Taste Test: Vanilla Ice Cream

Who says ice cream can’t be part of a healthy diet? In this taste test, we sampled the 5 popular vanilla ice cream brands. We’ll tell you how they measured up.
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ice cream scoop

Photo by: OlgaMiltsova

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Who says ice cream can’t be part of a healthy diet? We sampled five popular vanilla ice cream brands to find out which one was the best-tasting, plus our take on each variety's fine print.

It’s All About Portions

Yikes — did we say ice cream is healthy?!? Of course, as long as it’s in moderation. When a craving strikes for ice cream and frozen yogurt just won't do, go for a half-cup serving of your favorite brand. Top it with fresh fruit and some nuts to make it even more satisfying.

The Criteria

For this taste test, we rated the ice cream based on taste, texture and nutrition information including calories, fat and sugar. Each sample was rated on a 5-point scale (5 being the highest).

All brands (except Edy’s) contained 10 percent of the daily recommendation for calcium in a half-cup serving—good for healthy bones. Most of the brands touted themselves as being “all natural” or having “all natural ingredients.” The FDA’s guidelines for the term “natural” are pretty loose -- read the label before buy.

Rating: 4.5
Cost: $4.19 per pint

Nutrition Info (per 1/2-cup): 200 calories; 12 grams fat; 17 grams sugar

Our Take: Fair trade vanilla extract and vanilla beans are used to make this smooth ice cream. You can see the vanilla beans and taste the vanilla flavor in every bite. The few food additives used (carrageenan and guar gum) are to help create the thick and creamy texture, but they’re safe to eat.

Rating: 4
Cost: $4.19 per pint

Nutrition Info (per 1/2-cup): 250 calories; 17 grams fat; 19 grams sugar

Our Take: This old-time classic had a sweet aftertaste, but wasn’t as creamy as some of the competition. This brand only has five simple ingredients and no preservatives, but contained (by far) the most fat and calories.

Rating: 4.5
Cost: $5.49 per half gallon

Nutrition Info (per 1/2-cup): 160 calories; 9 grams fat; 16 grams sugar

Our Take: Blue Bunny had a yummy flavor and specs of vanilla bean in every spoonful. The ingredients list is pretty straight forward with various forms of milk (i.e. cream, skim milk, dry milk) which gives it the smooth and creamy texture.

Rating: 4
Cost: $4.49 per half gallon

Nutrition Info (per 1/2-cup): 140 calories; 7 grams fat; 14 grams sugar

Our Take: Although the taste and texture were silky and smooth, some of our testers noticed a strange aftertaste. The ingredient list was also disappointing with “natural flavor” listed, which doesn’t mean very much. The good news: Calories and grams of fat were the lowest compared with the other brands.

Rating: 3
Cost: $6.29 per half gallon

Nutrition Info (per 1/2-cup): 140 calories; 8 grams fat; 13 grams sugar

Our Take: With a smooth consistency and delicious vanilla flavor, we were disappointed to see that the ingredients listed corn syrup, numerous additives, natural flavor and dextrose (a.k.a. sugar). There was no listing for vanilla or vanilla beans, which made us wonder where the flavor was really coming from?!? This brand contained the lowest amount of sugar per serving.

TELL US: What’s your favorite type of vanilla ice cream?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

Check Out Our Other Taste Tests:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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