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When the weather is hot, there’s nothing like cooling down with a frozen treat. My friends and I loved to visit the local frozen yogurt place during blistering North Carolina summers.
Like ice cream, frozen yogurt is a frozen dairy dessert, though non-dairy options are now often available. It’s often available at ice cream parlors, in dedicated frozen yogurt shops, and in the supermarket’s freezer aisle – in pints, gallons, and even frozen yogurt bars. Many people consider it to be healthier than ice cream, but is that in fact true?
Is frozen yogurt good for you?
Just like ice cream, frozen yogurt is made with milk and sugar. Unlike ice cream, frozen yogurt also includes cultured milk – AKA yogurt – full of probiotics. Some supermarket frozen yogurts will even say that they have “live and active cultures” on their label. These good bacteria are important for gut health.
Calories in frozen yogurt
The number of calories in frozen yogurt varies. The total amount of calories depends on the flavor of frozen yogurt, fat content (was the frozen yogurt made with nonfat milk?), serving size, whether you add any froyo toppings, and whether it is sugar-free frozen yogurt or not.
Menchie’s original tart frozen yogurt has 120 calories in 4 ounces – about half of a cup. Their chocolate hazelnut pie frozen yogurt flavor has 160 calories in 4 ounces. Yasso Greek yogurt bars have 80-100 calories per frozen yogurt bar. Blue Bunny’s vanilla bean frozen yogurt has 140 calories in ⅔ of a cup. That’s 60 calories less than Blue Bunny’s ice cream that is available in the same flavor.
Carbs in frozen yogurt
What about carbs in frozen yogurt? Certain people, such as those with diabetes, need to be aware of how many carbohydrates they are consuming for medical reasons. Here’s an example of the carbs in frozen yogurt using the same flavors mentioned above:
- 4 ounces of Menchie’s original tart frozen yogurt has 24 grams of carbs
- 4 ounces of Menchies chocolate hazelnut pie frozen yogurt has 32 grams of carbs
- Yasso Greek frozen yogurt bars generally have 15 to 16 grams of carbs in each bar, depending on the flavor
- ⅔ cups of Blue Bunny vanilla bean frozen yogurt has 25 grams of carbs. In comparison, Blue Bunny vanilla bean ice cream has 21 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
Sugar in frozen yogurt
We all know that too much sugar isn’t healthy at all. The American Heart Association recommends that men limit themselves to no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day – about 36 grams. For women, the recommendation is to eat no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar each day, which is about 25 grams. So how much sugar is in your favorite frozen yogurt?
The amount of sugar in frozen yogurt will depend on the flavor as well as whether or not it’s made with sugar-free flavorings. Menchie’s frozen yogurt in its original tart flavor has 20 grams of sugar in 4 ounces – 12 grams of which are added sugar. Their chocolate hazelnut pie frozen yogurt flavor contains 24 grams of sugar in 4 ounces. Of those 24 grams of sugar, 16 grams are added sugar. While they don’t have sugar-free frozen yogurt flavors, they do have no sugar added froyo. For example, Menchie’s no sugar added very vanilla frozen yogurt has 8 grams of sugar in 4 ounces, and, of course, 0 grams of added sugar.
A Yasso bar in birthday cake flavor contains 13 grams of sugar, including 9 grams of added sugar. Blue Bunny vanilla bean frozen yogurt has 21 grams of sugar in ⅔ cup, of which 9 grams are added sugars. How does that compare to regular ice cream? The Blue Bunny vanilla bean ice cream has 20 grams of sugar and 15 grams of added sugar.
Bottom line: If you are watching your sugar intake, you should limit other sources of added sugars on days that you eat frozen yogurt.
Fat in frozen yogurt
Dietary fat plays plenty of important roles in the body. It is necessary for the absorption of certain nutrients, provides energy, helps to build cell membranes, is used in hormone production, and more. There are different kinds of fat, with some healthier than others. Saturated fat is an unhealthy fat that should be limited in your diet. Trans fat should be absolutely avoided.
Frozen yogurt is generally lower in fat than ice cream, though low-fat and nonfat ice cream is also available. Let’s go back to the flavors we’ve been using as examples in this article to take a look at the amount of fat in frozen yogurt:
- 4 ounces of Menchie’s frozen yogurt in original tart flavor has 0 grams of fat
- 4 ounces of Menche’s frozen yogurt in chocolate hazelnut pie flavor has 2 grams of fat, with 0 grams of saturated and trans fat
- The birthday cake flavor of Yasso bars includes 1 gram of fat, of which 0.5 grams is saturated fat. There are 0 grams of trans fat. Their chocolate fudge flavor, on the other hand, has 0 grams of fat.
- Blue Bunny vanilla bean frozen yogurt has 3 grams of fat in ⅔ of a cup, with 2 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat. In comparison, the Blue Bunny vanilla bean ice cream has 11 grams of fat, with 7 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
Protein in frozen yogurt
Most people don’t think of protein when they think of dessert. Just like regular yogurt, however, frozen yogurt also has protein.
- Menchie’s original tart frozen yogurt has <1 gram of protein per ounce – not the best.
- Menchie’s chocolate hazelnut pie frozen yogurt flavor has 4 grams of protein in 4 ounces of yogurt.
- A Yasso Greek yogurt bar in birthday cake flavor includes 5 grams of protein.
- ⅔ cup of Blue Bunny vanilla bean frozen yogurt has 5 grams of protein. Their ice cream in the same flavor has 1 gram less. That’s a total of 4 grams of protein per serving.
Healthiest flavors of frozen yogurt
I generally recommend a natural, tart flavor frozen yogurt because with other flavors there tends to be more added sugar. True, there are sugar-free frozen yogurt flavors but some people experience bloating and diarrhea from sugar alcohols in sugar-free sweeteners.
You can see above that there is more than one nutritional aspect to consider when it comes to frozen yogurt. Whether frozen yogurt has less healthy saturated fat (and how much) depends more on the fat content of the milk than the flavor of frozen yogurt. Similarly, protein content isn’t really related to frozen yogurt flavor.
Healthiest frozen yogurt toppings
If you choose to add toppings to your froyo, fresh fruit is always a good choice. Unsalted nuts, like chopped unsalted almonds, can also be a healthy frozen yogurt topping. Dark chocolate is known to have antioxidants. Try to stay away from regularly eating large amounts of sweet toppings, such as chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, crumbled cookies and brownies, and sauces. These are high in sugar so you should indulge in them on a less frequent basis.
Frozen yogurt vs frozen yogurt bars: Is one healthier than the other?
The only difference really between frozen yogurt and frozen yogurt bars is that frozen yogurt bars come in a predetermined serving size. When you buy frozen yogurt in the supermarket or from a local parlor, the serving size is essentially up to you.
Is frozen yogurt ice cream?
While frozen yogurt is similar to ice cream and includes many of the same ingredients, it’s not 100% the same as ice cream. Differences between frozen yogurt and ice cream include:
- Ice cream uses cream as a base whereas frozen yogurt uses a yogurt base
- Frozen yogurt contains probiotics, which ice cream does not. You should note that there is some debate as to how well the probiotics (good bacteria) survive freezing.
- Ice cream is made differently than frozen yogurt.
- Ice cream is actually regulated by the FDA. It needs to contain at least 10% milk fat to be considered ice cream. The FDA does not have a standard definition for frozen yogurt.
Is frozen yogurt lactose-free?
Frozen yogurt is not typically lactose-free, though there are vegan (non-dairy) frozen yogurts that exist. People with lactose intolerance often have an easier time digesting yogurt thanks to the live and active cultures.
Is frozen yogurt gluten-free?
Frozen yogurt may be gluten-free, but you need to check the ingredients. Some frozen yogurts include crushed cookies and other added ingredients for flavor, and these can have gluten. If you have Celiac disease, you may also be concerned that a gluten-free frozen yogurt was processed on the same machines as non-gluten-free froyo, resulting in cross-contamination. If you go to a frozen yogurt place, there are likely toppings around that contain gluten, so there is also a risk for cross-contamination in that setting. Menchie’s has some flavors on their website that are listed as gluten-free frozen yogurt. This could be an option for you if cross-contamination isn’t a concern.
Is frozen yogurt good for diabetics?
It’s a common misconception that people with diabetes only need to worry about sugar. The truth is that they need to count the total grams of carbs they consume, since all carbohydrates break down into glucose (sugar). While sugar-free frozen yogurts do exist, all frozen yogurts contain carbohydrates. That doesn’t mean that people with diabetes can’t enjoy them, however. They need to be mindful of the portion sizes and how many carbs are in each serving, as well as what else they are eating during the day. If you have diabetes, it’s a good idea to talk to a registered dietitian to figure out the best way to safely fit frozen yogurt into your diet.
So, bottom line – is frozen yogurt good for you?
I don’t like saying any one food is “good” or “bad.” Frozen yogurt, just like other foods, has both healthy and not-so-healthy qualities. The benefits of frozen yogurt include calcium, probiotics, and protein. Frozen yogurt is lower in fat than regular ice cream. On the downside, frozen yogurt can be high in added sugar and contain saturated fat.
Bottom line, is frozen yogurt healthy? It depends. It depends on what flavor you get, how much fat is in it, what toppings you put on it, how frequently you eat it, and the portion size you choose. You can make healthier choices when it comes to frozen yogurt, such as having a smaller serving, skipping toppings or choosing fruit, and getting a frozen yogurt flavor that is low in sugar and fat but higher in protein. Once in a while, it’s generally okay for most people to make a less healthy choice – choosing to add sauces and sweet toppings, for example, or getting a larger size. The thing to focus on is balance and making sure that most of what you eat on a daily basis is nutritious.
We don’t only eat food to fuel our bodies or choose food based on its nutritional makeup. Food is also meant to be enjoyed. Frozen yogurt can be a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. Eating frozen yogurt can be part of relaxing and socializing with friends. It can be a part of self-care.
None of us is perfect, and life wouldn’t be fun if we decided we could never eat any fun food again! Frozen yogurt does contain health benefits, and it’s not necessary for it to be off-limits for those trying to live a healthy lifestyle.