Maybe it’s because of the very real health benefits associated with yogurt, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking. Whatever the reason behind it, the majority of Americans believe the answer to the question “Is frozen yogurt healthy” to be yes. Experts say that the desire for a healthy dessert option is the primary driving force behind the growth of the massive frozen yogurt market—and we really do mean massive. The global consumption of frozen yogurt is projected to reach 355 million liters by 2023. But does fro-yo really offer the same health benefits as plain old yogurt? Let’s uncover the truth behind three common myths about frozen yogurt nutrition facts.
Myth #1: Frozen Yogurt Is Low-Cal
One myth about frozen yogurt that many believe is that it’s naturally low-fat, or even nonfat, which automatically makes it low-cal. The truth is, frozen yogurt calories can add up fast.
While most varieties do have a low-fat content, they tend to contain tons of sugar. The lowest calorie flavors at most fro-yo joints are “original” and “plain,” which average around 30 to 35 calories per ounce and contain a whopping 20 grams of sugar per ounce. That means if you order a large (typically, a 16-ounce cup), that serving will cost you 380 calories and 76 grams of sugar—before toppings!
Quick reminder: these frozen yogurt nutrition facts are generalizations and the specifics will vary somewhat from brand to brand. So, if you want information about frozen yogurt carbs to calculate your keto macros, for example, you’ll need to read the label for the fro-yo that’s calling your name.
What about fro-yo that’s specifically marketed as low-cal? To make that happen, manufacturers replace sugar with dangerous artificial sweeteners like aspartame. It’s true that you won’t be consuming as high an amount of calories, but that absolutely does not make chemical-laced low-calorie frozen yogurts a healthy dessert option.
Myth #2: Frozen Yogurt Is Full of Probiotics
It’s easy to see where this myth comes from. After all, yogurt itself is a natural source of probiotics. But unfortunately, those health-promoting bacteria that can boost your digestion and improve immune function, among other benefits, don’t often make it into your frozen yogurt cup. Many experts believe that the freezing process kills off probiotics.
Some frozen yogurt companies, however, have begun to add probiotics back in after production. According to Alissa Rumsey, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, if you see the “Live & Active Cultures” seal in a frozen yogurt shop or on a pint of fro-yo in the freezer aisle, that means it contains 100 million cultures per gram. That concentration of probiotics has been linked to health benefits, including allowing lactose-intolerant individuals to digest milk-based products, like frozen yogurt.
Major chains like Pinkberry, RedMango, and Cold Stone Creamery have all earned that seal. You can find a complete list of current participants in the National Yogurt Association’s Live & Active Cultures Seal Program here.
Myth #3: Frozen Yogurt Is Healthier Than Ice Cream
When it comes to the epic matchup of frozen yogurt vs. ice cream, the victor really depends on what you’re looking for in a creamy frozen dessert treat. While frozen yogurt isn’t exactly low-cal, as we covered earlier, it does contain fewer calories, ounce for ounce, than your average scoop of ice cream. It’s also lower in saturated fat than most kinds of ice cream.
If you choose low-fat ice cream, however, the calories and saturated fat contents even out. A half-cup serving of Pinkberry’s original frozen yogurt flavor, for example, contains 100 calories and 0 grams of saturated fat. The same size serving of Breyers’ “1/2 the Fat” vanilla ice cream also contains 100 calories and just two 2 grams of saturated fat.
Many frozen yogurts also have more added sugar than ice cream, according to Dana Kofsky, a nutritionist who created a career for herself as a Wellness Stylist. A half-cup of frozen yogurt typically contains approximately 17 grams of sugar, while the same size serving of ice cream has 14. One reason for that, Kofsky said, is that frozen yogurt companies often add extra sugar to counterbalance yogurt’s tart taste.
While ice cream does contain more fat—especially if you’re not specifically seeking out low-fat versions—that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Fat can slow your body’s digestion of a sweet treat, which helps you feel full for longer and prevents a blood sugar spike, explained Alissa Rumsey. She also noted that low-fat products often contain sugar substitutes, which as we mentioned above, can negatively impact your health.
How to Healthily Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
Whether you go for ice cream or fro-yo, you can find healthy ways to indulge in your favorite frozen dessert. Here are some tips to help you do that:
- Pay attention to portion size: If you limit yourself to a half-cup serving, that’s a totally reasonable treat to have (though probably not every day). If you’re having trouble visualizing half of a cup, you’re aiming for a portion that’s about the size of your closed fist.
- Savor the flavor: Pick a dessert that actually sounds good to you, so you’ll really enjoy it. Avoid “diet” versions laden with weird additives and go for something made from a few simple ingredients with names you recognize. Then, eat your treat slowly and savor every bite.
- Take a DIY approach: Try making your own healthier version of ice cream or frozen yogurt! You may be surprised by the way whole food ingredients like bananas and cocoa powder can transform into creamy, chocolatey soft serve. If you need inspiration, check out recipe #22 and #24 on this list.