The Sweet Taste of Denial

Skinny Cow ice cream cups

Skinny Cow ice cream cups

I Paid: $1.25 for 5.8 ounces of ice cream (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 3 stars

The Skinny Cow brand (a tentacle of the great multinational octopus known as Nestlé) has shown a surprising capacity for quality in the past—its Drumstick-like sundae cones raised the bar for diet ice cream products with their surprisingly rich taste and overall sense of balance. This new version kicks the cone out of the equation and packages itself in little 150- to 170-calorie single-serving buckets.

There are three varieties: Caramel Cone, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Of the three, Brownie is the weakest—it suffers from direct comparison with the Ben & Jerry’s flavor of the same name, which is decidedly not a diet version. Ben & Jerry’s has larger pieces of brownie and a stronger cocoa kick, not to mention an overall richness that outshines Skinny Cow. That said, in absolute terms, Skinny Cow’s take on a low-fat Chocolate Fudge Brownie is tasty overall.

Strawberry Cheesecake would be desirable even were it not low-fat and single-serving portioned—it’s creamy, the strawberry flavor is bright and natural tasting (assisted, perhaps, by the strawberry seeds that are among its ingredients), and it’s sweet without tasting one-note. Likewise, Caramel Cone has a legitimately caramelized flavor to its swirl, some pleasing crunch to its ice cream cone bits, and an overall rich and creamy disposition.

There are 13 grams of fat in a 1/2 cup serving of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie; by comparison, a similar serving of Skinny Cow has less than 2 grams of fat and twice the fiber. So while Skinny Cow’s version is not as healthy as, say, an apple, it’s a healthier choice than regular ice cream, and if you stick with the Caramel Cone or Strawberry Cheesecake varieties, you’re getting taste that’s close, if not equivalent, to the full-fat alternative.

There’s no such thing as a magic bullet, of course—Skinny Cow contains high-fructose corn syrup and a number of additives. But for what they are—reasonably portioned single-serving desserts—Skinny Cow cups are both tasty and satisfying, an accomplishment worth saluting.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.