What do Darth Vader, King Kong, and an ice cream sundae all have in common? They’re all destructive, havoc-wreaking villains. But if you look deeper, you discover that they all have a good side, as well. Kong may have made a mess of Midtown Manhattan, but his animal rage was driven by his love for Fay Ray. Sure, Lord Vader wanted to destroy the Jedi, but when push came to shove, he put Skywalker first. And, well, the same is true of the ice cream sundae sitting in your dish. It might have a bit more sugar than your body needs (technically your body doesn’t need any sugar), but ice cream also delivers calcium, which binds to fatty acids in the digestive tract and blocks their absorption. And ½ cup gives you 17 milligrams of choline, which can lower homocysteine. What’s homocysteine? An amino acid that restricts blood flow, and by lowering it, ice cream might actually help diminish your risk of stroke and heart disease. And so it is with dessert: If you can look at your after-dinner treat as an opportunity to add something more than just calories, you’re on your way to a healthier (and more indulgent) diet. To that end we’ve pulled together America’s best desserts—the ones that offer something of nutritional substance, avoid the flab-inducing deluge of calories, and short you none on satisfaction. (Think of this list as the antidote to the 10 Worst Ice Cream Treat Treats in America.)
Best Scoop-Shop DessertCold Stone Creamery Tart and Tangy Plain Yogurt (Like It size with walnuts)270 calories13 g fat (1 g saturated)24 g sugarsOn its own, the Like It Size Tart and Tangy Yogurt has a mere 140 calories, making it the ideal base for a healthy topping of your choice. Fruit works fine, but walnuts usher in fiber and healthy fats, both of which work to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range as you indulge your sweet tooth.Not That!Oreo Crème Ice Cream (Like It Size)440 calories31 g fat (14 g saturated)38 g sugars
Best Classic DessertSonic Junior Banana Split200 calories6 g fat (4.5 g saturated)22 g sugarsWhoever decided that banana splits should have three scoops of ice cream obviously wasn’t worried about body fat. So let’s agree right now: The only banana split worth eating is a single-scoop banana split. Thank you, Sonic, for giving us what we want.Not That!Banana CreamPie Shake (14 oz)408 calories29 g fat (20 g saturated)77 g sugarsBonus Tip: You know what’s more threatening than dessert? The soda you drink alongside dinner. But maybe you already knew that—check out the 20 Worst Drinks in America for some truly shocking waistline offenders.
Best Dessert ParfaitRuby Tuesday Berry Good Yogurt Parfait162 calories3 g fat26 g carbohydratesThe parfait is an entirely underutilized dessert. Ideally it should be a little sweeter than a breakfast parfait (this one is), yet still offer significant hits of fresh fruit, protein, and fiber (this one does). Order this in place of Ruby’s Italian Cream Cake and consider yourself 828 calories thinner.Not That!Italian Cream Cake990 calories56 g fat108 g carbohydratesBest Chocolate BarChocolove Strong Dark Chocolate Bar, 70% Cocoa (1/3 bar, 30 g)157 calories12 g fat (7 g saturated)8 g sugarsIt’s time to swear off milk chocolate. The dark stuff is a far richer source of epicatechin, an antioxidant that helps blood vessels relax, and studies show it migh reduce your odds of developing diabetes. After years of taste-testing dark chocolates, Chocolove’s Strong Dark still wins out—dark enough to corral cocoa’s benefits, yet sweet enough to taste like dessert. Discover more perfect foods like this when you sign up for the Eat This, Not That! newsletter. Best part: It’s free!
Not That!Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar (49 g)250 calories17 g fat (7 g saturated)23 g sugars
Best ShakeWendy’s Jr. Original Chocolate Frosty150 calories4 g fat (2.5 g saturated)22 g sugarsIt seems like every year Wendy’s comes out with some new, tricked-out Frosty. There are now Frosty Floats, Frosty Shakes, and Frosty-cinos, and every one is worse than the original Frosty. Stick to the classic, and make it a “junior.” Up-sizing to the small will more than double the calories in your cup. Want to see what other restaurants have transformed your favorite foods into your belly’s worst enemy? Check this out: The Craziest Food Creations of 2010. Not That!Oreo Twisted Frosty440 calories14 g fat (7 g saturated)55 g sugars
Best YogurtChobani Strawberry Nonfat Greek Yogurt140 calories0 g fat19 g sugarsWith other flavored yogurts, “strawberry” amounts to little more than corn sweeteners and red dye, but on Chobani’s ingredient statement, fruit is second only to Greek yogurt—just as it should be. That fills your dessert out with more natural sugar and good stuff like vitamins C and A, which bolster your immune system while mopping up free radicals in your body. (Learn more simple tricks for staying lean and healthy when you .) Not That!Yoplait Original 99% Fat Free Strawberry170 calories1.5 g fat (1 g saturated)27 g sugars
Best Caffeinated DessertP.F. Chang’s Mini Tiramisu100 calories11 g fat (5 g saturated)10 g carbohydratesThanks to the arms race of oversized foods currently underway in America’s kitchens, proper dessert portions now come with qualifying terms like “mini.” So be it. Chang’s Tiramisu consists of multiple decadent layers, just enough to hit your sweet tooth and reward a good day of eating. Eat this instead of a slice of New York-Style Cheesecake and you’ll save 820 calories. Make a dessert swap like that three times a week and you’ll shed nearly 3 pounds every month. Not That!New York-Style Cheesecake920 calories56 g fat (36 g saturated)92 g carbohydrates
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