Can ice cream ever be good for you? Well, the makers of “light” and low-calorie frozen desserts want you to think it’s possible by promising great taste with far fewer calories, fat and sugars. Consumer Reports dug into pint after pint to see whether any hit that sweet spot — a healthier treat that tastes like traditional ice cream!
Consumer Reports tested 13 frozen vanilla-flavored treats, including light and low-fat ice creams, frozen yogurts, and nondairy frozen desserts, for taste, texture, and nutrition.
To achieve the taste and texture of regular ice cream, these lighter ice creams have a lot of additives, such as gums, sugar substitutes, protein concentrates, and even fiber.
CR testers tried two offerings from a best-selling brand, Halo Top. The Vanilla Bean Light Ice Cream got a Very Good rating for taste. It has moderate vanilla flavor with butterscotch and eggy notes. Testers found the texture slightly icy.
But Halo Top’s Vanilla Maple Dairy Free Frozen Dessert landed near the bottom of the ratings due to a bitter aftertaste and chalky mouthfeel.
Halo Top, like several other brands, lists calories per pint on the front label. But just because you can eat the whole pint doesn't mean you should. It distorts your idea of what a reasonable portion is.
Stonyfield’s Organic Frozen Nonfat Yogurt got a Very Good rating for nutrition. It contains live and active cultures, and is one of two frozen yogurts that scored near the top of the ratings. Blue Bunny’s Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt got a Very Good rating for taste and nutrition. Testers noted its distinct vanilla flavor and creamy texture.
If you’re a vegan or you have trouble digesting dairy, check out the frozen desserts in the ratings that are made with coconut milk rather than dairy. They’re a great substitution for ice cream. But they’re not healthier because like cow’s milk, coconut milk is high in saturated fat.