It makes sense to start the list with ice cream, because it is perhaps the most popular and well known of all frozen treats. In the U.S., ice cream is a historic treat, with records dating it back to as early as 1700. Emack & Bolios and Ben and Jerry’s are popular ice cream chains for ice cream lovers around the nation.
In terms of nutrition, ice cream is typically made from cream, sugar, and added flavors. A fast churning process whips a lot of air into ice cream, giving it more volume and a lighter texture. In the U.S., any product labeled “ice cream” must contain at least 10 percent milk fat.
Certain ice cream connoisseurs further differentiate between Philadelphia style ice cream, which refers to ice cream made with cream, sugar, and vanilla, and French style ice cream, which uses a custard base that includes egg yolks.
Average Calories: 290 Calories per ½ cup serving
Click here to see the Toasted Coconut Ice Cream Recipe.
Gelato is an Italian dish that shares many of its main ingredients with ice cream. Gelato, however, contains less butterfat and sugar than ice cream, and a dense, softer consistency thanks to the slow-churning process that keeps any excess air from being added to the gelato. Gelato generally melts quicker than ice cream, though, because it is stored at higher temperatures.
Average Calories: 240 calories per ½ cup serving.
Click here to see the Honey-Chamomile Gelato Recipe.
“Fro-yo” shops have attained widespread popularity throughout the nation, with chains like 16 Handles and Pinkberry popping up on nearly every street corner in major cities. Despite its name, some frozen yogurts do not contain any yogurt at all, but they all contain dairy products of some kind. Frozen yogurt tends to be lower in fat and calories than ordinary ice cream because it uses milk instead of cream and thus is often the dessert of choice for the health conscious. In terms of taste, many report frozen yogurt to having a more tart flavor as compared to sweeter ice cream.
Average Calories: 115 calories per ½ cup serving
Click here to see the Peachy Greek Frozen Yogurt
For vegans and lactose intolerants alike, sorbet is the way to go. This non-dairy frozen dessert is made from fruit purée or fruit juice, along with sugar and added flavorings. Because it doesn't contain any dairy products, sorbet has a lower fat content than gelato, frozen yogurt, or ice cream. What it lacks in fat, however, sorbet makes up for in sugar, thanks to the fruit juice and added flavorings. Most stores that sell ice cream also offer a variety of sorbet flavors.
Average Calories: 110 calories per ½ cup serving.
Click here to see the Blood Orange Sorbet Recipe.
Many people confuse sherbet with sorbet, but while the latter is completely dairy free, sherbet contains between 1 percent and 2 percent milk fat. Compared to ice cream’s 10 percent milk fat content, sherbet is considered a healthier choice for people watching their fat intake. Like with sorbet, sherbet flavors are mainly fruit-based and are high in sugar. Most stores that sell ice cream also offer sherbet.
Average Calories: 140 Calories per ½ cup serving.
Soft-serve differentiates itself from its ice cream cousin by requiring a higher freezing temperature, which is what gives the treat its softer consistency. By freezing the cream mixture at a warmer temperature, the end result doesn’t numb your taste buds as much as a colder, hard ice cream would, and thus your taste buds can more easily detect the soft serve’s flavor composition. Further, like gelato, soft serve has a lower fat content than ice cream, and thus can be a healthier choice for dessert lovers looking to lose weight.
Blue Marble Ice Cream is a popular soft serve chain in the east, and it can also be found in various retail stores around the nation.
Average Calories: 200 Calories per ½ cup serving.
Click here to see the Vegan Soft Serve Ice Cream Recipe.
Frozen custard is similar to ice cream, but is made with eggs in addition to cream and sugar and is therefore much denser. At its roots, frozen custard is a New York treat: It was invented in Coney Island, New York in 1919 when ice cream vendors found that adding egg yolks to ice cream made smoother ice cream that would stay colder, longer.
In order to qualify as frozen custard, the dessert must contain at least 10 percent egg yolk solids. This increased egg yolk content also means that the dessert often calorie-dense and high in fat.
If you’re craving frozen custard, Shake Shack offers the dessert in multiple forms, including cups, cones, ultra-dense “concretes,” and shakes, as its name implies.
Average Calories: 350 per ½ cup serving
Click here to see the Roasted Peach Frozen Custard Recipe.