Before you order another scoop, learn the health, fat, and calorie basics about this tempting frozen treat.
You may feel virtuous ordering a creamy white swirl of frozen yogurt from any one of the "real" yogurt shops popping up across the country—frozen yogurt has become a $2 billion dollar industry, with the majority of consumers being female—but what are you really getting? Does fro-yo offer all the same health benefits as regular yogurt? Is this seemingly guilt-free pleasure truly low-fat? And what about all those toppings? Discover the truth about these tempting frozen snacks as we shine the light on the top five misconceptions about frozen yogurt.
Frozen Yogurt Myth 1
Frozen yogurt is naturally nonfat or low-fat, so I can have as much as I want. Partially true. While most frozen yogurt is nonfat or very low in fat, the calories still add up. Most nonfat "original" or "plain" (the lowest-calorie flavor at most frozen yogurt shops) has about 30 to 35 calories per ounce with about 20g of sugar—meaning that a large 16-ounce cup weighs in at 380 calories and 76g of sugar before you add any toppings.
Diet tip: If you're going to spoon down one of these delicious frozen snacks, stick with the small for about 150 calories or the medium for 230. Just see Frozen Yogurt Myth 2 before you decide. (Related: Can't get enough frozen treats? Find out which frozen yogurt orders are the healthiest.)
Frozen Yogurt Myth 2
Those toppings don't pack many calories. True—if you go for fruit. Stay away from popular "healthy" snack toppers like granola, which adds 138 calories and 6.8g of fat per ounce, or a cereal such as Cap'n Crunch, which adds 116 calories and 3g of fat per ounce. Other "healthy" frozen yogurt add-ons to avoid include yogurt chips (150 calories, 8g fat per ounce), dried cranberries (96 calories, 0.4g fat per ounce), and mixed nuts (168 calories, 15g of fat per ounce).
Diet tip: For a variety of flavor and texture, add a few different fruits. One ounce of fruit has about 15 calories and 0.1g fat—and gives your frozen snack an added boost of vitamins and nutrients. Just make sure fruit is fresh, not in a sugary (and caloric) syrup.
Frozen Yogurt Myth 3
Frozen yogurt is full of healthy probiotics that support my immune and digestive systems. True and false. While it's true that probiotics are naturally found in yogurt, those healthy bacteria don't always make their way into your digestive tract. "Shelf-life, manufacturing processes, stomach fluid and—particularly in the case of frozen yogurt—extreme temperatures can prevent probiotics from surviving and getting to where they can do the most benefit," says Marshall Fong, former VP of marketing at Ganeden Biotech, Inc. Although frozen yogurt does contain probiotics, the majority of them do not survive long enough for you to reap the rewards.
Diet tip: Frozen yogurt manufacturers, like Red Mango, are beginning to realize the delicacy of probiotics and are starting to use strains that can survive the freezing process and the other challenges these healthy bacteria face. In the meantime try a supplement like Digestive Advantage, Sustenex, and AZO to get the full health benefits of probiotics. (Learn which healthy foods Victoria's Secret models love most.)
Frozen Yogurt Myth 4
I make lunch out of regular yogurt, so why not frozen? Frozen yogurt is a great lunch. False. Frozen yogurt (and regular yogurt for that matter) is not an appropriate meal. A small serving (1 1/2 cups) of frozen yogurt does provide about 15 percent of your daily calcium and 5.5g of protein, but it also packs 30 grams of sugar. You'd never drink a glass of milk and call it lunch, yet the same serving of 1 percent milk provides 45 percent of your calcium, 19g of sugar, and a much more significant 12.3g of protein.
Diet tip: Like regular yogurt, frozen yogurt can be a healthy accompaniment to a light lunch. For a well-rounded meal, try a protein- and vegetable-rich sandwich followed by a small frozen yogurt topped with 3 ounces of your favorite fruits and five chopped almonds. Altogether, this lunch will clock in at just 430 calories while providing a great balance of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and carbohydrates. Plus, it satisfies your frozen snack sweet tooth!
Frozen Yogurt Myth 5
"Real" or "natural" frozen yogurt is better for me than the Ben & Jerry's version. False. While all frozen yogurts are not created equal, they are fairly comparable. Pinkberry, one of the leaders of the "real" frozen yogurt movement, serves up 116 calories, 0g of fat, and 20g of sugar per half cup. TCBY boasts 98 percent fat-free vanilla, which weighs in at 120 calories, 2g fat, and 17g of sugar. Ben & Jerry's frozen yogurt is basically on par with 130 calories, 1.5g fat, and 16g of sugar in half a cup of their vanilla frozen yogurt. (Related: Yogurt's not only for dessert. Use Greek yogurt to make these 10 healthy and delicious recipes.)
Diet tip: Before you indulge in a frozen snack, think about what you're getting. Lots of women order the large (16 oz) cup at their favorite frozen yogurt shop and think they've made a healthy choice. Throw on sliced banana and a sprinkling of shredded coconut and you're looking at 530 calories. That's more than an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's vanilla frozen yogurt (520 calories). If you're looking for quantity and all the goodies along with it, you're better off splitting a pint of Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie frozen yogurt with a friend. It will set you each back 320 calories and 5g fat, many fewer calories than a large fro-yo—and way less money too!