How does low-calorie ice cream stack up against traditional ice cream? Consumer Reports puts them to taste test

Saturday, April 6, 2019
Ice cream taste test: Do low-calorie treats hit the sweet spot?
Can a frozen, low-calorie treat be just as satisfying as traditional ice cream, minus the fat and calories? The experts at Consumer Reports dug into pint after pint to find out.

Can ice cream ever be healthy?

The makers of light and low-calorie frozen desserts want you to think it's possible, promising great taste, with fewer calories, fat and sugar.

But can a frozen treat claiming to be sweet and satisfying, without the fat and sugar of real ice cream hit the spot instead?

To find out how they stack up against traditional ice cream, the experts at Consumer Reports dug into pint after pint to find out.

Consumer Reports tested 13 frozen vanilla-flavored treats, including light and low-fat ice creams, frozen yogurts and non-dairy frozen desserts, for taste, texture and nutrition.

Amy Keating is a CR nutritionist. She said, "To achieve the taste and texture of regular ice cream, these lighter ice creams have a lot of additives. Gums, sugar substitutes, protein concentrates, and even added fiber."

CR testers tried two of best-selling brand Halo Top's offerings.

The Vanilla Bean Light Ice Cream got "very good" marks for taste, with moderate vanilla flavor 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 mouth feel.

Halo Top, like several other brands, lists calories per pint on the front label.

"Just because you can eat the whole pint doesn't mean you should. It distorts your idea of what a reasonable portion is," Keating said.

Here are two picks from Consumer Reports testers.

Stonyfield Organic Frozen Nonfat Yogurt got "very good" marks for nutrition.

It contains live and active cultures and is one of two frozen yogurts that scored near the top of the ratings.

And Consumer Reports recommends Blue Bunny's Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt.

It got "very good" marks for taste and nutrition. Testers note its distinct vanilla flavor and creamy texture.

If you're vegan or have trouble digesting dairy, you can try vegan frozen desserts that use coconut milk rather than dairy.

They're a great substitution for ice cream, but CR's nutritionist says keep in mind that they're not healthier. Just like cow's milk, coconut milk is high in saturated fat.