Americans sure love their ice cream. About 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and frozen desserts were produced in the U.S. in 2011, according to the USDA. It’s such an obsession that back in 1984 President Ronald Reagan deemed July to be National Ice Cream Month, and National Ice Cream Day is officially the third Sunday in July (this year, it’s July 20th).
As the temperature rises, there’s no denying that ice cream can be a refreshing treat on a sweltering day. But given that one serving is about a half cup, it’s all too easy to go overboard on calories and fat. (Seriously, when was the last time you ate only a half-cup of the sweet, frosty stuff?!)
The next time you hit up your favorite ice cream shop, you can be smart about what you choose. Here are 9 high-calorie options to avoid from popular brands, and healthier alternatives to dig into now.
Cold Stone Creamery
Cold Stone is famous for its signature creations that pair your favorite flavors with drool-worthy mix-ins. The Mud Pie Mojo combines coffee ice cream with Oreo cookie bits, peanut butter, roasted almonds, and fudge. But all those toppings add up. A small size alone of the Mud Pie Mojo has more than 600 calories and 45 grams of fat. Instead of ordering a dish overflowing with add-ons, try Cold Stone’s Raspberry Sorbet. It’s a nice fruity option and because it’s so low in calories, you can indulge your chocolate craving with some fat-free fudge on top for a total of 240 calories.
Skip: Mud Pie Mojo, 670 calories (small)
Try: Raspberry Sorbet, 150 calories (small)
Photo: Courtesy of Cold Stone Creamery
It’d be hard not to order a Blizzard at Dairy Queen—it’s the chain’s most popular treat, after all. Still, you need to watch the size and toppings. One of the highest-calorie Blizzards is Double Fudge Cookie Dough, which is cookie dough ice cream blended with cocoa fudge and vanilla soft serve. The small size is nearly 800 calories, 290 of which come from fat. A healthier option? The Banana Split Blizzard in a mini size. You’ll still get to enjoy a solid amount of ice cream, but for less than half the calories. Plus, you can’t beat the nice mix of superfruits including strawberries, pineapple, and banana.
Skip: Double Fudge Cookie Dough Blizzard, 750 calories (small)
Try: Banana Split Blizzard, 290 calories (mini)
Photo: Courtesy of Dairy Queen
Everyone loves a good ice cream sundae, but sometimes they go way too far. The Oreo Layered Sundae at Baskin Robbins is crammed with fat-packed bits and pieces. On top of Oreo cookies, there’s hot fudge, marshmallows, and whipped cream. Together, that gives you a sundae that has 1,300 calories—more than half the amount most people need in a day. And let’s not get started on the 146 grams of sugar(!) inside this bad boy. A better way to get your Oreo fix: A small scoop of Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream. It’s the same base used in the sundae, minus all the unhealthy add-ons.
Skip: Oreo Layered Sundae, 1,330 calories
Try: Oreo Cookies ‘n Cream Ice Cream, 160 calories (small)
Photo: Courtesy of Baskin Robbins
This fast food joint is almost as well-known for its McFlurries as it is for its burgers. While vanilla ice cream mixed with a little bit of candy doesn’t sound like much, don’t be fooled by this treat. A 12-ounce McFlurry with M&M’s clocks in at more than 600 calories, including 14 grams of saturated fat, just 2 grams shy of the American Heart Association‘s daily cap. You’ll be better off skipping the mixture and opting for a simple vanilla cone. You’ll still get to enjoy the ice cream you crave for less than 200 calories.
Skip: McFlurry with M&M’s, 650 calories
Try: Vanilla Cone, 170 calories
Ben & Jerry's
When you’re having a bad day, it can be easy to pig out on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But even if you “only” eat half of its contents, you’ll do a lot of caloric damage. A half-cup serving of the popular flavor What a Cluster—a mix of peanut butter ice cream, caramel pieces, and marshmallow and peanut butter swirls—has 320 calories. That means having two scoops will set you back 640 calories, not to mention 38 grams of fat. Check out the brand’s Greek Frozen Yogurt line instead. The Strawberry Shortcake flavor is only 180 calories a serving with 5 grams of fat.
Skip: What A Cluster, 320 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Try: Strawberry Shortcake Greek Frozen Yogurt, 180 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Photo: Courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s
This brand is known for its premium ingredients and indulgent flavors, like Caramel Cone. While caramel ice cream mixed with caramel swirls and chocolatey ice cream cone pieces sounds amazing, two half-cup scoops will set you back 600 calories and 50 grams of sugar. To avoid going overboard, consider enjoying your ice cream in a smaller package. Häagen-Dazs has single-serving cups that make excellent treats, like the Coffee flavor that has 220 calories and 17 grams of sugar.
Skip: Caramel Cone, 320 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Try: Coffee, 220 calories per 3.7-ounce container
Photo: Courtesy of Häagen-Dazs
No one does ice cream bars better than Magnum, popular for its line with Belgian chocolate. But some are definitely worse for you than others. Take the Double Chocolate Bars: The chocolatey coating and chocolate sauce inside help catapult this treat to more than 300 calories. A better option? Magnum’s Dark Chocolate Bars. Each is only 240 calories, and the vanilla bean ice cream is dipped in dark chocolate, a superfood that’s thought to have some health benefits. Who said ice cream was all bad?
Skip: Double Chocolate Bars, 340 calories per bar
Try: Dark Chocolate Bars, 240 calories per bar
Photo: Courtesy of Magnum
Breyers may be a staple in your grocery store, but you still need to be mindful of the ingredients. The Breyers Blasts line includes several flavors bursting with cookies and candy bits. One tub of S’mores is about 48 ounces, so it can be tempting to dole out even more of the creamy flavor, which includes chocolate chips and graham cracker swirls with marshmallow flavoring. But two scoops will get you to 340 calories fast, and the extra toppings just add on fat and sugar. Thankfully, Breyers also has No Sugar Added flavors. Two scoops of Mint Chip Swirl total 200 calories, 6 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of fat.
Skip: Breyers Blasts S’mores, 170 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Try: Mint Chip Swirl (no sugar added), 100 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Photo: Courtesy of Breyers
Edy’s pretty much invented Rocky Road. At the start of the Great Depression, Edy’s original ice cream maker William Dreyer created the flavor to show the treat could still bring a smile in hard times. And, really, who could resist chocolate ice cream paired with marshmallows and almonds? But there is a way to enjoy it that’s better for your waistline. While the “grand” version of Edy’s Rocky Road has 160 calories per scoop, the brand’s slow-churned option has 40 fewer calories and half the fat (4 grams). Now that’s something to celebrate.
Skip: Rocky Road Grand, 160 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Try: Rocky Road Slow Churned, 120 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Photo: Courtesy of Edy’s