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Where To Find The Healthiest Fast Food Ice Cream in 2024

There are few things in this world I love more ice cream. More specifically, soft serve vanilla ice cream.

If you’re craving soft serve but don’t want to go overboard on calories, I’m here to help you find the best options.


  • If you’re searching for the lowest-calorie option, be mindful of flavors and toppings. A basic vanilla cup with be the lowest in calories.
  • A cake cone is the most common type of cone used, and it will add 20 calories to your ice cream. Sugar cones and waffles cones contain 60 and 80 calories, respectively, but are also larger and tend to come with larger quantities of ice cream.
  • Frozen yogurt is the lowest-calorie option, custard and gelato are the highest-calorie options, and ice cream falls in the middle.

While I’m a big fan of going to a local ice cream shop and trying new flavors (and always getting a waffle cone), there’s just a special place in my heart for that smooth, creamy, soft serve vanilla cone.

Depending on where you go for ice cream, the recipe is going to be completely different, meaning that the calories & nutrition facts are going to vary quite a bit.

Maybe you’re on a diet on want to find the lowest calorie option, or maybe you’re simply curious about how many calories are in ice cream.

No matter the reason, I’m going to help you find the best vanilla ice cream for you. We’ll explore ice cream cone calories, as well as cups without the cone to help you find the best options.

Table of Contents

    Frozen Yogurt vs Ice Cream vs Custard

    Depending on where you are ordering from, you may run into the option to choose between frozen yogurt, ice cream, and frozen custard, so it’s helpful to understand the differences.

    Differences of frozen desserts

    I have a full post breaking down the differences, but here are the major differences in a nutshell (or cone):

    1. Frozen yogurt will contain the least calories since it is virtually fat free. That’s why you’ll see IKEA’s frozen yogurt having the lowest calories.
    2. Frozen custard contains more calories than ice cream because it uses egg yolks to achieve a creamier product. This is why Culver’s sits on the higher end of the calorie scale.
    3. Gelato is calorically-dense, but you won’t typically find it at any fast food establishments. Gelato contains the least amount of air, leading to a creamier and denser final product.

    If you’re venturing out for soft serve, you’ll almost always going to be getting ice cream. But if frozen yogurt, custard, or gelato is on the menu, they will be stated clearly, so you can choose based on your preferences.

    The Different Types of Ice Cream Cones

    If you order an ice cream cone from a fast-food chain you’re going to end up with a cake cone, which is the smallest option.

    If I had to rank the types of ice cream cones, cake cones would be at the very bottom because they basically taste like paper. But if you want to keep the calories low, there is no denying that they are your best option.

    If you go to an ice cream shop, you’ll almost always have your choice of cone. In some cases, there will even be additional options not listed here, like cookie cones or chocolate-dipped cones.

    If you want to keep your ice cream cone as low-calorie as possible, stick with a cake cone. With only 20 calories per cone, it’s a very diet-friendly option.

    That being said, even going with a waffle cone isn’t going to add a ton of extra calories to your ice cream. With around 80 calories, and significantly tastier than a cake cone, it’s more than worth it to me.

    The exact calories per cone will vary based on who is making them, so consider these estimates. Generally speaking, these will be pretty accurate.

    Calories in Fast Food Ice Cream

    Depending on where you are located, you’re going to have a lot of options for ice cream.

    I live in Michigan, and we seem to have a little ice cream shack on every single corner here ready to serve you ice cream scoops.

    But we’re going to look at the most widely available fast food options here. Many people don’t realize that fast-food chains like Burger King and McDonald’s offer both cones and cups, and having those types of options makes it very easy to get your ice cream fix no matter where you may be located.

    I’ll break each option down below, but if you’re looking to order a fast food ice cream cone, here’s an overview:

    Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Calories

    Small (4oz) Vanilla Scoop in a Cup: 240 Calories, 16g Fat, 21g Carbs, 17g Sugar, 4g Protein

    Small (4oz) Vanilla Scoop in a Cone: 265 Calories, 16g Fat, 26g Carbs, 17g Sugar, 5g Protein

    Baskin Robbins offers two different ice cream scoop sizes: 2.5oz and 4oz. The nutrition facts here reflect one 4oz scoop, because that is a much more realistic “small” option than a 2.5oz scoop.

    If you do want to save calories, you can opt for the 2.5oz scoop, which will contain just 150 calories (but is extremely small).

    Chick-fil-A Vanilla Cone

    Chick-Fil-A Icedream Calories

    Icedream Cup: 140 Calories, 3.5g Fat, 24g Carbs, 24g Sugar, 4g Protein

    Icedream Cone: 180 Calories, 4g Fat, 32g Carbs, 25g Sugar, 4g Protein

    The vanilla “Icedream” from Chick-fil-A is on the smaller side, which is why the calories are lower than most other options out there.

    However, Chick-fil-A ice cream is thought of as one of the best fast-food ice creams out there, so even if it’s small, it’s 100% worth it!

    And if the fat content is a concern for you, this will be one of the more appealing options of the bunch with only 4g of fat for the entire vanilla ice cream cone.

    IKEA Frozen Yogurt

    IKEA Frozen Yogurt Calories

    Frozen Yogurt Cup: 120 Calories, 0g Fat, 25g Carbs, 20g Sugar, 3g Protein

    Frozen Yogurt Cone: 150 Calories, 0g Fat, 32g Carbs, 21g Sugar, 5g Protein

    IKEA offers frozen yogurt and not technically ice cream, but the consensus seems to be that it is delicious either way. I have never personally had it because I have never lived close to an IKEA, but after hearing rave reviews about it, I feel I need to give it a try now.

    A cup of IKEA’s frozen yogurt will run you just 120 calories, with a cone coming in with just slightly more at 150 calories.

    Burger King Vanilla Cone

    Burger King Ice Cream Calories

    Vanilla Ice Cream Cup: 180 Calories, 5g Fat, 28g Carbs, 22g Sugar, 4g Protein

    Vanilla Ice Cream Cone: 200 Calories, 5g Fat, 34g Carbs, 23g Sugar, 5g Protein

    Burger King recently went through a rebranding, and with that came a revamped menu. Previously, Burger King’s cone was looking very sad and tiny, but this new photo makes it look very promising.

    Burger King ice cream was previously the lowest calorie option with only 140 calories for a vanilla ice cream cone, and it looks like the calories have since increased a bit.

    At Burger King, you also have the option to ditch the cone and opt for a cup of soft serve vanilla ice cream instead. The serving size of the Burger King ice cream will be roughly the same, so the cup of ice cream ends up right around 180 calories- a great dessert option!

    McDonald's Vanilla Cone

    McDonald’s Ice Cream Calories

    Vanilla Ice Cream Cone: 200 Calories, 5g Fat, 33g Carbs, 23g Sugar, 5g Protein

    Plain Vanilla Sundae: 210 Calories, 6g Fat, 32g Carbs, 28g Sugar, 6g Protein

    McDonald’s ice cream cones are fantastic, but you’re lucky to find an ice cream machine that isn’t broken. This happens so often (don’t worry, it’s not just you) that there is actually a hilarious, and extremely useful, website that maps out where all the broken machines are.

    In terms of nutrition, McDonald’s ice cream cone falls right in the middle of all the options. For just 200 calories, a vanilla soft-serve cone from McDonald’s is a great option for a quick dessert on the go.

    If you ditch the cone and go with a cup instead, McDonald’s is one of the only restaurants that implies you’ll be getting more ice cream with a cup. When ordered as a plain vanilla sundae, the calories increase slightly from a vanilla cone, meaning you’ll get a bit more ice cream per serving.

    Dairy Queen Vanilla Cone

    Dairy Queen Soft Serve Calories

    Small Soft Serve Cup: 195 Calories, 7g Fat, 29g Carbs, 26g Sugar, 5g Protein

    Small Soft Serve Cone: 220 Calories, 7g Fat, 34g Carbs, 26g Sugar, 7g Protein

    Dairy Queen is best known for their Blizzards, but the cones deserve an honorable mention for sure.

    The insanely smooth soft-serve ice cream from Dairy Queen is unlike anything else out there. Since the ice cream is so rich and creamy, I would have thought that the calories and fat would be off the charts, but with only 220 calories and 7g of fat, a small vanilla cone from DQ is something you can easily fit into your day.

    And if you want to save some calories, you can go with a small cup of soft-serve vanilla, which will be just under 200 calories.

    Sonic Vanilla Cone

    Sonic Ice Cream Calories

    *Cone has been discontinued

    Sonic Soft Serve Dish: 300 Calories, 10g Fat, 47g Carbs, 40g Sugar, 7g Protein

    When Sonic switched up their ice cream offering, they also did away with cones. Now, while you can still get some delicious soft serve, you can only get it as a dish without the cone.

    Sonic soft serve is the highest-sugar option you’ll find out there, so if sugar or carb consumption is something you are mindful of, you’ll want to seek out a different option.

    A&W Vanilla Cone

    A&W Ice Cream Calories

    Regular Soft Serve Cup: 255 Calories, 8g Fat, 37g Carbs, 33g Sugar, 6g Protein

    Regular Soft Serve Cone: 270 Calories, 8g Fat, 42g Carbs, 33g Sugar, 7g Protein

    Once I got through all the national chains that offer soft serve vanilla ice cream cones (as far as I could tell), I needed to use my best judgment to choose some other restaurants that are widely known.

    Depending on where you are in the country, you may not have an A&W near you, but they are plentiful here in the Midwest! At A&W, you also have the option to go with chocolate, a twist of vanilla & chocolate, or ditch the cone and go with a simple cup of ice cream instead.

    Carvel Vanilla Cone

    Carvel Calories

    “Carvelite” Small Cup: 250 Calories, 7g Fat, 46g Carbs, 29g Sugar, 12g Protein

    “Carvelite” Small Cone: 285 Calories, 7g Fat, 56g Carbs, 32g Sugar, 12g Protein

    Cavel has a reduced-calorie ice cream called “Carvelite,” which I personally love. Carvelite has all the amazing flavor of their original vanilla ice cream (in my opinion you can’t taste any difference), but with much lower fat and calories than their standard ice cream.

    Since this is light ice cream, you might think that the calories would be amongst the lowest here. Well, looks can be a bit deceiving!

    A small ice cream cone from Carvel is going to be a slightly larger serving than you’d find at Burger King or McDonald’s, which is why you’ll see the calories being higher.

    Surprisingly, the light ice cream at Carvel is actually a decent protein source. For 250 calories and 12 grams of protein, you could do much worse than a small cup of ice cream at Carvel.

    Rita's Vanilla Custard Cone

    Rita’s Vanilla Custard Calories

    Small Vanilla Custard Cup: 260 Calories, 14g Fat, 28g Carbs, 24g Sugar, 5g Protein

    Small Vanilla Custard Cone: 285 Calories, 14g Fat, 33g Carbs, 24g Sugar, 5g Protein

    Rita’s is another chain that is spread throughout the country, but everybody may not have heard of it because it is heavily concentrated in the Northeast (where I grew up).

    Rita’s is best known for their ices, but they offer vanilla custard as well, which is what you’ll find in this small vanilla cone.

    If you’re unfamiliar with custard, it is basically a slightly richer version of ice cream. Both ice cream and custard must contain at least 10 percent milkfat to be considered ice cream, but custard has more than 1.4% egg yolk as well (ice cream has any amount less than that).

    The additional egg yolk makes custard creamier, but also results in higher calories and fat, which is reflected in this cone.

    Culver's Vanilla Custard Cone

    Culver’s Vanilla Custard Calories

    One Scoop Vanilla Dish: 310 Calories, 18g Fat, 31g Carbs, 27g Sugar, 5g Protein

    One Scoop Vanilla Cone: 330 Calories, 18g Fat, 36g Carbs, 27g Sugar, 5g Protein

    Culver’s has some of the best frozen custard you’ll find, and it looks a bit different from other options on this list because it is served as scoops and not as soft serve ice cream.

    Custard is very similar to ice cream, but contains a greater amount of egg yolk, which leads to a very rich & creamy texture. The result, as you can see here, is a product that is much higher in fat overall.

    Freddy's Custard Cone

    Freddy’s Frozen Custard Calories

    Single Scoop Vanilla Cup: 350 Calories, 17g Fat, 37g Carbs, 30g Sugar, 7g Protein

    Single Scoop Vanilla Cone: 370 Calories, 17g Fat, 42g Carbs, 30g Sugar, 7g Protein

    Ask anyone who has has frozen custard from Freddy’s, and they’ll be quick to tell you that it’s some of the best they’ve ever had.

    Freddy’s rich frozen custard is the highest-calorie option on our list, with a small cone (single scoop) containing 370 calories. If you go with a double scoop, it’ll end up being 700 calories!

    I don’t know how that math checks out… but I don’t make the rules, I just read the nutrition facts from their website.

    Wendy’s Vanilla Frosty Calories

    Small Vanilla Frosty: 310 Calories, 9g Fat, 49g Carbs, 41g Sugar, 10g Protein

    This list would not be complete without touching on Wendy’s frosty.

    A small Frosty made for the closest comparison here, but you can also order a “junior” Frosty for just 190 calories. The junior size is far too small for me to give it full credit, but it’s worth mentioning.

    Wendy’s is often swapping out their vanilla Frosty for other flavors, so depending on when you go to order, vanilla may not be an option. Wendy’s machines only have 2 flavors, so vanilla will be used as a base for seasonal flavors such as orange creamsicle or pumpkin spice.

    How To Estimate Ice Cream Calories

    If you’re going to a local spot for some delicious vanilla ice cream, odds are that they are not going to have nutritional information readily available (unless you’re in an area, like NYC, where providing that information is required).

    Or, maybe you want a specialty flavor from one of the restaurants listed in this post, but they don’t offer nutrition info for that flavor.

    When that’s the case, what do you do?

    That’s when estimating calories comes into play!

    Here’s what I like to do: take 2 comparable food options from national chains that offer nutritional information, then use those 2 to find the average.

    Here are a few non-ice cream examples…

    Estimating Restaurant Calories

    When you find 2 comparable options, it gives you a range to work with and find the average of.

    For our purposes, let’s take the lowest calorie vanilla ice cream cone, along with the highest: Burger King and Rita’s.

    140 calories and 285 calories is quite the large range, but that’s okay! Let’s split the difference, which gives us roughly 215 calories.

    Based on the other ice cream cones we looked at, 215 calories is very reasonable for an estimate, so we’ll assume that is what your cone has.

    Will this always work? Of course not!

    Your cone may have 150 calories, or it may have 350 calories. We really have no way of knowing, but that’s why it’s called ESTIMATING!

    215 calories may not be accurate, but it’s much better than making a blind guess!

    Can Ice Cream Actually Be “Healthy?”

    Let me remind you of this: it is okay to eat food just because it tastes good.

    Especially if it brings you joy.

    I always like to say “every food choice you make does not need to be in the pursuit of perfect health.”

    Ice cream may not be your typical “healthy” dessert (unless you make your own) but that doesn’t mean it’s bad to enjoy it.

    If you love ice cream, I hope you can allow yourself to enjoy it!

    I’m presenting you with the calories & nutrition facts of every ice cream cone out there so you can not only be educated but also make the best choice for your diet.

    Ice cream doesn’t have to be a traditional healthy option to be part of your healthy diet.

    By following a flexible dieting approach, you can very easily enjoy ice cream while remaining perfectly on track to your goals, no matter what your goals may be!

    Of course, you can always make your own healthier ice cream if you prefer. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’ve got a lot of healthier ice cream recipe options here on my blog!

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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