Ice Cream & Frozen Dessert Buying Guide

Ice cream. It's a mix of dairy ingredients, sweeteners, and flavors, often with stabilizers and emulsifiers. By federal law, it must generally be at least 10 percent milkfat by weight (8 percent with a mix-in) and weigh at least 4.5 pounds per gallon. Light has at least one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the full-fat version. Low-fat has 3 grams of fat or less per serving. "Premium" is a marketing term, with no federal definition. But premium ice cream tends to contain more fat and less air than others.

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Gelato. It has an intense flavor and is served semi-frozen. Italian-style gelato is denser than ice cream, with less air. Typically, gelato has more milk than cream and contains sweeteners, egg yolks, and flavoring, according to the International Dairy Foods Association.

As you go down the Ratings, the ice creams tend to be a bit more gummy or have flavor that's generic or less pronounced. 

No one would claim that ice cream is great for your health, but some have half the calories, fat, or sugar of others. The listed nutrition information is for an official serving: a half-cup, which is almost mythical. Nutrition scores are based on calories, sugars, fat, and other nutrients.

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