Free Rita’s for spring? Read nutrition info first

Before you line up at Rita’s for free Italian Ice on March 20, take a look at the nutrition information. One 12-ounce regular ice has 230 to 460 calories, and sugar-free flavors have 130 to 240 calories. (Photo by Lebanon Daily News — Earl Brightbill)

March 20 marks the first day of spring, and everyone in York County knows what that means — free Rita’s Italian Ice.

But before you line up, take a look at the nutrition information in a cup of the seasonal treat.

A regular, 12-ounce Rita’s Italian Ice has 230 to 460 calories and 58 to 96 grams of sugar. Most flavors are low in fat, which means almost all of those calories come from sugar. Depending on the flavor, one regular is the equivalent of about one and a half to more than two cans of soda — or 14.5 to 24 teaspoons of sugar.

If you opt for a sugar-free flavor, you’d still consume 130 to 240 calories per 12-ounce cup — and a lot of artificial sweetener. Even though there’s no sugar in the sugar-free varieties, there are still carbohydrates (43 to 80 grams per pop).

So although Rita’s Italian Ice might be low in fat, it’s still high in sugar and calories and not necessarily a healthy swap for ice cream.

If you indulge:
Opt for the smallest size and remember that it’s not a low-calorie treat.

Healthier option: Make a smoothie at home with fresh fruit and plain nonfat Greek yogurt, and a sprinkle of sugar, honey or Stevia if you want it a little sweeter.

About Leigh Zaleski

I'm a health features reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News and healthy living blogger for No Sweat, York. Contact me with story ideas at lzaleski@ydr.com, 717-771-2101 or @leighzaleski on Twitter.
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