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Frozen desserts fatten up. (Brand-Name Rating).

Remember when choosing an ice cream boiled down to vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or orange sherbet? For excitement, you might get to dig your flat wooden spoon into a Dixie Cup with two flavors. To save money, nearly all companies added the least milkfat allowed by law.

In the 1970s, premiums hit the scene. Haagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry's, and others figured out that people would pay twice as much for ice cream that was twice as fatty.

But in the '80s, the premium craze ran smack up against the low-fat phenomenon. Premiums stayed popular, but (by-now-legal) fat-free, low-fat, and light ice creams were everywhere.

That is, until the '90s, when people figured out that low-fat ice cream wasn't low-calorie ... and often didn't taste so good.

Now there's a new trend: Ads and the media have convinced many people that they deserve to indulge. So companies have been dumping brownies, cookie dough, chocolate, nuts, and candy into their ice creams. Where does that leave us?

Eating 660 calories and more than a day's saturated fat in each cup of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby, that's where.

One Scoop or Two?

Here's a guide to the frozen-dessert aisle, category by category. Our Best Bites have no more than 300 calories and two grams of saturated fat per cup. Honorable Mentions can have three or four grams of sat fat. We couldn't set a limit on sugar because labels only list total sugar, which includes added sugar plus the naturally occurring sugar in the milk and any fruit in the ice cream, sorbet, etc. But we did disqualify products made with artificial sweeteners, which need further safety testing.

A word to the wise: Labels give calories, saturated fat, calcium, and other numbers for just half a cup--slightly less than the size of a tennis ball. One cup (two scoops) is a more realistic serving for most people, so that's what we've used in our chart. If you're a one-scooper, cut our numbers in half. (Want less to seem like more? Serve your ice cream in a cone or in the small bowls that people typically use for pudding.)

Keep in mind that--unlike sorbets, sherbets, and most soy desserts--ice creams and frozen yogurts are a decent source or calcium. They average about 200 mg per cup. That's 20 percent of a day's worth. Some frozen yogurts--like Haagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry's, Mayfield, and Stonyfield Farm--hit 300 to 400 mg. And, thanks to added calcium, Breyers Calcium Rich Natural Vanilla and Dreyer's Frozen Yogurt reach 600 mg. (Dreyer's is called Edy's in the eastern U.S.) Think of them as dessert plus a calcium supplement rolled into one.

Super-Fatty Ice Cream

Ice creams don't come with the words "super fatty" on their labels. But you're probably holding one if a pint costs as much as another brand's half gallon.

Most people know that upscale ice cream is a splurge. But they may not know how much of a splurge. A cup of Ben & Jerry's World's Best Vanilla has 500 calories and 32 grams of fat, 22 of them saturated. That's two grams more than an entire day's worth of sat fat. Expect about the same from vanillas made by Haagen-Dazs, Stonyfield Farm, and Dreyer's or Edy's Dreamery line. Ditto for some "gelatos" (that's Italian for ice creams) like Howler's.

But those numbers, hefty as they are, apply to vanilla, chocolate, coffee, strawberry, and other nothing-but-ice-cream flavors. Once companies start adding calorie-dense extras like fudge, truffles, caramel, brownies, and toffee, you're lucky to get away with only 500 calories a cup. It's this new "ice-cream-plus" category that will put you into plus-size clothing.

Ben & Jerry's, Godiva, Haagen-Dazs, and Dreyer's or Edy's Dreamery line all load some of their flavors with enough extras to deliver around 600 calories a cup. Haagen-Dazs's Chocolate Peanut Butter hits 720 calories. You could dig into a Bic Mac instead (not that we'd recommend it) and save 125 calories plus half a day's saturated fat.

Since most of us non-athletes should be eating 2,000 calories a day, dropping 500 to 600+ on a cup of ice cream is one heckuva splurge.

Regular Ice Cream

Breyers is a typical "regular" ice cream. It's got less fat than the higher-priced ice creams because it's got more air and less cream. Breyers's regular vanilla clocks in at 280 calories a cup and 18 grams of fat, ten of them saturated. So do vanillas from Dreyer's or Edy's Grand or Homemade lines, Green's, and Turkey Hill.

When the Oreos, M&Ms, Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and other extras start dropping in, the numbers climb into the 300s. A few--like Dreyer's or Edy's Peanut Butter Twix--hit 420 calories. Think of them as a sirloin steak in a cone.

Light Ice Cream

"Light" ice creams typically have half the fat of regulars. They're not a bad choice if low-fat ice creams leave you cold. The calories drop to about 200 for vanilla, and stay in the high 200s for the fancier flavors.

But the real savings may not show up until a future check-up, when your doctor is impressed with your youthful arteries. Lights rarely have more than six grams of saturated fat per cup, and some have only three or four grams--enough to win an Honorable Mention.

Among our favorites: Breyers All Natural Light Natural Vanilla had us thinking full-fat. Ditto for the company's custardy Light French Vanilla and Light Vanilla-Chocolate-Strawberry. And if you like "extras" in your ice cream, try Dreyer's or Edy's Grand Light Cookies 'N Cream.

Frozen Yogurt

Don't assume that frozen yogurt is low in calories. Thanks to extras and less air, Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs's frozen yogurts typically start with calories in the mid-300s and end in the mid-400s. Sat fat ranges from three to eight grams per cup--nowhere near as bad as those companies' ice creams, but not exactly diet food.

Ben & Jerry's Phish Food or Haagen-Dazs's Chocolate Chocolate Chip, for example, can run you 460 calories a cup and eight grams of saturated fat. That's ordinary Breyers Natural Strawberry ice cream plus 200 calories.

But Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs are the exceptions. Most "regular" frozen yogurts have slightly less fat and slightly more sugar than light ice creams. Breyers Natural Vanilla, for example, has 240 calories and six grams of fat, just three of them saturated, which gets it an Honorable Mention.

And the majority of frozen yogurts aren't regular. They're low-fat or fat-free, which knocks the calories down to the mid-200s and the sat fat to either Best Bite or Honorable Mention range.

Among our favorites: Breyers Vanilla-Chocolate-Strawberry, Cascadian Farm Chocolate (they could have called it Fudgsicle in a Bucket), Edy's Fat Free Coffee Fudge Sundae, and Turkey Hill Fat Free Mint Cookies 'N Cream.

Low-Fat Ice Cream

You can't find many low-fat ice creams these days. We loved Healthy Choice's entire line, from the Happy Together and Double Karma to the Chocolate Cherry Mambo and Dulce de Leche (all were Best Bites). And Starbucks's fabulous Low Fat Latte missed an Honorable Mention by just 40 calories.

Sorbet & Sherbet

If you can do without the creaminess, go with sorbet. The best ones are made of water, fruit puree, and sugar. But some get the order reversed. For example, Dreyer's or Edy's says its Whole Fruit Boysenberry is "loaded with fruit, not fat." True, it doesn't have any fat. But it doesn't have much fruit either. It has more corn syrup and sugar than boysenberries.

Sorbets' calories typically range from about 150 to the mid-200s. Just watch out for the saturated fat in coconut sorbets. Dreyer's or Edy's Whole Fruit Coconut, for example, has six grams of fat (five of them saturated). That's coconut for you.


If you want to avoid dairy foods, try a frozen dessert made from soy or rice. Don't ask us why, but many of them taste as good as ice cream. They're also low in saturated fat (exceptions: Soy Delicious Purely Decadent Chocolate Obsession and Peanut Butter Zigzag hit six grams per cup).

Just don't expect the soy to protect you from breast or prostate cancer, osteoporosis, or menopausal symptoms (the jury's still out). Also, don't expect to get as much calcium as you'd get in an ice cream or frozen yogurt. And don't assume that non-dairy means "diet."

Soybeans have unsaturated fat that can pump up the calories. A cup of Premium Tofutti, for example, ranges from the mid 300s to the mid 400s. So do the Soy Delicious Purely Decadents. Other brands, like Soy Dream and (non-Decadent) Soy Delicious, stay between 250 and 300 calories. Rice Dream Supreme delivers 300 to 400 per cup. To reach, say, 200 calories, you have to go to Low Fat Tofutti.

Among our favorites: Soy Delicious Fruit Sweetened Raspberry or Carob Peppermint (think frozen Peppermint Patties), Sweet Nothings Chocolate, and Soy Dream Strawberry Swirl.

Can You Say "500 Calories" in Italian?

Haagen-Dazs's line of Gelatos may look lower in fat than ice cream because the first ingredient is skim milk. But the added cream boosts the calories to 500 and the saturated fat to 12 grams per cup. (The serving size you'll see on ice cream containers is only half a cup. We used a more realistic one cup.)

Vitamines Galore

Some sorbets are rich in vitamins. A cup of this one has 80 percent of a day's vitamin A and 20 percent of a day's vitamin C. How to tell? Check the Nutrition Facts on the label.

Soy Fattening

Soy Delicious's Purely Decadent line averages just over 400 calories per cup--too many for a Best Bite. Soy desserts are lower in saturated fat than regular ice cream, but the unsaturated fat in soybeans can give them 100 more calories than a regular ice cream like Dreyer's or Edy's.

The information for this article was compiled by Sarah Wade.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:yummy ice creams
Author:Hurley, Jayne
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Previous Article:A quiz that counts.
Next Article:I scream you scream ... (Brand-Name Rating).

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