Grocery shopping is no easy task—at least if you want to keep things (fairly) healthy and not blow your budget. We hear ya. And that's why we're starting a new series called Greatist-Approved Groceries. We're checking out all the products out there (and there are tens of thousands of 'em) and narrowing them down to the ones we think are worth buying so you can get in and out of the store faster. With the help of Elizabeth Jarrard, R.D., we came up with a set of standards to figure out what's best. Every item must:
- Contain only recognizable ingredients
- Have no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners (stevia and monk fruit are OK)
- Never list sugar as the first ingredient
- Have a reasonable serving size
- Taste absolutely amazing
- Cost a reasonable price
We're starting with what is likely many people's favorite supermarket aisle: ice cream and other frozen desserts. Yep, these treats can definitely fit into a healthy lifestyle (so long as you don't have a pint every night, naturally). In addition to the standards above, the ones on this list have no more than 15 ingredients and no more than two types of sugars.
Editor's note: For more on our standards, see the end of the list. Ice creams are listed in alphabetical order.
That’s right: Ben and Jerry’s actually offers healthier ice cream options, though they are pretty sparse. Go nuts over this pint packed with whole, roasted pistachios rather than tiny pieces. It's a bit mellower in nutty taste than others on the market (more like vanilla with pistachios), but we appreciate that it's not artificially colored green. $4.89
Also try: vanilla
For those who want their produce and ice cream organic, there's Julie's. This ice cream is free of hormones, pesticides, chemical additives, and GMOs—because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know you don't need that for a creamy scoop. The flavor is sweet but more "natural" than others. $3.99
Also try: blackberry and vanilla
This dessert delivers on its name—bliss, for those who love cherry amaretto. The coconut milk ice cream is super soft and creamy, with just the right touch of almond. Though it costs a pretty penny (it's organic and vegan, after all) and we wish there was a tad more cherry, we love that this ice cream contains only six ingredients. $6.29
Also try: cappuccino, chocolate hazelnut fudge, chocolate peanut butter, dark chocolate, mint galactica, mocha maca crunch, naked coconut, pineapple coconut, and vanilla island
Why settle for an iced latte when you can have ice cream made with fair-trade coffee? Cashews lend the rich consistency you expect from frozen desserts, so both dairy-free eaters and those who regularly consume cow's milk will be pleased. A touch of cinnamon will keep you coming back for more. $5.49
Also try: coconut milk cherry armaretto, choccolate, coconut, mint chip, strawberrry and vanilla bean; cashew milk creamy cashew
When vanilla chip seems so last year, try this twist. It's chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and a hint of orange “flair,” as they call it. We call it citrusy but not overwhelming, and we really liked how it has bits of chocolate rather than chips, which can be a bit too hard and big. $4.99
Also try: bittersweet chocolate, cardamom, Madagascar vanilla, mint confetti, mocha difference, strawberry, and vanilla chocolate chip
Almost all of Turkey Hill's "all natural" flavors pass our test (butter almond and chocolate is the exception). They don't even add any gums to their butter pecan, making it like grandma did. We're sure she'd approve of this sweet, crunchy stuff too. $4.99
Also try: Belgian style chocolate, chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate peanut butter, homemade vanilla, mint chip, salted caramel, vanilla bean, vanilla bean and chocolate, and vanilla fudge
The use of fair-trade coffee and cane sugar means that the farmers and workers who harvested and processed those ingredients work in fair environments and receive proper wages. If that's not reason enough to put it in your cart, know that the coffee flavor is as smooth as your morning sip. $5.99
Also try: chocolate and mint chocolate chip
Gelato, Sorbet, and Frozen Yogurt
There's nothing more disappointing than digging your spoon into chocolate chip ice cream and surfacing sans chocolate. Which is we love that there are thin bits (not chips) of the good stuff throughout this creamy gelato. Other benefits: You can scoop it right away (no waiting for it to defrost some first), and the ingredient list is simple. (Note that Talenti adds dextrose, a sweetener slightly less sweet than sugar, to its gelatos.) $4.99
Also try: Belgian milk chocolate, black cherry, black raspberry chocolate chip, caramel apple pie, Caribbean coconut, chocolate peanut butter cup, coffee chocolate chip, double dark chocolate, hazelnut chocolate chip, Mediterranean mint, old world eggnog, peppermint bark, raspberries and cream, Sicilian pistachio, simply strawberry, Tahitian vanilla bean, and tiramisu
Because it has no gums added, it's best to let this sit and thaw for a few minutes before digging in. Your patience will be rewarded with an uber creamy, subtly chocolate gelato with a ribbon of salty peanut butter throughout (meaning you'll get just the right amount of PB in every bite). $4.99
Also try: chocolate chocolate chip, coffee chip, mint chocolate chip, peach mango, and purely vanilla
First ingredient: mango puree. And it's incredibly creamy, with a consistency like ice cream. Giving us 25 percent of our daily vitamin A ain't bad either, though the taste may be too sweet for some. Annatto—a natural coloring from the seeds of the achiote tree—keeps spoonfuls bright. $4.29
Also try: strawberry
Ice Cream Bars and Popsicles
All you need is three ingredients to make a popsicle—at least that's all Chloe needs. Fruit, water, and organic cane sugar come together for an icy treat that's full of flavor. $3.99
Also try: all of their flavors
Coconut Bliss likes to keep things simple when it comes to ingredients. These bars are coconutty without being overwhelming thanks to little bits of coconut throughout. Sweetened with agave, they are super creamy rather than icy courtesy of coconut milk and cream. But they might bust your budget if you like them too much. $6.29
Also try: café latte, dark chocolate, and strawberry love
Vegans can have their ice cream on a stick too. But everyone will love this coconut milk ice cream coated in chocolate and dotted with almonds. A little crunch, a little sweet, and a whole lotta yum! $4.99
We love Greek yogurt—which is why we're disappointed by products that have the words on the label yet don't contain any trace of the good stuff. These bars are the real deal, with six grams of protein per 80-calorie stick, and a natural chocolate flavor that makes them ideal for dessert. But what is maltodextrin? Derived from corn, potato, or rice, it's another thickening agent. $4.99
There's not one drop of added sugars in these Paleo-friendly snacks. Instead it's a blend of pineapple, grape, and pear with a kick of ginger (but not too much thanks to the sweet fruit), plus chia seeds for some texture. Cavemen will envy you. $5.99
Also try: apple crisp, blueberry pomegranate, chocolate passion, green passion, orange mango, and strawberry passion
Don't worry, these don't taste like eating frozen broccoli out of the bag. Sink your teeth into a tangy tropical blend of butternut squash, pineapple juice, passion fruit juice, sweet potato, and mango, with more probiotics per ounce than Greek yogurt. You're also naturally consuming 20 percent of your daily recommended vitamin A, which plays a role in immunity, eye health, and cell growth. Try finding that in a rocket pop. Rather than using a gum to help the popsicles stick together, Ruby Rocket's uses vegetable glycerin. $4.99
Also try: celestial cherry, galaxy green, gravity grape, orbit orange, planetary pink lemonade, and rock-it red
We originally started looking for treats with no more than 10 ingredients, but we had trouble finding more than plain ol' vanilla or chocolate. And we all know you need more flavor options than two! We also discovered that the vast majority of ice creams and popsicles add some type of stabilizer or thickener so your treat tastes its best. Don't be scared off by these ingredients:
acacia gum (or gum arabic): The sap of the acacia tree is a bit of a jack of all trades: It thickens, stabilizes, emulsifies, and lends texture to food products, plus it's a source of fiber.
carrageenan: This thickener and stabilizer is derived from Irish moss, which is a seaweed. While carrageenan has been said to be carcinogenic, more research has shown that this isn't true. Food additive carrageenan: Part II: A critical review of carrageenan in vivo safety studies. Weiner ML. Critical reviews in toxicology, 2014, Jan.;44(3):1547-6898. The tricky thing about carrageenan is that the number of human studies has been limited, and it's hard to extrapolate animal research to humans. Some human in vitro research suggests it can cause inflammation, but the World Health Organization considers it a safe food additive, so we're eating it (in moderation).
guar gum: Guar is an Indian legume; the gum is used as a thickener.
locust (or carob) bean gum: Made from the seeds of the carob tree (which is actually a legume), this one is both a thickener and a stabilizer. Locust bean gum: Exploring its potential for biopharmaceutical applications. Dionísio M, Grenha A. Journal of pharmacy & bioallied sciences, 2012, Oct.;4(3):0975-7406.
pectin: A staple for people who make their own jams and jellies, this thickener comes from fruit.
soy lecithin: Another emulsifier, this one is basically fat from, you guessed it, soybeans. The amount in a frozen treat is safe, as long as you aren't allergic.