Popsicles: A Closer Look

Frozen TreatsSummer is a great time for popsicles... but are all popsicles created equal?

Popsicles are fun summer treats. They're generally small, and they come conveniently-sized in single servings. This makes them perfect for easy portion control. Plus, many popsicles are fruit-flavored and boast about having serious vitamin content.

But do all brands live up to the hype? To find the popsicles that would fit into a healthful diet, we turned to the facts. The Nutrition Facts, that is.

The Nutrition Facts label is a treasure trove of information. Unfortunately, many people need a map to navigate it. Things can get a little confusing. Plus, there are often bold claims on the fronts and backs of the boxes. These claims can distract from the actual facts in the panel.

So, to evaluate these popsicles, we chose 3 criteria -- calorie density, nutrient density, and total sugar content.

First, let's talk calorie density. Calorie density is a measure of the number of calories in a given weight of food. The more calories in the less weight, the more calorie-dense a food is. For example, cheese is very calorie-dense, while lettuce is very calorie-light.

Fruit BarsA food high in calorie density has lots of calories in a small weight of food, while a food low in calorie density has fewer calories in the same weight of food.

You can calculate calorie density by dividing the number of calories in a serving by the weight of the food.

Let's take a look at a popsicle for an example. Each strawberry-flavored Edy's Outshine Fruit bar weighs approximately 2.68 ounces and contains 70 calories. 70 divided by 2.68 is 26.12, which means that that popsicle has roughly 26 calories per ounce. Actual strawberries, on the other hand, have 9 calories per ounce.

Second, let's talk nutrient content. In this case, we're just looking to see what vitamins and minerals the popsicles contain, if any. The more vitamins and minerals, the better.

Freezer PopsMany boxes of popsicles highlight the fruit juice content and vitamins in each pop, but are these foods actually healthful? How many nutrients do they truly contain? That's what we'll evaluate today.

Third and finally, lets take a look at total sugar content. MyPlate recommends avoiding products with added sugars, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans back up that recommendation. At this point, there is no way to use a Nutrition Facts label to look at added sugars alone, so we'll have to look at the total sugar content, which includes the naturally-occurring sugars in fruits.

Well... no system is perfect. In this case, it's close enough.

On to the popsicles!

Popsicle Chart

Let's start with the actual Popsicle brand. For the purposes of this evaluation, we are looking at the Nutrition Facts for the Popsicle Ice Pops Firecracker popsicles.

  • Calorie Density:
    • 35 calories per popsicle
    • 22 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 10% daily value (DV) vitamin C
  • Sugar Content:
    • 7 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 4 grams of sugar per ounce

We should note that the front of the packaging claims "Good Source of Vitamin C," and each popsicle provides 10% of the vitamin C that you need in a day. How do the claims and the stats compare?

Let's move on to Edy's Outshine Fruit Bars. For this survey, we picked the strawberry flavor.

  • Calorie Density:
    • 70 calories per popsicle
    • 26 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 20% DV vitamin C
  • Sugar Content:
    • 17 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 6 grams of sugar per ounce

These popsicles also feature a claim that they are an "excellent source of vitamin C." What do you think?

What about a different strawberry popsicle? Dole Strawberry Fruit Bars make an appearance at many different grocery stores...

  • Calorie Density:
    • 90 calories per popsicle
    • 26 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 30% DV vitamin C
  • Sugar Content:
    • 22 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 6 grams of sugar per ounce

Let's move on to a classic chocolate popsicle. We looked at Fudgesicle Original Fudge Pops next...

  • Calorie Density:
    • 60 calories per popsicle
    • 40 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 10% DV calcium, 2% DV iron
  • Sugar Content:
    • 9 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 6 grams of sugar per ounce

What about fruit pops? Does anyone remember those? Just for fun, we thought we'd throw some Fla-Vor-Ice Freezer Pops into the mix.

  • Calorie Density:
    • 20 calories per popsicle
    • 13 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: None
  • Sugar Content:
    • 5 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 3 grams of sugar per ounce

Now let's venture into some less well-known territory. Have you heard of Fruittare Frozen Dessert Bars? We examined their coconut flavor...

  • Calorie Density:
    • 140 calories per popsicle
    • 52 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 6% DV calcium
  • Sugar Content:
    • 18 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 7 grams of sugar per ounce

There are also the 365 Brand's line of popsicles. Let's check out their Caribbean Mix flavor...

  • Calorie Density:
    • 110 calories per popsicle
    • 28 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 20% DV vitamin C, 8% DV vitamin A
  • Sugar Content:
    • 25 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 6 grams of sugar per ounce

And who could forget Trader Joe's? Their Lime Fruit Floes were up for evaluation. We found...

  • Calorie Density:
    • 60 calories per popsicle
    • 16 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 10% DV vitamin C
  • Sugar Content:
    • 16 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 4 grams of sugar per ounce

Yogurt popsicles are getting more and more popular these days. We don't want to leave them out, do we? Let's look at TCBY Fruit 'n Yogurt Orange and Vanilla Bars...

  • Calorie Density:
    • 110 calories per popsicle
    • 52 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 10% DV calcium, 4% DV vitamin A, 2% DV vitamin C
  • Sugar Content:
    • 18 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 9 grams of sugar per ounce

Let's end with Weight Watchers' Fat-Free Strawberry Fruit Ice Bar. It has...

  • Calorie Density:
    • 70 calories per popsicle
    • 20 calories per ounce
  • Nutrients: 20% DV vitamin C
  • Sugar Content:
    • 14 grams of sugar per popsicle
    • 4 grams of sugar per ounce

Whew! That was a lot of popsicles!

Let's break down the pops that seem like great choices. These really stood out...

  • Lowest Calorie Density: Fla-Vor-Ice Freezer Pops
  • Lowest Sugar Density: Fla-Vor-Ice Freezer Pops
  • Highest Nutrient Content: 365 Brand's Caribbean Mix Popsicles

So what do you think? Which popsicles will make their way into your cart at your next trip to the grocery store?

There's always more in the Nutrition Education Store. Check out these great summer resources...

3 Steps to Good Health
Vacation Light PowerPoint and Handout Set
Fast Food Cheat Sheet

Would you like a free health education resource? Download your very own copy of the popsicle comparison chart today!

Popsicle Chart

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