By Nora Bollinger | Photos by Robert Boag & Ryan Freeland

Cupcakes, ice cream and cookies galore! Harrisonburg’s dessert spots are no secret to its locals. Just try visiting Kline’s on the first warm night of summer — ice-cream lovers flock to the neon sign and occupy every square inch of pavement. But what’s not so well-known is how much sugar some of these sinfully delicious morsels can pack. A reduced-fat cookie from Campus Cookies or a cup of Sweet Bee fro-yo topped with a few candy pieces seem innocent enough. But are these options really as healthy as we think? We consulted dietetics professor Jeremy Akers to discuss the health values of different desserts and to dish out their appropriate portion sizes. Which dessert item will win as the most balanced choice?

Kline’s Dairy Bar

A staple favorite for locals, Kline’s serves thick, custard-style ice cream without the added fluffiness of other ice creams. The smooth, rich texture is thanks to a continuous freeze method. Fresh, raw milk is fed into a freeze machine every morning. This type of machine doesn’t continuously whip the ice cream, resulting in Kline’s airless texture.

Just as with Sweet Bee, the danger lies within the added toppings. Strawberries and other fruits can be on the lighter side, but some of the richer toppings, such as wet nuts (walnuts in maple syrup) can add a whopping 100-plus calories to any serving.

Kline’s features two locations, one at 58 E. Wolfe St., and the other at 2425 S. Main St.

Akers weighs in: “Usually frozen yogurt has less fat and calories, but with the various versions of sugar-free, fat-free … you can have situations where ice cream has less calories and fat than yogurt.”Appropriate portion size: 1/2 cup of ice cream
(about the size of half a baseball)

Sweet Bee

Sweet Bee — home to mountains of dessert toppings and tanks of flavored soft-serve frozen yogurt found at 1645 Reservoir St. If you have immeasurable self-control, you can walk out without consuming 500 calories of sugar. Most flavors offer a reasonable 100 to 110 calories per half cup, and some (such as the no-sugar added selections) even amount to only 80 or 90 calories per half cup.

But then there are the toppings: cake batter bites, sprinkles, Oreo crumbles and hot fudge sauces. For a healthy you, your best bet is to avoid the toppings counter at all costs because the calories can stack up. If you simply can’t resist the showcase of such delectable goodies, there are healthier topping options, including fresh-cut strawberries, pineapple pieces and blueberries — which can all satisfy at nearly half the calorie cost.

Akers weighs in: “Frozen yogurt is cultured and may also have probiotic bacteria that ice cream lacks. Probiotics can encourage healthy digestions and help treat or prevent diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections, colds, flus and eczema.”Appropriate portion size: 1/2 cup of frozen yogurt (about the size of half a baseball)

Cocolicious Cupcakes

Cocolicious, located at 14 Newman Ave., offers an assortment of cupcake flavors. The bakery cooks up creations ranging from the spin on the traditional “chocolate bomb” (a chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing and a Hershey’s kiss in the center) to the more original “breakfast cake,” a vanilla cupcake topped with bacon. It’s easy to go overboard when the prices are less than $2 per cupcake. Their sizes do match the recommended portion for a balanced diet, but how much sugar gets to be too much sugar?

Akers weighs in: “The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day or about 9 teaspoons of sugar … A teaspoon has 20 calories in it.” Appropriate portion size: one cupcake (about the size of a tennis ball)

Campus Cookies

The go-to for late-night munchers and all-night studiers, Campus Cookies delivers warm baked goods to students and Harrisonburg residents. Open from 7 p.m. until after midnight every day of the week, the dessert spot offers more than 10 different flavors of cookies, plus brownies, cookie cakes, cinnamon rolls and milk. At no more than two bucks a pop, it’s tempting to go all out. The company does offer one type of reduced fat cookie: chocolate chip. Its website describes this cookie as 43 percent less fat than its regular version, but does that really make it OK to eat twice as many? How much healthier is reduced fat versus regular fat?

Akers weighs in: “Food labels can be confusing, and labels and claims can mean various things. Reduced fat refers to a product’s claim to contain at least 25 percent less fat than the original version. One problem with a reduced-fat or low-fat product is that the company may add more sugar or sodium to enhance the taste to make it taste more like the original. So the best option is to read the labels and choose the option that is better for your balanced meal plan.” Appropriate portion size: two cookies (each about the diameter of a baseball)