Is FroYo Really Healthier Than Ice Cream?

A dietitian breaks down fact vs. fiction.

The Pinkberry team at Boston University. Photo via Facebook.

The Pinkberry team at Boston University. Photo via Facebook.

Froyo shops are everywhere. There’s even a Pinkberry on Hanover Street. (Although whether or not it will give any real competition to the authentic gelato shops, only time will tell.) Whether it’s a taste preference, or the belief that it’s the healthier choice, froyo’s popularity is still skyrocketing. If you’re used to filling your cup (or bowl) with frozen yogurt, mounds of brownie bites, cookie dough, and even gummy worms then you’re probably piling on more calories than you realize.

The Basics: Serving Size

Self-serve yogurt containers can usually hold between 16 and 24 ounces of the cold treat. Yogurt averages about 100 calories per 1/2 cup. Do the math. Fill your cup to the brim, and you might mistakenly be eating more than 500 calories in yogurt alone. Add sweet toppings like those brownie bites and gummy worms and you’re well on your way to sabotaging your best intentions. Your cup of yogurt could have more calories than a Big Mac.

FroYo vs. Ice Cream

Ounce for ounce, frozen yogurt has fewer calories and is lower in saturated fat than regular ice cream. But, if you choose low-fat ice cream, the calories and saturated fat are about the same. For example, 1/2 cup of Breyer’s “1/2 the Fat” vanilla ice cream has 100 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat. The same amount of frozen yogurt, original flavor from Pinkberry, has 100 calories and 0 grams of saturated fat. Depending on the flavor, some frozen yogurts might also have more added sugar than ice cream. Many ice cream and yogurt companies now offer their nutritional information online. This is a valuable resource that I recommend checking out.

Probiotics in FroYo?

Probiotics are often a source of confusion. The beneficial bacteria that aids in digestion are found in yogurts and fermented foods, but the confusion usually centers on whether they survive the freezing process. Since the Food and Drug Administration does not have a standard definition for frozen yogurt, there is no guarantee that every frozen yogurt brand and will contain probiotics. One way to know if the yogurt you choose has probiotics is to look for the National Yogurt Association Live & Active Cultures seal. Both Pinkberry and Red Mango carry the seal.

Tips for a Healthier FroYo:

  • Don’t fill your cup. You might feel silly for only covering the bottom of the container with one layer of frozen yogurt, but by keeping your portion size to a 1/2 cup, you’ll stay within a healthy calorie range. If they’re serving it for you, make sure you choose the smallest size.
  • Load up on fruit. Many frozen yogurt places have fresh fruit to add to your cup. This is an excellent way to add some sweetness without the extra calories.
  • If you want a sweet treat to add to your yogurt, choose one. For example, I love the combination of original frozen yogurt, strawberries, mango, and brownie bites. Remember that some toppings have up to 50 calories per serving which can add up quickly.