Breakdown: Frozen Treats

What's the difference between ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, gelato and frozen kefir?
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Bowl of Ice Cream with spoon

Photo by: Susan Fox

Susan Fox

Even a frozen treat connoisseur like myself can get confused with all the icy options out there. Grab your ice cream maker, you’ll be itching to make something after you read this.

Ice Cream

The classic: sweet, velvety, delish. Ice cream is typically made with a combo of cream and milk (and sometimes egg yolks). Premium varieties of vanilla ice cream average about 230 calories and 13 grams of fat per ½ cup.


Ice cream ala Italy. This frozen confection is basically ice cream, but less is more! Gelato is made with less air whipped into it. The result is a dense and creamy delight. The nutrition facts stack up similar to ice cream (see above) but we did find a few store-bought brands that scored lower in both the fat and calorie department. Trader Joe’s and Ciao Bella are 2 personal favorites.

Frozen Yogurt

Here’s where things get sticky. There are so many options in the world of frozen yogurt. Soft serve chains, homemade and store-bought all offer their own special version of this tasty treat. Overall, fro-yo offers some tummy-pleasing probiotics and will be lower in fat than ice cream. BUT the calorie content might very well be in the 200-calorier per ½ cup ballpark  so check labels on your favorite brand.

Frozen Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt comes up the big winner from a nutrient standpoint and now you can even indulge in the frozen version. Many favorite brands like Ciao Bella, Stonyfield and Ben & Jerry’s have unveiled new products. Nutrition facts will average (per ½ cup vanilla) 100 to 150 calories, 0 to 5 grams of fat, and 6 to 10 grams of protein.

Frozen Kefir

Have you tried this cultured beverage? Now all that tart and tangy goodness comes as a chilly treat. With only 90 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving, it’s great for smoothies.


Here’s where folks get confused . . . sherbet and sorbet aren’t one in the same. Lovingly (and incorrectly) called “sherbert” by adults and kids alike, this frosty goodie is made with dairy and therefore contains a small amount of fat. That same ½ cup serving averages 130-ish calories and 1 to 3 grams of fat. Grocery store shelves were overflowing with this stuff when I was a kid but it’s harder to come by than it used to be. Fear not, this raspberry recipe is to die for!


Last, but certainly not least is sorbet. Its defining characteristic: it’s dairy free! Mostly fruit flavors abound but Ina Garten makes a ridiculously good chocolate sorbet. The lack of dairy gives sorbet a more icy texture but that will vary depending on how much sugar there is (the more sugar, the less icy).  The basic ingredients are fruit and sugar, which will run about 120 to 150 calories (and zero fat) per ½ cup. For an even icier treat, try sorbet’s closest cousin: granita.

TELL US: What’s your favorite frozen treat?

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