Indulgence still rules in the frozen dessert aisle. Full-fat ice creams like Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, and Häagen-Dazs own two-thirds of the market. Light, reduced fat, low-fat, and fat-free compete for the other third. One bright spot: frozen Greek yogurt, kefir, and TCBY are reviving the frozen yogurt category.


Can you find a frozen dessert that delivers a blissful icy blast to your taste buds without a permanent wallop to your waist and arteries? Here’s what to try and what to pass on by.


Information compiled by Paige Einstein.


Frozen Desserts 101


Here’s what to look for in the deep freeze.


1. Watch the serving. Really. The government’s “official” serving size for ice cream is a level half cup. Trust us. That’s smaller than you think. Picture a container from a four-pack of Dannon Activia yogurt.


That’s a half cup.


Odds are, many people eat at least a cup. That means twice the calories, saturated fat, and sugar that are listed on the Nutrition Facts label. If the limits to qualify for our Better Bites seem strict, that’s why.


2. Aim for no more than 2½ grams of saturated fat. A half cup of Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, Starbucks, or Stony field Organic ice cream has 8 to 11 grams of saturated fat—half a day’s worth. You don’t need higher math to figure out what happens if you eat a cup. And despite their healthier reputations, most gelatos and Häagen-Dazs Fives aren’t far behind (6 to 8 grams of sat fat).


Yet you can find dozens of frozen treats (like the Better Bites in our chart on page 15) with just 2½ grams of sat fat or less per half cup. That’s a quarter of a day’s worth if you eat a cup, but at least it won’t blow your limit for the next 24 hours.


3. Stop at 130 calories. Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs ice creams aren’t only high in saturated fat. Each half-cup serving has 260 to 300 calories. Can you spare 500 to 600 calories on a cup of ice cream?


It’s not just ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs frozen yogurts have 180 to 200 calories per half cup. So do many flavors of (non-dairy) Purely Decadent, Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss, Julie’s Organic, and Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy.


Why pick such calorie-dense desserts when so many ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets, and non-dairy desserts clock in at 130 calories or less per half cup? Some frozen yogurts and fat-free ice creams manage to get down to 100 calories. And Arctic Zero goes even lower.


4. Beware of added sugars. That petite half cup of Ben & Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs typically comes with about 5 teaspoons of added sugars, by our estimates. (We had to estimate because the “sugar” number on Nutrition Facts labels includes the sugar from the milk and fruit ingredients.) It’s not just the ice cream, but the cookies, chocolate chunks, and other candy, that ratchet up the sugar.


The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars (for women) or 9 teaspoons (for men) in an entire day. Too much sugar can raise triglycerides, boost blood glucose, expand your waist, and supply empty calories—all of which can increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease (see “Sugar Belly,” April 2012).


Most of our Better Bite ice creams and frozen yogurts have no more than 3 teaspoons of added sugars per half cup. Unfortunately, except for a few small brands like Clemmy’s 100% Sugar Free, all of the no-sugar-added frozen desserts we found contain the poorly tested sweetener acesulfame potassium.


5. Look for protein and calcium. Protein and calcium may not even cross your mind when you pick a frozen dessert. Until Greek frozen yogurt arrived, that made sense.


After all, most ice creams and ordinary frozen yogurts have only around 3 or 4 grams of protein per half cup. (Dreyer’s and Edy’s average 2 grams.) Most premiums reach 4 to 5 grams because they’re denser (but they come with 200 calories or more). That’s just a fraction of the 50 to 75 grams of protein you need each day.


But now you can get 9 grams of protein in a half cup of Ciao Bella Adonia Greek Frozen Yogurt (and 6 grams in Stonyfield Organic Oikos). That’s as much as or more than you’ll find in the same amount of non-frozen flavored yogurts like Dannon All Natural Low fat (5 grams) and Dannon Oikos 0% Fat Greek (9 grams).


Bonus: a half cup of Adonia has more calcium (20 to 25 percent of a day’s worth) than non-frozen Dannon (17 percent) or Dannon Oikos (11 percent). Most ice creams have 5 to 10 percent. Most ordinary frozen yogurts have 10 to 15 percent.


A frozen yogurt with the same protein and calcium as non-frozen? That’s progress.


Whey Less


“Do you ever have the urge to eat the entire pint?” asks the Arctic Zero label. “With only 150 calories per pint, Arctic Zero allows you to indulge your senses!”


Most non-premium ice creams have 150 calories per half cup. That works out to 600 calories per pint. But Arctic Zero isn’t ice cream.


It’s “an all natural, smooth and creamy ice cream replacement that can be eaten guilt-free by those that want to avoid fat and calories,” notes the label. Translation: Arctic Zero is mostly water and whey protein concentrate. (Whey is a liquid byproduct of cheese making.)


“We even went a step further,” says the carton, “by adding chicory root to increase fiber and boost calcium absorption.”


The facts: When we sent samples of Arctic Zero to a lab, the analysis showed 220 calories per pint. That’s still a calorie bargain (though if further testing confirmed 220 calories per pint, claiming 150 would violate labeling regulations).


As for the chicory root, it may boost calcium absorption, but there’s hardly any calcium in Arctic Zero to be boosted. (A half cup has just 2 percent of a day’s worth.)


What may matter more: Our tasters didn’t much care for Arctic Zero. It wasn’t creamy, and the flavors we tried—Vanilla Maple and Mint Chocolate Cookie—tasted a tad fake, possibly because they contain no maple syrup or mint cookies. But if every calorie matters, you might want to give it a try.


Nary a Dairy


Most non-dairy desserts are low in saturated fat (unless they’re made with coconut). And we didn’t find any with much calcium.


Some—like So Delicious Organic and It’s Soy Delicious Fruit Sweetened— hover around 130 calories per half cup. Almond Dream averages 150 calories and—judging by its 1 gram of protein—just four nuts.


Still, any of those brands beats calorie-laden Purely Decadent, Julie’s Organic, Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss, and So Delicious Coconut Milk desserts.


Most sorbets are Better Bites. (Exception: some coconut or chocolate flavors can hit 9 grams of sat fat.) Ciao Bella is a standout because its tubs contain 65 to 85 percent fruit, according to the company. Other sorbet companies wouldn’t give us numbers, but based on the ingredient lists, at least some Häagen-Dazs, Sharon’s, Talenti, and Whole Fruit flavors have more fruit than sugar.


Your Churn


“Fudge covered peanut butter filled pretzels in vanilla malt ice cream rippled with fudge & peanut butter.” That helps explain why Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream has 340 calories per half cup (and could hit 700 in a not-so-chubby serving).


B&J’s isn’t alone. Most companies— witness Breyers Blasts!, Dreyer’s or Edy’s Maxx, or Turkey Hill Stuff’d—offer up their own version of a candy-cookie-cake-brownie extravaganza.


But it’s also easy to dodge excessive calories, saturated fat, and sugar. Ice creams with half the fat—like Dreyer’s or Edy’s Slow Churned ½ The Fat, Breyers Smooth & Dreamy ½ The Fat, and Turkey Hill Light Recipe—have dozens of remarkably creamy flavors. And “½ the fat” means half of Breyers, Dreyer’s, Edy’s, or Turkey Hill’s regular ice creams. Compared to Ben & Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs, the lighter lines have “¼ the fat.”


Breyers Smooth & Dreamy Fat Free cuts all the fat and trims the calories to 90 per half cup. Only no-sugar-added ice creams (with their poorly tested acesulfame potassium) get that low. Breyers does it by cutting some sugar. Too bad it only comes in French Chocolate, Creamy Vanilla, and Strawberry.


Yes or Yo


Greek yogurt has captured a quarter of the yogurt aisle. Here’s our take on some frozen new bies:


■ Ciao Bella Adonia. “This creamy treat is high in protein, low in calories and sure to exalt your taste buds,” boasts the label. Amen. Its “9 g protein per serving” and 20 to 25 percent of a day’s calcium are probably due to the added milk protein concentrate. All for only 130 calories per half cup and top taste ratings.


■ Stonyfield Organic Oikos Nonfat. It’s got twice the protein (6 grams) and more calcium (15 percent of a day’s worth) than ice cream. With only around 100 calories per half cup, it “won’t weigh heavy on your conscience or anything else.” We liked Blueberry most, Chocolate least.


■ Ben & Jerry’s Greek. It’s a good source of protein (6 grams) and calcium (15 to 20 percent of a day’s worth), but will cost you around 200 calories per half cup. On the plus side, it’s got about one-third the saturated fat (and all the taste) of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Still, 2½ to 5 grams of sat fat is high for a frozen yogurt.


■ Lifeway Greek Style Fro-Yo. It has only 110 calories per serving. And while its 6 grams of protein are fine, it has just 6 percent of a day’s calcium, probably because Lifeway adds whey protein concentrate instead of double strained milk. We much preferred the Blood Orange Swirl to the Honey Swirl.


■ Lifeway Frozen Kefir. “Kefir is the smooth, tart, drinkable cousin of yogurt,” says the label (though frozen kefir is spoonable). It’s got 4 grams of protein and 15 percent of a day’s calcium for only 90 calories. But its “tart and tangy” taste may not appeal to everyone.


■ TCBY. The soft frozen yogurt shop pioneer has rolled out a line of delicious hard-pack frozen yogurts that taste like regular ice cream. Check Target or Walmart if you can’t find them elsewhere.