Finding Frozen Novelties That Won't Leave a Trace
by Jayne Hurley & Bonnie Liebman, July/August 2010
It’s hot. It’s humid. Something cold and creamy would sure hit the spot…but not a spot that will show up the next time you’re wearing a bathing suit.
The fact is that few Americans can afford to spend many calories on foods like ice cream bars, cups, and sandwiches. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hoping to lose weight or to not gain more. Once you’ve filled up on fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods, there’s not much room left over for the calories, added sugar, and (in some cases) saturated fat in ice cream bars, etc. That’s why we only awarded Better (not Best) Bites.
Here’s how to find frozen novelties that won’t leave a lasting impression on your body.
Information compiled by Amy Ramsay.
What harm could a chocolate-coated ice cream bar do? A typical one like Klondike Original or Dove Dark Chocolate comes with 250 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat (half a day’s worth) plus 4 teaspoons of added sugar (two-thirds of a day’s allowance for women). You’d have to walk briskly for an hour to burn off those calories.
Häagen-Dazs manages to squeeze 300 calories and 13 grams of sat fat into its Vanilla Dark Chocolate bar. It’s a splurge that your arteries and midriff may remember long after you forget.
If you can’t give up chocolate coating, here’s how to lighten the load:
Lower-fat ice cream. Breyers Smooth & Dreamy ratchets down the calories (to about 130) and the sat fat (to around 4 grams) by using light ice cream and by coating just two-thirds of each bar with chocolate.
Hundred-calorie bars by Klondike and Blue Bunny combine low-fat ice cream with a small (2 oz.) serving, but their chocolate-flavored coating keeps the sat fat at about 5 grams. Ditto for Weight Watchers Dark Chocolate Raspberry and English Toffee Crunch bars.
Less-sugar ice cream. Slashing sugar trims calories, but only Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom bars (100 to 190 calories) and Sweet Freedom Lites (100 calories) are sweetened with sugar alcohols and Splenda, not the questionable artificial sweeteners acesulfame potassium or aspartame. But both lines still deliver 5 to 9 grams of sat fat.
Miniatures. Dove Miniatures and Snickers or Twix Minis have only 60 to 90 calories and around 3 grams of sat fat because they’re small (about 1 oz.). That’s not terrible...if you can eat just one. Don’t confuse them with Häagen-Dazs Snack Size bars, which cram 190 calories and 8 grams of sat fat into a smallish (just under 2 oz.) bar.
If you can do without chocolate coating, our Better Bites trim away even more sugar and sat fat:
Truffle bars. Instead of chocolate coating, Skinny Cow Truffle Bars are drizzled with chocolate, so you get just 1½ grams of sat fat. That—plus a small (2.7 oz.) serving and only about 2 teaspoons of added sugar—keeps the calories at 100. Choose from White Mint (our favorite), Caramel, Chocolate, and French Vanilla.
Coffee bars. If you like light coffee ice cream, try a Weight Watchers Giant Latté Bar. At 4 oz., it’s close in size to a Klondike Original, but it has just 90 calories, as do Healthy Choice (2.5 oz.) Mocha Swirl Bars.
Fudge bars. Skinny Cow, Fudgsicle, Klondike, Weight Watchers, Blue Bunny. Almost any fudge (or “soy fudge”) bar keeps the calories at around 100 and the sat fat at 2 grams or less. Exception: Breyers Carb Smart Fudge Bars clock in at 4½ grams.
Skinny Cow Low Fat Fudge Minis drop to 50 calories because they’re small. And Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Fudge Lites and Fat Free Fudge Bars hover around 50 calories because they’re sweetened with Splenda and the sugar alcohol maltitol.
(Bathroom alert: most sugar alcohols— sorbitol and mannitol are prime offenders—can cause diarrhea in some people.)
A Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich is one heckuva treat. The thick layer of ice-cream-like frozen whey and sugar bookended by two cookies drops 380 calories and 9 grams of saturated fat—plus an estimated 7 teaspoons of added sugar—into your fat cells. The 6 oz. sandwich has the calories of a trimmed 12 oz. sirloin steak.
Breyers, Skinny Cow, Healthy Choice, Good Humor Low Fat, and Weight Watchers drop the sat fat to 2 grams or less and the calories to 150 by using lower-fat ice cream and thinner wafers.
Klondike 100 Calorie sandwiches shave off another 50 calories. And they (like Breyers, all but one Weight Watchers, and some Skinny Cows) contain no partially hydrogenated oil in their wafers. So pick them over Healthy Choice, Good Humor, or the other Skinny Cows, which, we estimate, deliver 0.2 to 0.3 grams of trans fat per sandwich. (That may round down to zero on the labels, but not in your arteries.)
Skinny Cow adds extra calcium to some of its sandwiches, and inulin to all of them. But so far, there’s no evidence that “isolated” fibers like inulin and polydextrose help keep you regular or reduce your risk of disease like the intact fiber in whole grains does.
“Our luscious, yet light cheesecakeflavored ice cream is now available in your own personal serving,” says the Blue Bunny Web site about one of its Personals Light Ice Cream cups.
If it’s a “personal serving,” why do the calories and other Nutrition Facts apply to only half the container? Are you supposed to share? Leave half for later? Surely, Blue Bunny didn’t want consumers to mistakenly believe that it’s the entire container—rather than half a container—that has just 100 to 130 calories.
Individual cups are all the rage. If they keep you from scooping out more than one serving from a tub, that’s a plus. Just beware that most actually hold about ¾ cup (6 oz.) of ice cream, which is more than the petite ½-cup (4 oz.) serving that’s listed on ice cream pints and quarts.
The ¾-cup serving is one reason why no ice cream cups met our 100-calorie limit for a Better Bite rating. Most Edy’s or Dreyer’s Slow Churned Light ice cream, Slow Churned Yogurt Blends, and Fun Flavors, for example, pack around 200 calories.
Instead, try a Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Frozen Yogurt or any Skinny Cow or Weight Watchers low-fat ice cream cup. Each clocks in at around 150 calories. If you like sorbet, Ciao Bella and Häagen-Dazs keep the calories under 150 by using a 3½-oz. cup.
Creamsicles Grow Up
The classic Creamsicle— a core of low-fat vanilla ice cream surrounded by orange-flavored sherbet—has 100 calories, some 2½ teaspoons of added sugar, and ½ gram of saturated fat. (Smaller versions have 50 to 70 calories.)
But some companies have updated the design. Dryer’s or Edy’s Orange & Cream Fruit Bars, for example, replace some sugar with orange juice concentrate. And Fruitfull and Chunks O’ Fruti cream bars swirl fruit or fruit purée with milk or cream plus sugar.
Fruitfull and Chunks O’ Fruti may be 45 to 60 percent fruit, as the companies claim, but roughly two-thirds of their sugar comes from added fructose and table sugar, not from the naturally occurring sugar in fruit and milk.
Bottom line: Enjoy your fruit-and-cream bar. Just don’t confuse it with a piece of real fruit.
How Sweet It Is
“Good Source of Antioxidant Vitamin C,” says the label of Breyers Pure Fruit bars. Oh, please.
Pure Fruit bars have just 40 calories, which is a plus. But let’s be honest. They’ve got added sugar, so they’re not pure fruit. As for the antioxidants, the company wouldn’t tell us how much (or, more likely, how little) pomegranate juice you get in the Pure Fruit Pomegranate Blends. And while vitamin C is an antioxidant, so far there’s no good evidence that it prevents heart disease, cancer, or other illness.
Pure Fruit isn’t alone. Dreyer’s or Edy’s Antioxidant Fruit Bars boast that they’re “made with super fruits.” But there’s little evidence that elderberry and black currant juice concentrates are more “super” than other concentrates. And so far, only two preliminary studies in people suggest that pomegranate juice may slow prostate cancer or heart disease. So don’t assume that the juice—much less a frozen sugar-and-fruit concoction—can save your life.
If fruit appears above sugar in the ingredient list (as it does in Whole Fruit Strawberry and Mango), don’t be impressed. When a bar contains different kinds of sugar—say, table sugar and corn syrup solids—they’re listed separately, so each appears after fruit. If the sugars were lumped together, they might be listed first.
*Download the article for a rating of popular brands.