By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — About 45 million Americans go on a diet each year.

People are always looking for ways to cut calories, even with desserts. That is why low-calorie ice creams have exploded in popularity. But how healthy are these treats?

Halo Top, the top-selling ice brand, only hit store shelves six years ago, and now supermarket shelves are full of low-calorie brands. Enlightened, Artic Zero, Breyers Delights and Ben and Jerry’s Moo-phoria are just four examples.

Ben Passer is a lawyer by day, and professional snacker by night, running the Instagram account Snack Cellar.

“I think low-cal ice creams just provide another option for consumers,” Passer said.

He says the explosion in popularity of low-cal ice creams filled a need in the market for a better-for-you American classic.

“It gives them that comfort food they enjoy without sinking their daily diet,” Passer said.

At 360 calories, eating a whole pint of Halo Top’s highest calorie flavors are about the equivalent of a salad. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby is more than 1,300 calories.

But registered dietitian Sara Bloms, owner of The Everyday Table, says she wouldn’t go as far as calling these low-cal brands “health food.” They typically contain sugar alcohols like erythritol and sugar substitutes like Stevie, which can cause digestive issues for some if eaten in excess. There is also added protein and fiber.

“That’s going to create that feel of a traditional ice cream,” Bloms said.

But the lower-calorie brands are physically lighter and less dense because they have less fat and sugar. Still, Bloms says they can be an excellent alternative to the full-fat ice creams when a craving strikes.

“These fit into a great diet for someone who is diabetic, watching sugar and carbs they’re consuming, and it’s also good for a lot of other diets people are interested in,” Bloms said.

But when you take out all that sugar and fat, does it really taste any good? We put them to the test in the WCCO-TV newsroom. We used two brands of cookies and cream: one is Halo Top, while the other was a full-fat, full-calorie version.

In the end, the Halo Top version won by a count of four to three.

“Allowing people to indulge without the guilt, I think it’s a better option that’s here to stay,” Passer said.

Bloms said that because Americans love their ice cream so much, the serving size will be updated soon. It’s currently a half cup, but that will change to two-thirds of a cup.

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