers?

You might be surprised to learn that some ice cream bars actually have more fiber than a serving of whole-wheat crackers. It seems that 3 to 4 grams of fiber per serving is becoming the nutritional norm in this dessert category. It might help make your serving seem more filling.

There are also a few types of ice cream that have 2 grams of fiber per serving. They include Starbucks Lowfat Ice Cream, Ben & Jerry's Lowfat Frozen Yogurt Strawberries & Cream, and Dreyer's/Edy's Loaded Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup.

Best of the Light Ice Creams

The light ice creams and light ice cream bars in the table below are "best bites" because they had most of what you should be looking for nutritionally. (Those that also were lower in added sugar -- 15 grams or less per serving -- have an asterisk before their names.)

1/2 cupCaloriesFat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Sugars
(g)

Dreyer's/Edy's Slow Churned Yogurt Blends with Live and Active Cultures
*Vanilla10031.51013
*Cappuccino Chip1103.52.51014
Dreyer's/Edy's Slow Churned
*Raspberry Chip Royale120432013
*Cookie Dough1304.532014
Breyers Light
*Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry1003.521013
*Vanilla Bean1003.521014
*Rocky Road1404.52.51016
Ben & Jerry's Lowfat Frozen Yogurt
Strawberries & Cream1503.52.52524
Half Baked18031.52023
Haagen-Dazs Lowfat Frozen Yogurt
Vanilla1802.515022
Vanilla Raspberry Swirl1601.50.52525
Starbucks Lowfat Ice Cream
Latte17031.51023
*also lower in added sugars

BEST BITES: BARS

1 barCaloriesFat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Sugars
(g)

Breyers 100 Calorie Cups
Vanilla Fudge Swirl10011514
Starbucks Bars
Frappuccino Mocha Bar1201.51516
Skinny Cow
Lowfat Fudge Bar10010.5113
Ice Cream Sandwiches (in assorted flavors, such as mint)1401.50.5113
Cone: Vanilla with Caramel15032419
Cone: Mint with fudge15032418
Weight Watchers
Giant Cookies & Cream Bar14051.5<515.5

More Light Ice Cream Choices

Didn't find your favorite on the "Best Bite" chart? Here are some other ice creams that didn't score quite as high nutritionally, but are still pretty healthy for treats. Below that are some less-sugar options you might want to try.

'ALMOST BEST' BITES (ICE CREAMS)

1/2 cupCaloriesFat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Sugars
(g)

Dreyer's Loaded
*Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup140631012
Ben & Jerry's Lighten Up!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough20063.53524
Breyers
*Homemade Vanilla14074.53513
Haagen-Dazs Extra Rich Light
Rocky Road24072.53520
Vanilla Bean200746025
Blueberry Cheesecake23074.56028
Cookie Dough260556028
*also lower in added sugars

LOW-SUGAR BITES

1/2 cupCaloriesFat
(g)
Saturated Fat
(g)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Sugars
(g)

Dreyer's/Edy's Slow Churned No Sugar Added
French Vanilla10031.552
Dreyer's/Edy's Slow Churned
Vanilla with Crunch Bar150866<1
Breyers
No Sugar Added Krunch Bar1509873
Breyers Carb Smart (with Splenda and sugar alcohols) Rocky Road13010553
Almond Bar180151022
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Sources

Published April 27, 2007.

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

SOURCE: The Food Encyclopedia, Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman, Robert Rose Inc., 2006.

© 2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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