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It’s not always clear if ice creams are getting better for us...or just better at marketing. Should you go for a keto, plant-based, or protein-packed pint? Or pick one that adds olive oil, fruit, nuts, or fiber?

Rule No. 1: Don’t confuse ice cream with health food. That said, you can scoop up a fabulous frozen treat without heading into Häagen-Dazs territory. Read on.

Click here to download our list of Better Bites and other ice creams, sorbet, and frozen desserts.

What to look for

Our criteria for Better Bites, per 2/3-cup serving:

  • Saturated fat: No more than 4 grams. That’s 20 percent of a day’s max, but it sure beats the 10 to 18 grams in a regular Ben & Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs.
  • Added sugar: No more than 4 teaspoons(17 grams). That’s also high. It’s why we have Better (not Best) Bites. Why didn’t we set the bar even lower? For ice cream, 4 tsp. is realistic. Most regular ice creams have more.
  • Calories: No more than 200. Why limit calories, not just sugar? Some frozen desserts tack on calories from fruit juice, which labels don’t count as “added sugars.” Others add tapioca syrup. Only some of tapioca’s refined carbs are sugars, but they’re all empty calories. And ice cream is high in calories per bite, so it’s easy to overdo it.
  • Low-calorie sweeteners: No ace­sulfame potassium or sucralose. Those sweeteners are rated “avoid” by CSPI’s Chemical Cuisine. We didn’t disqualify items with allulose, erythritol (or other sugar alcohols), or monk fruit or stevia extract.

Health halo?

Halo Top chocolate light ice cream
Not sure about Halo’s taste? Try Chocolate.
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Halo Top, Enlightened Light, and lookalikes add less cream and sugar, plus a few extra grams of protein.

The payoff: Lots of Better Bites that slash added sugar to roughly 1 tsp. per serving and shave a quarter of the calories off a “light” ice cream.

Worth it? You decide:

  • Taste. If your taste buds detect an aftertaste from stevia or monk fruit, Halo or Enlightened might disappoint.
  • Texture. Love ice cream that’s jam-packed with mix-ins? Lower-calorie pints may seem stingy. Think cookie specks, not chunks, in Halo Top Cookies & Cream.
  • The whole pint? “Whether it’s a few bites or the whole pint, now everyone can feel good about eating ice cream,” says Halo Top’s website. But any pint packed with processed fibers like soluble corn fiber or inulin (aka chicory root) or Enlightened’s allulose may not feel good to your GI tract if you’re sensitive to them. Take Halo Top Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. A pint has 19 grams of fiber, largely from inulin, a known gas generator. (Halo’s dairy varieties add less inulin.)
  • Keto. Keto versions add no sugar but have more cream, saturated fat, and calories. Why bother?

See the light

Edys Slow Churned Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Slow Churned is a light standby.
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Don’t love the taste or texture of the Halo Top crowd? Pick a light ice cream that skips the low-cal sweeteners altogether. Two good bets:

  • Dreyer’s or Edy’s Slow Churned. Choose from more than a dozen creamy Better Bites. Most have just 130 to 150 calories per serving, so they’re closing in on Halo Top, whose dairy varieties range from 90 to 120 calories.
  • Breyers. There’s no “light” line, so without checking the Nutrition Facts label (or our chart) it’s not easy to tell which are typical ice creams and which dip into Better Bite territory.

Both brands go easy on your pocketbook. A 1½-quart tub of Edy’s, Dreyer’s, or Breyers (nine servings) sells for about the same price as a petite pint of Halo Top (three servings).

Of course, scooping from a larger tub may make it trickier to size up a single 2/3-cup serving. Try spooning into a small dish—a teacup or ramekin, say­—instead of an ordinary bowl.


Wildgood Mint Chocolate Chip Non Dairy Ice Cream
No dairy and no coconut oil? Wildgood does it.
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Alas, a serving of most dairy-frees has enough coconut milk or oil to bump up the saturated fat to at least 8 to 10 grams (40 to 50 percent of a day’s worth), so skipping dairy’s cream doesn’t do your heart any favors. (Exception: A handful of mostly lower-calorie dairy-frees are Better Bites. See “Health halo?” above.)

Here’s a rundown of what else plant-based brands are churning into their frozen desserts:

  • Oats. Oatly nails an ultra-creamy mouthfeel (as it does with its oatmilk). Competitor Planet Oat, on the other hand, is a tad icy.
  • Cashews. Too bad creamy So Delicious Cashewmilk frozen desserts get their fat not just from nuts, but also from plenty of coconut oil. At least a couple of flavors—Very Vanilla and Snickerdoodle—have less saturated fat (5 or 6 grams) than most.
  • “Wonder.” “So delicious you won’t believe it’s not from a cow,” says the So Delicious Wonder­milk label. The taste may come darn close to dairy, but the main ingredients (water and sugar) sure don’t.
  • Olive oil. Kudos to Wildgood for replacing coconut oil with olive oil. That makes it low enough in saturated fat (though not in sugar) for a Better Bite. You’ll love the super smooth, rich texture.


Brave Robot Vanilla Ice Cream
Made with milk protein from a microbe, not a cow.
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Brave Robot “animal-free” ice cream “contains milk allergen,” notes the label. Ditto for Nick’s “Vegan” Frozen Dessert. How can that be?

Both are made with whey (milk protein) from genetically engineered fungi. (Cow or no cow, the milk protein is still an allergen.) Both are free of lactose (milk sugar), though.

Too bad Nick’s texture is a little icy, maybe because it has no added sugar. Brave Robot is creamy and tastes, well, like super-premium ice cream. Sadly, it’s got enough saturated fat (12 to 15 grams) from coconut oil to match.

Fruit sorbet

Talenti Sorbet
Silky-smooth texture. Intense mango taste.
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Most fruit sorbets miss a Better Bite by a mile. Saturated fat isn’t the issue (they’ve got none). It’s added sugar.

Among the highest: Häagen-Dazs Mango Sorbet adds more sugar (9 ½ teaspoons per 2/3-cup serving) than mango. You’re better off with the 6 tsp. (and 160 calories) in Talenti Alphonso Mango Sorbetto. And Talenti’s taste is so intense—mango’s the first ingredient—that you might even be satisfied with a smaller serving.

Halo Top’s fruit sorbets add soluble corn fiber, erythritol, and stevia to drop the added sugar to 3 tsp. and the calories to 90-ish. That creates a fluffier texture and less real-fruit flavor. (The “Made with real fruit” on the labels means purée and juice.)


Fairlife Cookies And Cream Lactose Free Ice Cream
Every Fairlife is light and lactose-free.
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Got lactose intolerance?

Finding dairy ice cream with no lactose is simple. (Companies add lactase enzyme to break it down.) Too bad most lactose-frees, like Beckon and Lactaid, are full-fat.

Instead, look for Breyers Lactose Free Vanilla or Chocolate. Both are light ice creams. Or try Fairlife. Most are Better Bites or just miss.

Frozen yogurt

Ben and Jerrys Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt
Even Ben & Jerry can come close to a Better Bite. Who knew?
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Years ago, frozen yogurt was a standby in the freezer case. Now, the category is getting smaller...and richer, and Better Bites aren’t so easy to come by.

Take newbie Noosa Frozen Yoghurt Gelato, which is made with skim milk, whole-milk yogurt, and cream. That means its saturated fat (6 to 9 grams per serving), calories (220 to 290), and protein (just 4 or 5 grams) are a far cry from what you’d get in, well, yogurt. In fairness to Noosa, the label does call it “decadent.”

A nice surprise: Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia FroYo has the super-premium brand’s classic dense texture, yet only a quarter of the sat fat of its Cherry Garcia Ice Cream. And it misses a Better Bite by just 30 calories and 1 teaspoon of added sugar. The brand’s other FroYo (Half Baked) goes over by 1½ tsp. How about a few more like those, Ben? Jerry? 

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