12 Ice Cream Secrets You Need to Know

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For most of us, summer isn’t complete without enjoying a cup or cone of our favorite scoop or a novelty (ice-cream sandwiches!) that takes us back to when we were kids. In fact, according to the USDA, Americans enjoy about 1.5 billion gallons of ice cream, frozen yogurt and other frozen dairy desserts every year. Use these 12 tips to cool off without putting your healthy eating and weight loss efforts on the deep freeze.

1. Why You Just Can’t Stop at One Scoop

Ice cream cones
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If you feel like you need a rescue worker’s Jaws of Life to pry your spoon from the ice cream tub, you’re not alone. In one recent study, reported in the journal PLOS ONE, ice cream was the second most “addictive” food that was associated with persistent cravings and inability to stop eating it after you start (chocolate was first). Now that you know why you crave ice cream so much, here’s how to enjoy more diet-friendly options of your favorite frozen treats and ways to keep portions in check.

Related: 10 Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet

2. When You Scream for Ice Cream…

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Ice cream can contain more than 250 calories and 6 teaspoons of sugar per half-cup serving, but “light” options will have at least half the fat or 33 percent fewer calories compared with regular ice cream, according to nutrient content values from the USDA. Brands don’t always include “light” on their packaging, so make sure to check out the nutrition label. Look for options with 120 calories per serving or less, no more than 2 grams of saturated fat and up to 4 teaspoons of sugar. BEST LICKS: Edy’s Slow Churned Classic Vanilla or Breyer’s 1/2 the Fat Creamy Vanilla, which weigh in at about 100 calories and keep saturated fat and sugar counts low.

Related: 8 Delicious No-Bake Desserts (Including Gluten-Free and Vegan-Friendly Options Too!)

3. Get a Kiddie Cone

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Since most ice cream provides about 150 to 200 calories per half-cup serving, the most important factor is sticking with one serving. That's easier said than done, especially once you dig in! To help, be sure to buy ice cream in the smallest containers available (some brands sell individual servings) rather than the gallons or tubs. If you’re at an ice cream shop, ask for the kid-size cone to keep your serving to about a half-cup. Even the “small” sizes sold at many ice-cream and yogurt shops serve up close to a full cup. Since a cone holds less ice cream than a cup, it’s a better choice -- and the lightweight wafer cones have about 20 calories. (Avoid waffle cones, which can pack in about 120 calories and nearly 6 teaspoons of sugar.)

Related: 10 Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet

4. Dark Chocolate-Covered Frozen Bananas

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One tasty skinny frozen treat is dark chocolate-dipped frozen bananas. They satisfy chocolate cravings and are a perfect ice-cold sweet for a hot summer’s day. A frozen chocolate-covered banana weighs in at about 180 calories and provides all the potassium, fiber and B vitamins of bananas with the antioxidant punch of dark chocolate. BEST LICKS: If you don’t want to make your own, look for Trader Joe’s Gone Bananas, which are banana slices covered with dark chocolate. A serving has 130 calories. Since they are rich in saturated fat due to the palm oil used in the chocolate coating, enjoy them in moderation.

Related: Dark Chocolate-Covered Frozen Bananas Recipe

5. Is Your Fro-Yo a Fraud?

Young Woman Enjoying Frozen Yogurt
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Did you know that not all frozen yogurt is actually yogurt? That’s because, unlike regular yogurt, frozen yogurt has no standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. According to the National Yogurt Association (NYA), “Not all products termed ‘frozen yogurt’ actually contain live and active cultures that are associated with some health benefits.” Some so-called “frozen yogurts” use heat-treated yogurt, which kills the live and active cultures (beneficial bacteria). The association recommends checking for the NYA Live & Active Cultures seal on packages to ensure that you’re actually buying yogurt. And look for “light” versions to keep calorie counts lower.

Related: How to Make Any Smoothie Like a Boss

6. Soft-Serve Fro-Yo Buyer’s Guide

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Fro-yo shops are always buzzing with the diet-conscious getting their favorite frozen fix. While soft-serve frozen yogurt usually contains fewer calories due to the air that’s whipped into the frosty treat, it’s not as waistline-friendly as you may think. Fro-yo from Pinkberry or Red Mango ranges from about 80 to 200 calories per half-cup serving, so be sure to check the nutrition facts before assuming your yogurt is low-cal. Original and fruit flavors are generally the lowest in calories, while more gourmet flavors like peanut butter or mint chocolate chip can really add up. You can also easily make your own real frozen yogurt by using Greek yogurt blended with your favorite fresh fruit (honey or agave is optional). Process until smooth, then freeze. It will be higher in protein and lower in added sugars than any soft-serve you can buy.

Related: How to Make Any Smoothie Like a Boss

7. Nix Tempting Toppings

Children choosing toppings in store
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Toppings are commonplace at ice-cream and yogurt shops. Unfortunately, the sauces, candy, hot fudge, whipped cream, caramel sauce, cookie crumbles and brownie bites can destroy your diet faster than frozen treats melt in the hot summer sun. That’s because they’re usually nothing more than sugar, fat or a combo of both. A tablespoon of indulgent toppings will add about 30 to 50 calories, so a few tablespoons of toppings can equal or exceed the calories in your ice cream or yogurt. BEST LICKS: Eat your treat plain or top with fresh fruit. If you must choose a sugary-sweet topping, mind portion control: Ask for a small drizzle of chocolate sauce or a light sprinkle of chocolate chips.

Related: 10 Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet

8. Check Out the Bar Scene

Homemade blueberry vanilla ice pops in a cluster on paper
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Frozen yogurt bars are great supermarket freezer-section finds. Several companies offer Greek yogurt bars that are perfectly portioned and made with live and active yogurt cultures, which may help with digestion. BEST LICKS: Try Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt Bars, which have 5 grams of protein and 80 to 130 calories per bar. To keep the calorie count under control, steer clear of the most decadent flavors like peanut butter cup or coffee chocolate chip. Outshine Simply Yogurt Bars come in a variety of delicious flavors and have 90 calories, 5 grams of protein and 11 to 12 grams of sugar.

Related: 8 Delicious No-Bake Desserts (Including Gluten-Free and Vegan-Friendly Options Too!)

9. Fruit and Veggie Pops Are Best

Cold Organic Frozen Strawberry Fruit Popsicle
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If you want to cool off with a sweet treat that's less than 100 calories, opt for frozen veggie and/or fruit pops. The best ones are made with lots of real fruit and vegetable juice and have no added sugars. Some will have added sweeteners like sugar or fructose. But since the bars are relatively low in calories, the added sugars aren’t going to blow your diet. Because they’re made from fruit and veggie juices, most are also good sources of vitamins A and C. BEST LICKS: Check out options from Outshine, 365 Brand at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s Fruit Frenzy Bars.

Related: How to Build Any Smoothie Like a Boss

10. Create Your Own Healthy Pop Art

Blueberry and Raspberry Homemade Popsicles
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Many health-conscious individuals breeze past the freezer case altogether and DIY their own chilled summertime treats. It’s not complicated at all. Armed with nothing more than a popsicle mold and a few healthy ingredients, you can make your own too. Using a popsicle maker that you can find at any housewares store, try creating your own power pops by layering a variety of 100 percent veggie or fruit purees and juices, yogurt, chia seeds and other ingredients to make delicious and nutritious icy treats. Add some speed to the popsicle-making process: Try Zoku’s Quick Pop Maker and create your own frozen treat in less than seven minutes.

Related: Check Out More From Zoku

11. Skinny Sorbets

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Sorbets are generally lower in calories and fat than ice cream because they’re made with fruit juice or fruit purees and not milk or cream. They do, however, have higher sugar counts for many of the same reasons -- because they’re made from fruit puree, fruit juice or syrup. Be sure to check product labels because many are made with sweetened water instead of real fruit. Calorie counts range from about 100 calories to 200 calories per half-cup serving. BEST LICKS: Opt for fruit-based flavors from brands like Ciao Bella, Whole Fruit and Haagen-Dazs.

Related: 10 Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet

12. Slimmed-Down Ice-Cream Sandwiches

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If you scream for ice cream sandwiches, you’re not alone. Just take a look at the many offerings at your supermarket. While gourmet sandwiches will cost you hundreds of calories, the portion-controlled supermarket options can be calorie bargains. Tip: Nondairy versions of the novelty favorite are lowest in calories and saturated fat. BEST LICKS: Made with almond milk, SO Delicious Dairy Free Minis have 90 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 6 grams of sugar. Skinny Cow uses low-fat ice cream to create a delicious treat with 150 calories, 2 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.

Related: 8 Delicious No-Bake Desserts (Including Gluten-Free and Vegan-Friendly Options Too!)

What Do YOU Think?

Ice cream girl
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What are some of your favorite summertime treats? Have you tried any of the tricks included here? What is your favorite brand of healthy ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet? Share your tips with us in the comments below.

How to Lose Weight Eating Popsicles

credit: ThePoliteMonkey
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For most of us, summer isn’t complete without enjoying a cup or cone of our favorite scoop or a novelty (ice-cream sandwiches!) that takes us back to when we were kids. In fact, according to the USDA, Americans enjoy about 1.5 billion gallons of ice cream, frozen yogurt and other frozen dairy desserts every year. Use these 12 tips to cool off without putting your healthy eating and weight loss efforts on the deep freeze.


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