Summer's Best Frozen DessertsBy law, a "light" scoop must sport half the fat or one-third less calories than its full fat counterpart. But "light" is a relative term since regular ice creams start out all across the board when it comes to fat and calories. So we set parameters for the kind of frozen assets that make a "light" scoop skinny enough for a nightly summer treat. Taste testing included national brands (no local dairies) like Breyers, Edy's/Dreyer's, Haagen Daz, Ben & Jerry's, Healthy Choice, and Blue Bunny. In our book, taste and nutrition are both high priority, so not every brand made the final cut. Here are our top picks.
Our scoop stats per ½ cup: 150 calories; 5 grams fat (3 grams saturated) and no partially hydrogenated oils; less than 4 teaspoons (17g) sugar
Best Light Vanilla: Breyers® Smooth & Dreamy™ ½ the Fat Creamy Vanilla Ice CreamArtificial vanilla flavors and strange aftertastes are all too common with many light vanillas, particularly budget brands. But time and again Breyers® proves a taste winner with its authentic vanilla flavor. Light on calories and fat, it's the perfect skinny scoop to crown fresh baked brownies or summer's best cherry pie.
Frozen assets per ½ cup: 110 calories, 3.5g fat, 2g sat fat, 16g sugars
Best Light Chocolate: Edy's/Dreyer's® Slow Churned® Rich & Creamy Chocolate Ice CreamCraving chocolate? Edy's/Dreyer's® slow churn technology takes smaller amounts of fat and disperses them evenly to deliver a creamy chocolate hit in every bite. At 100 calories a scoop, there's plenty of room to add toasted chopped nuts or stir in a few mini chocolate chips and create your own healthier mix-ins, all without breaking the fat and calorie bank.
Frozen assets per ½ cup: 100 calories, 3.5g fat, 2g sat fat, 13g sugars
Best Light Frozen Yogurt: Blue Bunny® All Natural Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Frozen YogurtBlue Bunny's® skinny all-natural blend of chocolate liquor, concentrated cherry juices, and cherry halves helps keep the lid on fat and calories while delivering healthy yogurt cultures. Also noteworthy: a short ingredient list minus all the freaky additives some light brands employ to keep scoops creamy. Look for the new 2-serving size Personals™ portion.
Frozen assets per ½ cup: 120 calories, 3g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 17g sugars
Best Sorbet: Whole Fruit® Mango SorbetThis nifty tropical treat from Whole Fruit® hits your taste cylinders with an intense, but not too sweet, flavor. Close your eyes and it's almost like eating a fresh juicy mango complete with a quarter's day supply of vitamin A. Sugar numbers exceed our limit, but a big chunk of that is natural sugar since the main ingredient is mango puree. Runner up: Häagen Daz® Strawberry Sorbet.
Frozen assets per ½ cup: 150 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 36g sugars
Best Fat Free: Breyers® Smooth & Dreamy™ Fat Free Chocolate Fudge BrownieWhen first introduced, Breyers® Slow Churn Fat Free Ice Creams fooled tasters at Consumer Reports who couldn't believe they were sampling something fat free. To our taste, this ice cream (and the little brownie bits) sport a chewier fudgsicle-like texture that might turn off a diehard ice-cream purist. One downside: the laundry list of gums and additives it takes to create this fancy little faux fat treat.
For just 50 calories, serve your favorite scoop in one of these portion-controlled waffle bowls.
Frozen assets per ½ cup: 110 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 15g sugars
Best Premium Light: Ben & Jerry's® Half Baked® Fro YoMcMansions of the ice cream world, premium scoops deliver more of everything—more fat, more calories, and more indulgent mix-ins. So trimming half the fat puts them on par with regular ice creams, not in our light scoop territory. This one from Ben & Jerry's® is almost an exception. Slashing 10 grams of fat from its popular "Half Baked" cookie dough flavor produces a slightly sweeter knock-off of the original. This is our pick for “worth-the-splurge” if premium, goodie-filled scoops are your thing. It's higher in calories and sugar than our benchmark, so go easy.
Frozen assets per ½ cup: 200 calories, 3g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 24g sugars
Best Regular Scoop That's Naturally Light: Breyers® All Natural Peach Ice CreamSwirling chunks of sweet fresh peaches into a creamy regular ice cream is one way to capture some of the best flavors of summer. Turns out it also helps lighten the fat and calorie load just enough that this regular scoop from Breyers® easily meets our guidelines for light. All we can say is peachy keen.
Frozen assets per ½ cup: 120 calories, 4.5g fat, 3g sat fat, 16g sugars
Ice Cream Buying TipsLucky for us, ice cream producers tinkered with their formulas to create a slow churn process that distributes fat particles evenly throughout a scoop, making something that's light but tastes as creamy and delicious as something full fat. Looking for more flavor choices? Keep two things in mind. First, avoid treats made with heart-damaging trans fat, aka partially hydrogenated oils. And second, be mindful of calories; they do add up.
The Best Light Scoops of Summer
These cool and creamy light desserts win our vote for summer's best store-bought ice creams, frozen yogurts, and sorbet. By: Maureen Callahan, RD