By Lindsay Moyer & Jennifer Urban

Halo Top is now tops. The lower-calorie ice cream reportedly outsells all other pints. That’s why Breyers, Skinny Cow, Talenti, and even Ben & Jerry’s now offer calorie-conscious competitors.

The upside: a pint of some ice creams has the same calories as a half cup of Häagen-Dazs. The downside: many labels imply that you can eat their ice cream by the pint. (Sigh.)

Here’s how to find a less-fattening, but still delish, frozen dessert.

Sizing Up

On most Nutrition Facts labels, a serving of ice cream is just half a cup. (That’s smaller than a tennis ball.) But on the new labels—the ones with calories in big print and added sugars—a serving is two-thirds of a cup, to reflect our expanding portion sizes.

If you—like many Americans—don’t stop at half (or two-thirds of) a cup, don’t forget to multiply the calories, added sugar, etc.

Tip: Many bowls hold at least two cups. Use a ramekin or teacup instead. Think Dixie cup, not waffle cone.

What to Look For

No matter how you scoop it, ice cream is dessert. That’s why we awarded Better (not Best) Bites. Our criteria:

Calories. No more than 150 calories in half a cup (or 200 in two-thirds of a cup). Super-premium ice creams like Ben & Jerry’s pack 250 to 350 calories in to a cup, or up to 450 in two-thirds of a cup. May-day!

Saturated fat. No more than 2½ grams per half cup. With super premiums at 10 grams or so, that’s a bargain.

Added sugars. We set no limit because too few items bear the new Nutrition Facts label. (We estimate that roughly three-quarters of the sugar in most ice cream is added, not naturally occurring milk sugar.) But our calorie limit effectively puts a lid on added sugar.

Low-calorie sweeteners. No unsafe acesulfame potassium, aspartame, or sucralose. Stevia leaf and monk fruit extract are okay. (Monk fruit extract hasn’t been well tested in animals, but the fruit has been eaten in China for centuries.) So are maltitol, sorbitol, and other sugar alcohols, though they can cause diarrhea or—for erythritol—nausea if you eat too much.

Click here to see a chart of our Better Bites and other frozen desserts.

Health Halos

“Save the bowl. You’re going to want the whole pint,” urges Halo Top, which proudly displays its “calories per pint” front and center.

Gee, thanks. Just what we needed: a nudge to eat a 280-to-360-calorie pint of ice cream.

That said, Halo Top and its look-alikes—Breyers Delights and Enlightened—do shave roughly a quarter of the calories and half the sugar off a typical light ice cream like Dreyer’s or Edy’s Slow Churned. The three newbies average just 80-or-so calories and 6-or-so grams of sugar per half cup.

What’s more, their protein (5 to 7 grams) doubles light ice cream’s. And some flavors hit 15 to 20 percent of a day’s calcium. All are Better Bites.

How do they do it? Milk protein concentrate or isolate boosts the protein and calcium. And stevia extract, erythritol, and/or monk fruit extract cuts calories and replaces some sugar. So do sweet-tasting processed fibers like isomaltooligosaccharides and soluble corn fiber.

What about taste? It depends on the flavor and the taster. Overall, Breyers Delights are a safer bet than Halo. Enlightened was our least favorite.

Our advice for Halo Top: start with classics Chocolate, Mint Chip, or Peanut Butter Cup. Be wary of off-the-wall flavors like Pancakes & Waffles, Chocolate Covered Banana, or Mochi Green Tea. All three missed the taste mark.

Gelato fan? Try Talenti Crafted with Less Sugar. Two of the three flavors miss our Better Bite sat fat limit by a gram. But for just 120 calories per half cup—about half of Talenti’s regular gelato—they’re a steal.

Tip: Let your pint sit out for 5 to 10 minutes to soften. Lower-sugar, lower-fat ice creams freeze harder.

Lighten Up

Don’t like the taste or texture of Halo Top and its cousins? If you’re willing to spend up to 100 to 150 calories per half cup (still a bargain), try one of our favorite light ice creams:

Ben & Jerry’s Moo-phoria. One spoonful and you’ll wonder why anyone would waste 300 calories on the company’s originals.

Moo-phoria has half the calories and a fraction of the sugar and saturated fat of most Ben & Jerry’s flavors. But it keeps all the “funky chunks and whirly swirls” in jam-packed Better Bites Chocolate Milk & Cookies and Caramel Cookie Fix.

Arctic Zero Light Ice Cream. Don’t confuse Arctic Zero’s new creamy Light Ice Cream with its icy, low-cal Fit Frozen Desserts that have been around for years. Arctic Zero’s latest—seven Better Bites with just 70 to 90 calories per half cup—are the real deal.

Dreyer’s or Edy’s Slow Churned. Nearly all of the old standby’s three dozen delicious flavors are Better Bites. And about a quarter of them are “Simple Recipes,” with shorter ingredient lists and fewer additives (like food dyes and carrageenan).

Yasso Yum

“One giant leap for pintkind,” promises new Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt. And it delivers.

Yasso’s taste eclipsed all other frozen yogurt Better Bites. Most are full of inventive mix-ins in flavors like Loco Coco Caramel (coconut yogurt, caramel, chocolatey chips) and Coffee Brownie Break (coffee yogurt, brownie chunks, crushed cookies)…all for 100 to 150 calories, max.

Just don’t think you’re eating straight greek yogurt. Yasso has 5 to 7 grams of protein per half cup. That’s about a gram or two more than non-greek frozen yogurts. But you’d get 11 to 13 grams of protein in, say, a 5.3 oz. low-fat Chobani refrigerated greek (with the same calories).

Sure Bet

We didn’t award Better Bites to sorbets or sherbets that list sugar before fruit or fruit juice in their ingredients list. You can do better.

“Because we add so little else to this sorbetto, every spoonful is just like taking a bite out of the most delicious mango, over and over again,” gushes Ciao Bella Mango Sorbetto.

And it comes darn close. The first ingredient: mango purée. (There’s also sugar, water, lemon juice, and locust bean gum.) The company snagged five Better Bites.

While you’re at it, try silky-smooth Talenti Sorbetto in Alphonso Mango or Roman Raspberry. M-m-m.

No Dairy? No Problem

Dairy-free? Your timing is perfect. Even Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, and Breyers have something for you. But without dairy, don’t expect much calcium. And the competitors are not all created equal:

Cashew milk. “Our Cashewmilk frozen desserts deliver dairy-free decadence with amazing flavor and over-the-top creaminess,” says So Delicious. Amen! Try Creamy Chocolate, Creamy Cashew, Cappuccino, or Very Vanilla. All four Better Bites taste more like real ice cream than any other brand.

Almond milk. Thanks to coconut oil, So Delicious Almondmilk delivers 4 or 5 grams of saturated fat, while Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy hits 6 to 9 grams, plus around 250 calories (in a measly half cup). That’s nuts!

Soy milk. You can find some Better Bites—like So Delicious Chocolate Velvet or Creamy Vanilla—but they didn’t wow us.

Coconut milk.Luna & Larry’s Organic may be creamy, but they pack roughly 200 to 250 calories and 10 to 15 grams of saturated fat. (That puts them in Häagen-Dazs ice cream territory.) Halo Top cuts most of the sat fat, making 11 of its 14 dairy-frees Better Bites. Too bad our tasters found them a little chalky.

Frozen sugar water?Häagen-Dazs’ Non-Dairy line ditches “milks” altogether. The main ingredients: water, sugar, corn syrup, and (sometimes) coconut cream. They deliver about 250 to 300 calories and 5 to 7 teaspoons of added sugar per half cup. Sheesh.

Jolene Mafnas helped compile the information for this article.

Photos: baibaz/ (top), Jennifer Urban/CSPI (all others).