It’s likely no surprise that July is National Ice Cream Month.

It’s likely no surprise that July is National Ice Cream Month. After all, ice cream is a fun, nutritious food that is enjoyed by 90 percent of the nation’s population. It also is our favorite summertime dessert. But at 300 plus calories per half cup, indulging regularly probably isn’t good for your waistline. Luckily, there are plenty of lower-calorie options available to help satisfy your cravings. Let’s review the different types of ice creams.

Frozen yogurt, or fro-yo, is simply yogurt that is frozen, but tastes very much like ice cream. Frozen yogurts are usually lower in fat and calories than regular ice cream, but for the healthiest option, make sure you are buying nonfat frozen yogurt. A half cup of vanilla nonfat fro-yo has around 90 calories and no fat.

Gelato is an Italian ice cream that doesn’t have as much air as traditional ice cream, so it is denser and creamier. That can translate into more calories, as well. A half cup of gelato has around 160 calories and 6 g of fat, although some have much more.

Ice cream is made from a mix of milk and cream, sugar and flavorings. By definition, true ice cream must have at least 10 percent milk fat. French ice creams or custards usually are made with a cooked egg base. In general, regular vanilla ice cream has around 140 calories and 6 g fat per ½ cup serving.

Premium or super premium ice creams generally are made with cream, instead of milk and are denser with less air. Therefore, they pack more calories; some of them a lot more. A half cup of premium vanilla ice cream has around 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. Add flavors and add-ins and the calories can really climb. At the top of the most fattening ice cream list is Haagen-Dazs chocolate peanut butter at 360 calories, 24 grams of fat per ½ cup. Keep in mind that ½ cup is just one-fourth of that pint.

Ice milk is made with lower-fat milk and is less creamy. But, it does have less fat and fewer calories. A half cup of vanilla ice milk has about 100 calories and 1 to 2 g fat.

Italian ice is a mix of juice or other liquid, water and sugar. It is stirred frequently during freezing to achieve a flaky texture. Ices are almost always fat-free and contain the lowest calories of all frozen desserts. A half cup of Italian ice has around 60 calories.

Sherbet has a fruit juice base but also contains some milk, egg whites or gelatin. It is generally lower in calories than ice cream. A half cup of orange sherbet has about 110 calories and 1.5 g fat.
Slow-churned or double-churned ice cream is made through a low temperature extrusion designed to make a lower-fat ice cream taste and feel creamier, like the high-fat varieties. Light ice creams must contain at least 50 percent less fat or 33 percent fewer calories than regular ice cream. A half-cup of vanilla slow-churned ice cream has around 100 calories and 2 g fat.

Soft-serve ice cream contains double the amount of air as standard ice cream, making it a lighter texture and lower in calories and fat. Typical low-fat soft serve vanilla has about 110 calories per half cup and 2 g fat, although there are varieties with closer to 200 calories and 11 g fat.

Sorbet is softer than sherbet and is usually just fruit and sugar than has been frozen. Sorbet has around 100 calories per half cup and no fat.

There are also lots of non-dairy frozen desserts available, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily better for you. A good guideline for choosing frozen desserts is to check the nutrition label and select options that have 120 calories or less and 4 g of fat or less per each half cup serving.

If you choose to get your ice cream fix from an ice cream shop, remember you could easily consume upwards of 1,200 calories in just one treat. Toppings and add-ins can quickly multiply the calories and fat, so it’s best to keep it simple.