Raise your hand if going out for frozen yogurt used to be your favorite outing with your friends a few years ago. Cheaper than drinks and healthier than ice cream, right? What more could a girl want? The obsession with frozen yogurt hasn’t slowed down, with the number of froyo joints rising by 18 percent over the past five years.
“Our society is always searching for guilt-free ways to treat themselves,” says Gabby Geerts, RD, a dietitian at Green Chef. “Since ice cream is extremely popular, froyo has a large market.”
However, let’s consider this: even though frozen yogurt may seem healthier, most people load their self-serve cups with an entire cake’s worth of toppings. This begs the question: Is frozen yogurt really that healthy?
According to Geerts, a half-cup serving of frozen yogurt contains approximately 110 calories, three grams of fat, and 17 grams of carbohydrates, depending on the brand and flavor, of course.
“On average, frozen yogurt has about 25 fewer calories per ounce than ice cream, along with only a third of the fat and saturated fat content,” she explains.
While frozen yogurt can be a healthier option, it’s not always significantly better than indulging in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. It ultimately depends on how much you consume and what you pair it with.
What distinguishes frozen yogurt from ice cream?
Both frozen yogurt and ice cream are milk-based products, so they generally contain similar amounts of protein and sugar (before considering flavors and add-ins), according to Geerts.
However, ice cream typically incorporates cream or milk fat, which contributes to its higher fat and saturated fat content. In fact, the FDA requires ice cream to contain at least 10 percent milk fat to be labeled as such.
On the other hand, frozen yogurt is made from milk fermented with yogurt cultures, resulting in a fat content similar to that of low-fat milk. The downside is that, similar to many lower-fat products, froyo often contains extra sugar to compensate for its less creamy taste.
Here’s a breakdown of the average nutritional values per half-cup serving of vanilla frozen yogurt, according to the USDA Nutrient Database:
- Calories: 114
- Protein: 2.88 g
- Fat: 4.03 g
- Saturated fat: 2.46 g
- Carbs: 17.4 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Sugar: 17.3 g
- Calcium: 103 mg
- Iron: 0.216 mg
- Sodium: 62.6 mg
And here are the average values per half-cup serving of vanilla ice cream, as per the USDA Nutrient Database:
- Calories: 137
- Protein: 2.31 g
- Fat: 7.26 g
- Saturated fat: 4.48 g
- Carbs: 15.6 g
- Fiber: 0.46 g
- Sugar: 14 g
- Calcium: 84.5 mg
- Iron: 0.059 mg
- Sodium: 52.8 mg
Apart from calories and fat, there’s another aspect to consider when comparing frozen yogurt to ice cream: probiotics.
But is heading to your nearest froyo joint as gut-healthy as consuming a serving of actual yogurt? The answer is both yes and no.
“Frozen yogurt starts with refrigerated yogurt, where two essential live cultures (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilis) are added to milk,” explains Geerts. “While most of the live bacterial cultures survive freezing, production methods and extra ingredients mean that not all frozen yogurt products are created equal.”
Dan Nguyen, RD, a dietitian at HelloFresh, recommends checking a froyo’s label and ingredient list to confirm the presence of “live and active cultures.”
However, if gut health is your priority, you’re better off choosing regular, lower-sugar yogurt. It typically contains more probiotics and less added sugar.
What can make frozen yogurt less healthy?
Perhaps the biggest drawback of frozen yogurt is that many people top it with nutrition-less additives.
“Customers often add sugary toppings like candy, fudge, and chocolate sauces to a supposedly healthy non-fat Greek frozen yogurt, thereby making it unhealthy,” says Nguyen. He also points out that froyo joints tend to make these toppings more accessible than healthier options like fruit or seeds.
Moreover, many frozen yogurt enthusiasts don’t opt for plain Greek yogurt. Nguyen emphasizes that different varieties have distinct nutrition profiles. For example, choosing red velvet or cookies and cream froyo means consuming added sugars and other ingredients that affect the healthiness of your cup.
You can enjoy relatively healthy frozen yogurt—it all depends on how you indulge.
Of course, you can still enjoy tangy frozen yogurt. Just be mindful of your choices.
If you’re at a self-serve froyo joint, choose the variety with the least fat and sugar. Typically, plain yogurt will be your best bet. Fortunately, even plain frozen yogurt has a semi-sweet vanilla flavor, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
If plain, non-fat Greek frozen yogurt is available, go for it. “The nutrition profile is even better, with roughly 0 grams of fat, 14 grams of sugar, and six grams of protein, which helps slow down sugar absorption,” suggests Nguyen.
Once you’ve chosen a yogurt base, be cautious of portion sizes. “Don’t let the size of the serving spoon or bowl trick you into overfilling,” warns Geerts. A half-cup or four-ounce serving is the appropriate portion.
Then, top your froyo with fresh fruits and plain nuts (without candied coatings) to increase nutrient and protein content. If you’re a fan of peanut butter, opt for natural peanut butter instead of peanut butter sauce. For added sweetness, a touch of honey will suffice.
Healthier frozen yogurt options available at the grocery store.
If you prefer getting your froyo fix from the supermarket, keep an eye out for the following dietitian-approved frozen yogurts in the freezer aisle.
Yogurt bars are an excellent way to control portions while enjoying a creamy treat made with Greek yogurt. “These bars are higher in protein and made with Greek yogurt, satisfying your sweet tooth without excessive sugar,” says Geerts.
Per serving: 100 calories, 2 g fat (1.5 g sat), 16 g carbs, 13 g sugar, 40 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 5 g protein
“With five grams of protein and only 12 grams of carbohydrates, these bars won’t dramatically spike your blood sugar or leave you feeling hungry soon after,” explains Geerts. Nguyen appreciates that they contain live, active probiotics and rely on actual strawberry and banana puree for flavor.
Per serving: 90 calories, 2 g fat (1 g sat), 12 g carbs, 12 g sugar, 35 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 5 g protein
If you prefer eating your froyo with a spoon instead of on a stick, this tub is dietitian-approved. Nguyen recommends Blue Bunny as one of his favorite frozen treat brands due to its short list of nine ingredients.
This pick also contains probiotics and offers little fat content.
Per serving: 110 calories, 2.5 g fat (1.5 g sat), 19 g carbs, 16 g sugar, 55 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 3 g protein
Still craving ice cream?
Ultimately, if you genuinely prefer ice cream over frozen yogurt, don’t force yourself to eat froyo for the sake of your health. Instead, treat yourself to a serving of your favorite ice cream. Don’t pretend that even two servings of frozen yogurt will satisfy your ice cream cravings.
Click here to find more information about Ice Cream.