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Differences Between Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Custard, and Gelato

Ice cream, frozen yogurt, custard, gelato… ever wonder what the differences are? Well, here’s the scoop!

Differences of frozen desserts

I am in no way an expert here (unless eating some kind of frozen dessert every night counts), but I can help break things down for ya on a very basic level.

Before we dive in, let me just say that the nutritional info you see here is just one example based on the brand you see in the photo. Depending on what brand you go with, the nutrition for each type of frozen dessert can vary greatly.

We’ll dive into more specific examples below, but just know that none of the exact calories are set-in-stone. These are just to give you some examples!

Regardless, we’ll dive into what makes each option different, nutrition aside, so you can better understand what you’re eating!


Ice Cream

Ice Cream Cone

First things first, we have classic ice cream, which is my favorite of the bunch.

Ice cream is a mixture of milk, cream, and sugar, along with flavorings depending on which flavor you buy.

To be considered ice cream, it must contain at least 10% milkfat overall. If it contains less than that, you’ll see the product being called “frozen dairy dessert.”

If you’ve ever eaten Breyer’s ice cream, you may have noticed that frozen dairy dessert label.

For all intents and purposes, Breyer’s is ice cream- it is made with all of the same ingredients that typical ice cream is made with. However, it falls short of that 10% milkfat requirement, so the FDA states that is cannot be called ice cream.

While the calories for a scoop of ice cream can be all over the map, here is one example based on Hudsonville Vanilla Bean Ice Cream…

Hudsonville Vanilla Ice Cream

Nutrition of 2/3 Cup Serving of Ice Cream:

170 Calories

9g Fat

19g Carbs

4g Protein


Ice cream can be made with different proportions of ingredients, as well as different amounts of overrun (a fancy way of saying the amount of air whipped into the ice cream), so calories are going to vary greatly. If you look at Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, a 2/3 cup serving contains 390 calories, so it’s going to depend on the brand.

If you head to a local ice cream shop and want to estimate the calories, check out how I estimate when eating out.


Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt took the world by storm many years ago, and it seemed that “Froyo” shops were popping up on every corner.

We look at Froyo as a healthier alternative to ice cream, but why is that exactly?

Frozen yogurt is made very similarly to ice cream, but it swaps the cream out for cultured dairy (like in yogurt). Less cream results in lower fat and lower calories than your typical ice cream.

The addition of cultured dairy also comes with the added benefits of probiotics as well. While these levels aren’t nearly as high as if you were to eat regular yogurt, it’s still a nice health benefit compared to ice cream.

In the flip side, since yogurt tends to be very tart, frozen yogurt is often higher in sugar than other frozen dessert options. While you may come across low-sugar or sugar-free options (using sugar substitute), froyo is always going to require additional sweeteners.

If you’re following a low-carb diet, be careful when choosing frozen yogurt!

Here’s how the nutrition stacks up for a scoop of Kroger Frozen Yogurt…

Kroger Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

Nutrition of 2/3 Cup Serving of Frozen Yogurt:

120 Calories

1.5g Fat

24g Carbs

3g Protein


Frozen Custard

Frozen Custard

Where I live, we actually have quite a few frozen custard options, Culver’s being one of them.

Until putting this post together, I was not sure of what custard actually was. It definitely sounds like a richer option than ice cream, but I never knew why.

It turns out that custard is very similar to ice cream, but it incorporates more egg yolk to create a creamier texture. You’ll ding that custard is not only creamier, but has a more yellowy color due to the addition of egg yolk.

While ice cream may contain eggs in addition to the milk/cream/sugar base, frozen custard will have a higher overall percentage.

The result is a creamier product, along with slightly higher fat than ice cream.

It looks like Edy’s discontinued their Frozen Custard product, but we can still use it to establish a general guideline for the calories in Frozen Custard…

Edy's Frozen Custard

Nutrition of 2/3 Cup Serving of Frozen Custard:

210 Calories

10g Fat

25g Carbs

4g Protein



Case of Gelato

Lastly, we have gelato: arguably the most delicious of the bunch. Italians just know how to do things right.

Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream, so you’ll find that the ingredients are very similar, albeit in different proportions.

But if you’ve ever had gelato before, you know just how soft and rich it is. So, how do they accomplish that?

Gelato actually contains the least amount of air of any of the frozen desserts. By whipping less air into the product, it becomes very dense and creamy, almost like a spread.

Gelato is served at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream. While it is still cold enough to stay frozen, that slightly higher temperature keeps the gelato incredibly soft and creamy.

When we compare the nutrition, 2/3 of a cup of gelato is not exactly the same as the other options, so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

Since gelato has the least amount of air, it is very dense, and thus heavier. When you look at the same size serving (in this case 2/3 cup), you’ll find the weight being about 50% greater than the other options.

Naturally, it’s going to have the highest calories, but it’s also going to be the most filling with that density!

The nutrition for authentic Italian gelato may vary, but here is an example based on Talenti’s Organic Gelato (which is about as authentic you can get around here!):

Talenti Organic Gelato

Nutrition of 2/3 Cup Serving of Gelato:

240 Calories

11g Fat

31g Carbs

4g Protein

No matter which one you choose, you cannot go wrong!

If you want to make your own ice cream recipes at home, check out all the recipes I posted for Ice Cream Week!

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About Matt Rosenman

With over 15 years of experience in health and fitness, Matt Rosenman is the expert voice behind Matt’s philosophy is simple: no foods are off-limits, and a healthy lifestyle shouldn't be complicated or restrictive. As a former certified personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree in Health Behavioral Sciences, Matt brings well-rounded expertise to his blog. From revamping classic recipes with a nutritious twist to breaking down fast food menus, his goal is make healthy living less confusing for everyone. Featured in major publications and with a strong following on social media, Matt is committed to making “healthy” uncomplicated—no matter where you are in your health journey. Join Matt on his mission to simplify health without sacrificing flavor. Learn More