Raise your hand if you love ice cream as much as I do!
I’m all about ice cream… as if that wasn’t evident by my official Ice Cream Week.
And 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.
If you find yourself craving some soft serve, here are some options for you!
And if you’re curious how the taste of each cone stacks up, you can check out a ranking that Thrillest put together that may help ya.
Where to find the healthiest soft serve ice cream cone
Depending on where you are located, you’re going to have a lot of options for ice cream.
I’m in Michigan, and we seem to have a little ice cream shack on every single corner. If you want an ice cream cone here, there are tons of options!
But we’re going to look at some of the most widely available options. Many people don’t realize that fast-food chains like Burger King and McDonald’s offer cones, and those types of options make it very easy to get your ice cream fix no matter where you may be located.
Let’s dive into the ice cream, taking it from lowest calorie to highest calorie.
Note that for all the ice cream cones here, it includes a cake cone. In some cases, you have the option to choose a sugar cone or waffle cone for more calories.
Vanilla Cone: 140 Calories 4g Fat 24g Carbs 17g Sugar 3g 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! Since this vanilla ice cream cone has the lowest calories of any cone I looked at for this, it is safe to assume that it is going to be smaller than some of the other options out there.
If you want to ditch the cone and go for a cup of ice cream, be careful. While you may think you’re saving calories by going with no cone, you’re actually getting more ice cream instead, resulting in 170 calories. That is certainly not a ton of calories, but definitely something to be mindful of.
Frozen Yogurt Cone: 170 Calories 0g Fat 37g Carbs 31g Sugar 3g Protein
*Based on nutritional information available through ikeafoodfacts.ca
I didn’t originally include IKEA in my graphic, but it deserves an honorable mention here for sure.
Granted, 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.
Nutritionally, it is tough to pinpoint the numbers for this cone. Through some Google searching, it seems that a vanilla cone from IKEA may have 120-130 calories. However, I was able to find these specific numbers from IKEA Canada, so that’s what we are going to go with here! No matter what, it is safe to say that the calories in this cone are very low, and the fat content will be the lowest of any options out there, because frozen yogurt typically contains very little to no fat.
Vanilla Cone: 180 Calories 4g Fat 32g Carbs 25g Sugar 4g Protein
Like Burger King, the vanilla ice cream cone (Icedream® Cone) from Chick-fil-A is on the smaller side, which is why the calories are lower than other options out there.
However, it is widely 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 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 cone.
“Carvelite” Vanilla Junior Cone: 195 Calories 4.5g Fat 43g Carbs 21g Sugar 7g Protein
Vanilla Junior Cone: 315 Calories 15g Fat 38g Carbs 27g Sugar 4g Protein
I wanted to highlight 2 different cones here, because Carvel offers two great options.
The first is the “Carvelite” option, 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. At less than 200 calories, it’s definitely a great option!
If you were to get the same sized cone but opt for the standard vanilla soft serve ice cream, you’d be looking at 315 calories and 15g of fat, which is significantly higher all around. Is that a bad thing? No, not necessarily, but for me, I much prefer the lite version.
It’s worth noting here that these are for junior size cones, rather than small cones. When I was comparing the sizes, the junior size was much closer to the standard cones offered at fast-food restaurants like Burger King or McDonald’s.
Vanilla Cone: 200 Calories 5g Fat 33g Carbs 23g Sugar 5g Protein
McDonald’s vanilla 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 falls right in the middle of all the options. For just 200 calories, a soft-serve cone from McDonald’s is a great option for a quick dessert on the go.
Small Vanilla Cone: 220 Calories 7g Fat 34g Carbs 26g Sugar 7g Protein
Dairy Queen is best known for their Blizzards, but the cones deserve honorable mentions 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.
Vanilla Cone: 250 Calories 12g Fat 30g Carbs 17g Sugar 4g Protein
Okay, I’ve never had a vanilla cone from Sonic, but that photo makes it look like a very sorry cone. However, this makes it a perfect time to address something:
Don’t take the nutrition of these cones too seriously.
Do you see how this photo of the cone has a very small amount of ice cream? Well, depending on when you go to Sonic, and who is serving you, they may very well be a little bit more generous with the serving size. Unlike a scoop of ice cream, it’s much harder to measure out a proper serving of soft serve, so you may end up with a larger cone than this, along with higher calories.
I don’t say that to stress you out, but it’s worth noting that all we want to be able to do here is get a general idea of the nutrition, but we don’t want to take it too seriously.
“Regular” Vanilla 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 another 2 locations 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.
Small Vanilla Custard: 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.
Estimating ice cream calories if there is no nutritional information available
If you’re going to a local spot for some soft-serve ice cream, odds are that they are not going to have nutritional information readily available.
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…
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 you eat soft serve ice cream as part of a healthy diet?
Let me remind you of this: it is okay to eat food because it tastes good.
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!