Cooling off with a summer treat can cost you big, if you're not careful. When you're dining out, smart choices make all the difference, but sometimes it's tricky to tell which options really are the best for you.
A lot of parents think they're doing right by feeding their kids what they think are "healthier" versions of summer fun foods or choosing desserts especially made for kids. But before you throw caution to the wind with the gigantic dish of ice cream, take a quick look at what you're really getting.
ABC's health and wellness contributor Dave Zinczenko shows us how to "Eat It to Beat It" by breaking down the calorie counts of summer treats from McDonald's, Applebee's and Friendly's, and points us toward healthier choices at these restaurants.
Summer Splurge: Chocolate McCafe Shake - 850 Calories; 23 Grams of Fat; 120 Grams of Sugar
The McCafe might sound more sophisticated, but it has as many calories as 34 packs of Pop Rocks. Indeed, a sugar packet has about 4 grams of sugar. So if you ordered a coffee and poured 30 packets of sugar into it, you'd be approaching this one beverage.
Healthier: Large Strawberry Banana Smoothie - 330 Calories; 1 Gram of Fat; 70 Grams of Sugar
When in Mickey D's, go for the large Strawberry Banana Smoothie. It's still a summer indulgence, with 330 calories. That's a savings of 520 calories . And you'll cut your sugar intake almost in half.
Summer Splurge: Kids Oreo Cookie Shake - 800 Calories; 41 Grams of Fat
This dish is more like two meals than one dessert. It's the calorie equivalent of 40 Dum Dum Lollipops.
Healthier: Kid's Vanilla Sundae - 290 Calories; 17 Grams of Fat
Instead, choose the Applebee's Kids Vanilla Sundae, a totally indulgent treat that only packs 290 calories. That's a savings of 510 calories.
*Applebee's does not list the amount of sugar in its menu items online. When reached by ABCNews.com, a representative for also did not have that information.
Summer Splurge: Hunka Chunka PB Fudge Lava Cake Sundae - 1,770 Calories; 107 Grams of Fat; 112 Grams of Sugar
There will be nothing "hunky" about you if you over indulge in the Hunka Chunka. That's as many calories as nine Krispy Kreme donuts and as much sugar as 18 rolls of Smarties.
Healthier: Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Cups and Hot Fudge Topping - 530 Calories; 47 Grams of Sugar; 27 Grams of Fat
Instead, choose the make your own sundae option. Three scoops of chocolate ice cream with peanut butter cups and hot fudge is totally indulgent, but far more sane at 530 calorie and 47 grams of sugar. That's a savings of 1,240 calories.
In response, the three restaurants said they provide many different options for their customers to make their own healthy choices.
At McDonald's, we listen to our customers' preference. McDonald's offers a variety of sweetened and unsweetened beverage options from calorie-free iced tea to fat-free chocolate milk to bottled water to orange juice to carbonated soft drinks. We provide customers nutritional information to make the choice that is best for themselves and their families.
Applebee's best serves our guests when we provide a wide selection of choices for how their children eat when dining out. Those choices include healthier options, including entrees like our Kids LiveWell-endorsed meal of a Grilled Chicken Breast sandwich, steamed broccoli and apple or grape juice, and lower-calorie desserts like our Kids Vanilla Sundae.
At our creamery in Wilbraham, Mass., we receive fresh milk from local dairies every day and take pride in producing high-quality, hand-crafted ice cream. Although we consider ourselves an indulgent brand, we take the dietary needs of our guests very seriously by providing them with lower-calorie menu choices such as No Sugar Added Vanilla Ice Cream and Vanilla Fat-Free Frozen Yogurt.