While indulgent comfort foods remain top sellers, restaurants — even those specializing in desserts — have seen more customers order better-for-you fare.

Lighter desserts are starting to gain traction, said president and chief executive Jonathan Fornaci of Rita’s Italian Ice, a chain that has moved to make more lighter fare available.

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Sugar Free Mango Peach is now one of the top five flavors at the 650-unit chain, which specializes in housemade ices and frozen custard. Sugar-free items have been an option for Rita’s franchisees for about five years, Fornaci said, but he now mandates that each unit always offer a sugar-free flavor.

The chain is also testing a light custard, with one-third the fat content of their regular custard, as well as a dairy-free gelato made with coconut milk, he added.

“All it has is coconut milk, fresh fruit, sugar and a little vanilla,” he said.

“We’re also launching a Greek frozen yogurt, which obviously has a lot less calories than custard,” he added. The yogurt has about 150 calories per serving.

Meanwhile, Baskin-Robbins is expanding its BRight Choices lineup this summer with new light ice creams, no-sugar-added desserts and frozen yogurt. The 7,000-unit chain first introduced BRight Choices in 2009.

The new flavors include:

• Toasted Marshmallow Chip: Marshmallow-flavored ice cream with a chocolate and marshmallow ribbon and chocolate chips. The item is part of the Premium Churned Light line, which has 50 percent less fat and 20 percent fewer calories than Baskin-Robbins’ regular ice cream.

• Pineapple Coconut: A no-sugar-added dessert of coconut-flavored ice cream with chunks of pineapple.

• Maui Brownie Madness: Chocolate frozen yogurt with chunks of brownie, macadamia nuts and chocolate fudge ribbons.

• Lemonade Iced Tea: A sorbet combining two summertime favorites.

• Watermelon Chip: A watermelon-flavored ice with chocolate “seeds.”

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary