Any frozen dessert that comes on a stick, in a cone, or individually wrapped has one huge edge over any tub of ice cream, sorbet, or frozen yogurt: it’s crystal clear what one serving is.
Just in time for summer, here’s a look at healthier single-serving frozen desserts...and the brands our taste testers loved.
What to look for
Our Better Bites aren’t health food—we’re talking mostly sugary frozen desserts and ice creams, after all—but they’re still the cream of the crop. Our criteria for one full-size or mini bar, “bite,” cone, or sandwich:
- Added sugar. No more than 3 teaspoons (13 grams). The “Added Sugars” number on the new Nutrition Facts label doesn’t count the few grams of naturally occurring sugar from fruit or milk in many items. (They’re included under “Total Sugars.”) Because our sugar limit largely keeps portions in check, we didn’t need to set a calorie limit.
- Saturated fat. No more than 2 grams. That nets the best of the bunch: yogurt bars, fudge bars, light ice cream bars, and fruit bars. What misses the cut? Full-fat ice cream, keto bars, and fully-chocolate-dipped bars and cones (except for some minis).
- Low-calorie sweeteners. No acesulfame potassium, aspartame, or sucralose. All have an “avoid” rating (see chemicalcuisine.org). We didn’t disqualify items sweetened with (safe) stevia extract or with monk fruit extract, a natural sweetener that hasn’t been well tested in animals (though the fruit has been eaten in China for centuries). Allulose and sugar alcohols (like sorbitol and maltitol) are also safe, though they can cause diarrhea or (with erythritol) nausea if you eat too much.
Yogurt & beyond
Some kinds of frozen treats are perennial Better Bites. It’s hard to find a yogurt bar or fudge bar that doesn’t make the cut.
A few good bets:
- Yasso Greek Yogurt Bars. Yasso is king of the frozen-yogurt case. All 13 of the company’s Greek Yogurt Bars—from Black Raspberry Chip to Vanilla Bean—are Better Bites. And most are jam-packed with mix-ins like cookie dough, chocolate chips, brownie dough, crushed cookies, or pistachio brittle...at no more than 100 calories a pop.
Just keep in mind that frozen Greek yogurt isn’t the protein superstar you might expect.
The 5 grams of protein in most Yassos make them a decent source, but they can’t compare to the 10 to 15 grams in a 5.3 oz. serving of refrigerated Greek yogurt. That’s partly because Yasso mixes its yogurt with milk.
- Fudge bars. Most—like Fudgsicle Low Fat Original or WW Giant or Snack Size Chocolate Fudge—are Better Bites because their main ingredient is nonfat or low-fat milk. Dairy-free fudge bars like GoodPop and So Delicious miss out on Better Bites. Their coconut means more saturated fat (3½ to 5 grams), though no more calories (around 50 to 100, depending on the size and the sugar).
Keto or light?
Nowadays, lower-sugar ice cream bars from brands like Halo Top and Enlightened come in two breeds: keto and light.
The ketos typically have no added sugar...but plenty of cream. Many lights go light on the added sugar and the dairy fat. Win-win.
Halo Top Keto Pops, for example, have enough cream and coconut oil to reach 130 to 180 calories and 8 to 10 grams of saturated fat (10 grams is half a day’s worth). Their chocolate-flavored coating doesn’t help.
Halo’s uncoated Light Ice Cream Pops, on the other hand, don’t top 100 calories. And most have just a teaspoon of added sugar and a smidge of sat fat. Even better, Halo Mini Pops cut the calories and sugar in half. They’re largely skim milk...and they’re yummy.
Halo and other sugar-slashing brands use low-calorie sweeteners like maltitol or allulose, plus processed fibers like inulin (aka chicory root fiber) or polydextrose. If they give you GI distress, try Yasso Greek Yogurt Bars, which skip them all.
To home in on the best ice cream sandwiches and cones, think small.
That means less ice cream...and less refined flour from the wafers (cookies, really).
- Yasso Sandwiches. Vanilla Bean (100 calories), Fudge Swirl or Mint Chocolate Chip (120 calories), or Peanut Butter (140 calories). Take your pick. They’re all Better Bites.
- So Delicious Vanilla Almondmilk Sandwiches. These creamy, dairy-free, 100-calorie sammies just miss a Better Bite because palm and coconut oils nudge their saturated fat up to 3 grams. But that still beats the sat fat in So Delicious bars that come on a stick (nearly all of them are dipped in chocolate).
- Skinny Cow Skinny Minis. At 160 calories a pop, most of the Cow’s regular light ice cream sandwiches are Better Bites. But the mini Viva Vanilla Snackers are even better. They shave off 60 calories and about 1½ teaspoons of added sugar, thanks to their smaller size and stevia extract sweetener.
- Mini cones. Skinny Cow Skinny Minis Not Fudging Around Chocolate Fudge Cones also join the 100-calorie Better Bite crowd. Just be careful with Trader Joe’s chocolatey-coated Hold the Cone! minis. They’re so mini that it’s hard not to dip back into the box for a second...and a third. Each cone (80 or 90 calories) is gone in about three bites.
Fruit & juice
Fruit pops aren’t exactly real fruit, despite what some labels say. They often blend in juice along with their whole fruit or purée, and most of their sugar is added or comes from juice. But they are low-ish in calories and high in icy refreshment. Four to look for:
- Outshine or Chloe’s. Both are typical for fruit bars—around 60 calories and 2½ to 3 teaspoons of added sugar. Outshine also makes smaller bars (most are sold only in variety packs) that shave the added sugar down to 2 teaspoons.
- Halo Top. Halo uses stevia extract, so all its fruit pops (except Coconut) have just 35 to 45 calories, 1 to 1½ teaspoons of added sugar, and all the sweetness of full-sugar pops.
- GoodPop. Looking for less sweet? Try GoodPop’s 100% juice Twin Pops, its fresh-tasting Watermelon Agave Pops, or, for a dose of nostalgia, its Cherry n’ Lemonade Pops. (Think of them as a food-dye-free spin on red, white, and blue Bomb Pops.)
Premium chocolate-coated ice cream bars like Magnum (dairy or non-dairy) reach 200 to 250 calories and at least half a day’s saturated fat (10 grams).
While Yasso Dipped Greek Yogurt Bars are better, they’ll still set you back around 160 calories and a quarter of a day’s sat fat. That’s chocolatey coconut oil coating, for you. The solution? Downsize.
- Yasso Poppables. Like Yasso’s bars, its Poppables enrobe creamy Greek yogurt in “a dark chocolatey quinoa crunch.” Mmm. But the sat fat (2½ grams) only stays in Better Bite territory if you stop after one itty-bitty “poppable.”
- WW. Most of its coated bars are Better Bites because they’re on the smaller side and only half dipped.
- KIND Frozen. A petite size and a half dip can only take you so far. KIND Plant Based bars still manage to squeeze 180 calories and 5 grams of sat fat into four or five bites. Their coconut and palm oils don’t help. KIND bar? Or kinda like a frozen candy bar?
Fruit & chocolate
Want chocolate around your frozen fruit, fruit bar, or sorbet? We found three fabulous picks that earned (or just missed) a Better Bite. Each has just 2 to 3 grams of saturated fat:
- Sambazon Original Superfruit Açaí Bites. Irresistible dairy-free sorbet. Rich chocolate coating. Only a teaspoon of added sugar. Just 50 calories. Need we say more?
- Outshine ½ Dipped Raspberry Bars. The half dip of “70% cacao” dark chocolate is a perfect foil for each tangy (110-calorie) berry bar. Just don’t get too excited about the “good source” of “ANTIOXIDANTS” claim. Outshine tosses in enough vitamins C and E to hit 10 percent of a day’s worth of each. It’s marketing 101: Dress up your bar to look like a health food.
- Dole Dippers. A 100-calorie pack, with its four decadent (“67% cacao”) Dark Chocolate Covered Banana Slices, is plenty satisfying. And since Dole starts with a naturally sweet fruit, it only needs to add a teaspoon of sugar. Let it thaw for a few minutes before you dig in.