Frozen yogurt: healthy or hidden trap?

The influx of frozen yogurt shops in the United States has created a “fro-yo” craze and debate over health and nutrition factors present in the frozen treat.  In fact, from the Fall of 2010 to the Fall of 2011, the number of frozen yogurt shops jumped 31% from 3,624 to 4,765 nationwide.  Regardless, there is some truth behind frozen yogurt being healthier, though it can be a bit of a marketing grab and depends on the toppings and serving size.

The biggest strike against the healthiness of frozen yogurt is excessive portions and excessive, unhealthy toppings.  As a rule, you should avoid using the large cups and stick to the small, or medium, portions.  Additionally, toppings are not as fattening if you go for the fresh fruit instead of the baked goods, syrups, and sugary cereals.  For example, though granola flies under the radar, adding it to your frozen yogurt can add 138 calories and 6.8 grams of fat.  Filling a frozen yogurt cup to the full 16 ounces can add another 380 calories and 76 grams of sugar.

Sticking to a half cup to one cup of frozen yogurt and adding fresh fruits allow a frozen yogurt treat to keep you on track and not derail your diet.  A well-balanced lunch can include a protein and veggie rich sandwich with frozen yogurt that has 3 ounces of fresh fruit and 5 chopped almonds.  This entire meal would still only pack approximately 430 calories total and allow you to have a frozen yogurt treat at the same time.

The focus now is more about the actual yogurt and less about mimicking ice cream.  Though probiotics are healthy bacteria present in some yogurts, that healthy bacteria does not always survive through shelf life, manufacturing processes, and extreme temperatures, like in the case of frozen yogurt.  Some chains are realizing this and using probiotic strains that can withstand freezing temperatures, thereby preserving the healthy bacteria in yogurts.

Overwhelmingly my favorite frozen yogurt spot, Sweet Yo’s, is new to the Grand Rapids area and already has two shops successfully making their presence known to our downtown area.  A family owned venture, Sweet Yo’s has a changing rotation of 12 flavors and over 50 toppings.  Their yogurts include non-fat, non-fat no sugar added, non-dairy, and tart & tangy options.  Sweet Yo’s frozen yogurts are wheat-gluten free, contain no high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol, are certified Kosher by the Metropolitan Kashruth Council in Detroit, and have less than 100 calories per half cup serving.  With toppings ranging from fresh fruits, nuts, candies, cereal, syrups, and much more, Sweet Yo’s is the real fro-yo experience.

What’s your favorite combination of frozen yogurt and toppings?

Photo credit: somenametoforget

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