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At chain ice cream shops, you can now (finally!) see calories right on the menu board. 

Just one problem: According to the menu board at Ben & Jerry’s, a cup of vanilla ice cream has “200–600” calories. And a single scoop at Baskin-Robbins has “100–300” calories.

Unfortunately, the FDA allows chains to use those ridiculously wide ranges. Here’s how to make sense of the calories on menu boards for cups and cones. Scroll down for sundaes, shakes, and smoothies, plus more tips.

Of course, calories aren’t the whole ballgame. For a chart of saturated fat and sugar numbers, see below.

Which flavor?

Menus at shops like Baskin-Robbins and Häagen-Dazs list calorie ranges by size. That means the calories in your Baskin-Robbins “100–300 cal” single scoop, for example, depend on which flavor you order.

Baskin Robbins menu board listing size, prices and calories
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

To see calories for each flavor, check the company’s website or ask for the shop’s “additional nutrition information available upon request.” (That info is required for restaurant chains and includes saturated fat, total sugar, etc.)

Odds are, your ice cream is at the high end of the range. A Baskin-Robbins vanilla ice cream “single” has 240 calories. Butter pecan has 280. Lemon sorbet has 130.

(Tip: On the Baskin-Robbins website, click on the flavor you want. A “single” is a 4 oz. scoop. Only the kids or sundae scoop is 2.5 oz.)

The same goes for Italian ice at Rita’s. On the chain’s menu board, a small has “120−390 cal.” But only the sugar-free flavors go as low as 120. Most regular (sugar-sweetened) fruit flavors hover around 250 to 300 calories for a small, and flavors with chocolate hit 300-plus.

Bottom line

If you see a wide calorie range next to a size, assume that only a few varieties (like sorbet, frozen yogurt, or sugar-free ices) are at the low end.

Which size?

Menu board at Jeni's showing flavors and calorie ranges
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

Menu boards at shops like Ben & Jerry’s and Jeni’s list calories by flavor, from the smallest to the largest size. But those sizes aren’t always clearly labeled.

Take Jeni’s. The “190–570” calories in a cup of a flavor like the Brambleberry Crisp refers to one, two, or three “half scoops” of ice cream, the company’s customer service department told us. You get one “half scoop” in a kids size (190 calories), two in a “standard” size (380), and three in a “signature” size (570).

The catch: The menu board never says that a kids size is available. (You have to ask.) So you’d assume “190–570” means 190 calories in a “standard” size. C’mon, Jeni.

Ben & Jerry’s menu board follows the same playbook. It doesn’t say that each range is for 1 to 3 “scoops”...AND that even a “small” cup or cone has 2 scoops. (It may look like 1 big scoop when they hand it to you.) A “large” has 3 scoops.

Ben & Jerry's menu board showing flavors and calorie ranges
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

So while the Phish Food flavor says “230–690” calories, a “small” has 460. And despite the “240–720,” a small Chunky Monkey will set you back 480 calories. Sheesh!

Bottom line

If you see a wide calorie range next to a flavor, assume that only a kids size is at the low end.


Slashes—like on the Cold Stone Creamery menu board—are much more helpful than ranges.

Cold Stone menu board showing calorie amounts for signature creations
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

Take the “Signature Creations” (ice cream plus mix-ins). It’s easy to see from its “650/950/1270 cal” that the Founder’s Favorite has 650, 950, or 1,270 calories, depending on whether you get the “Like It,” “Love It,” or “Gotta Have It” size. The sizes (not shown in the photo) are listed just below the creations.

The same goes for shakes (not shown). So the slash in the Very Vanilla flavor’s “880/1300 cal” means that a “Like It” vanilla shake has 880 calories, whereas a “Love It” has 1,300.

Bottom line

Good job on the slashes Cold Stone. Now how about slashing some of those calories!


Baskin-Robbins menu board zooming in on the calorie range of the banana split
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

How does a banana split at Baskin-Robbins end up with a 770-calorie range (“660–1430 cal”)? Choices.

You choose three scoops of ice cream or sorbet and three toppings to go with the banana, almonds, whipped cream, and cherries. A typical (“standard build”) split with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream scoops comes to 960 calories, says the Baskin-Robbins website.

Bottom line

For a sundae made with ice cream (rather than sorbet), ignore the low end of the calorie range.


Smoothies have a health halo. Don’t be fooled. At some ice cream shops, they come closer to milkshakes than health food. At others, they deliver mostly sugar.

What’s more, calories don’t tell the whole story. A small smoothie’s 300ish calories sound reasonable, but they aren’t coming largely from the nutrient-rich fruit and protein-rich yogurt and milk you might get in a homemade smoothie.

Take Häagen-Dazs, where small smoothies range from 260 to 390 calories. Along with its berries, a small 350-calorie Wildberry smoothie has enough vanilla ice cream to supply 7 grams of saturated fat (a third of a day’s max), plus cranberry juice blend and sugary strawberry sorbet. You wind up with a measly 4 grams of protein.

Häagen Dazs menu board showing calorie ranges for their frozen drinks
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

Fruit smoothies at Baskin-Robbins (Mango, Mixed Berry, Strawberry) are similar. There’s no ice cream, but each small has more than a day’s worth of added sugar (12 teaspoons, or 50 grams) because they’re largely made from a fruit-purée-sugar-water base. Protein? Just 1 gram.

Bottom line

Don’t bother with smoothies like these.

What to do

  • At many chains, you can’t decode calorie ranges without the company’s “additional nutrition information available upon request.” Ask for it! (Or try checking the website.)
  • A “kids” or “mini”-size scoop of ice cream usually hovers around 200 calories. Not all chains list one on the menu, so you may have to ask.
  • A “small” or “single” or “standard”-size scoop of ice cream typically has around 300 to 400 calories. Split with a friend?
  • Try sorbet, frozen yogurt, or soft serve ice cream, which typically has fewer calories and less saturated fat than regular ice cream—though they’re still high in added sugar. (At the supermarket, it’s easier to find lower-fat ice creams. Look for no more than 4 grams of saturated fat per 2/3 cup.)
  • Want a cone? Stick with a cake or sugar cone, which will tack on roughly 50 calories or less. Waffle cones start around 150 calories, and chocolate-dipped cones can hit 200-plus...before you add any ice cream.
  • For more numbers, scroll down for our chart. For some better supermarket bets, check out our picks.

Our scoop-shop chart

At ice cream shops like Baskin-Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s, nutrition info for cups, cones, sundaes, shakes, etc., varies based on flavor, size, and toppings, but here’s a sampling. For more details, check the website or in-store booklet.

Keep in mind that restaurant chains must only disclose total (not added) sugar, so these numbers include the sugar that occurs naturally in milk or fruit. But it’s safe to assume that most of the total sugar is added.