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Frozen Yogurt: A Healthy Dessert That’s Low in Calories?

Frozen yogurt is a dessert that’s often promoted as a healthy
alternative to ice cream. However, it isn’t just regular yogurt
that’s been in the freezer.

In fact, it can have a vastly different nutrient profile than
regular yogurt.

This article is a detailed review of frozen yogurt, exploring
its nutritional content and health effects, particularly as a
substitute for ice cream.

Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt

What Is Frozen Yogurt and How Is It Made?

Frozen yogurt is a popular dessert made with yogurt. It
has a creamy texture and sweet, tangy taste.

Frozen yogurt is quite similar to ice cream, but the main
difference is that it’s made with milk instead of cream.

Additionally, like ice cream, it is often sold in cups or cones
with a wide range of topping options, such as
fruit
, cookies and chocolate chips.

You can buy frozen yogurt in stores or make it at home. It’s
also sometimes used as an ingredient in drinks like smoothies,
or in desserts as a substitute for ice cream.

Ingredients can vary slightly between brands, but the main ones
are:

  • Milk: This can be liquid milk or powdered
    milk. Powdered milk is referred to as “milk solids” on the
    ingredients list.
  • Yogurt cultures: These are “good” bacteria
    like Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus
    thermophilus
    .
  • Sugar: Most companies use regular table
    sugar, but some brands use alternative sweeteners like agave
    nectar.

Many frozen yogurts also contain ingredients like flavorings
and stabilizers to improve their taste and texture.

To make frozen yogurt, manufacturers mix together milk and
sugar. They pasteurize the mixture, heating it to a high
temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.

The yogurt cultures are then added and the mixture is allowed
to rest for up to four hours before it’s frozen.

Bottom Line: Frozen yogurt is a frozen
dessert made with milk, yogurt cultures and sugar. It has a
creamy texture and a tangy taste.

Nutrients in Frozen Yogurt

The nutrition content of frozen yogurt can vary depending on
the type of milk,
sweeteners and flavorings used in the yogurt mixture.

For example, frozen yogurt made with nonfat milk will have a
lower fat content than varieties made with whole milk (1).

Additionally, the toppings you choose can add extra calories,
fat and sugar to the final product.

Below are the nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of regular,
whole-milk frozen yogurt and 3.5 ounces of nonfat frozen
yogurt, with no toppings or flavorings (2, 3):

Regular Frozen Yogurt Nonfat Frozen Yogurt
Calories 127 112
Fat 4 grams 0 grams
Protein 3 grams 4 grams
Carbs 22 grams 23 grams
Fiber 0 grams 0 grams
Calcium 10% of the RDI 10% of the RDI
Vitamin A 6% of the RDI 0% of the RDI
Iron 3% of the RDI 0% of the RDI
Vitamin C 1% of the RDI 0% of the RDI

Because of the variations in recipes, always check
the label
to make sure what’s in your frozen yogurt.

Bottom Line: Frozen yogurt is low in fat and
protein, but can be very high in sugar. The fat and sugar
content depend on the amount of fat in the milk.

Health Benefits of Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt and Fruit

Frozen yogurt may have some health benefits, compared to other
frozen desserts.

It can contain beneficial nutrients and bacteria, lower levels
of lactose and fewer calories than desserts like ice cream.

It Can Contain Good Bacteria

Like regular yogurt, some frozen yogurt contains
probiotics
.

Probiotics are live bacteria that are also known as “good
bacteria.” When eaten, they can have beneficial effects on your
health (4, 5).

However, the benefits of bacteria in frozen yogurt depend on
them surviving the manufacturing process.

If your frozen yogurt was pasteurized after the good bacteria
were added, then they will have been killed off.

It has also been suggested that the freezing process could
reduce the number of good bacteria. However, some studies have
suggested this isn’t the case, so freezing may not be an issue
(6, 7, 8).

To see if your frozen yogurt contains probiotics, check for the
claim “live cultures” on the label.

It May Contain Lower Levels of Lactose

If you have lactose
intolerance
, eating dairy products can cause digestive
issues like bloating, gas and pain (9).

However, most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate
small amounts of dairy, especially if it contains probiotics
(10).

This is because probiotic bacteria break down some of the
lactose, reducing the amount per portion.

Because some frozen yogurts contain probiotics, people with
lactose intolerance may be able to eat them without any
digestive problems.

However, it’s important to note that not all varieties contain
live bacteria, so they may not have the same benefits (11).

It May Provide Nutrients That Benefit Bone Health

Frozen yogurt also contains reasonable amounts of some of the
nutrients linked with good bone health, like calcium and
protein
(12).

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However, despite this potential benefit, it’s worth noting that
you can also get these nutrients from regular yogurt.

It Can Be Lower in Calories Than Regular Ice Cream

If you’re trying to cut back on calories, frozen yogurt is
lower in calories than regular ice cream (2, 13).

However, make sure to watch your portion sizes and topping
choices. If you’re not careful, these can easily bump up the
calories.

Bottom Line: Frozen yogurt may contain
beneficial probiotics, lower levels of lactose, nutrients for
good bone health and fewer calories than ice cream.

Is Frozen Yogurt as Healthy as Regular Yogurt?

Greek Yogurt in a Blue Bowl

Yogurt can be a healthy, tasty addition to your diet.

However, unlike most plain, regular yogurts, frozen yogurt
usually contains a lot of
added sugar
(3, 14).

In fact, sugar is one of the most important ingredients in the
manufacturing process.

Adding sugar to yogurt before it’s frozen prevents large ice
crystals from forming and ensures the frozen yogurt retains a
creamy texture similar to ice cream. It also makes the taste
more acceptable, so that it’s sweet and tangy, rather than
sour.

However, frozen yogurt can still contain more added sugar than
regular sugar-sweetened yogurt (2, 15).

If you’re looking for the healthiest yogurt, choose
a plain, regular variety
. This will give you all the health
benefits without the added sugar.

Bottom Line: Plain, regular yogurt has all
the benefits of frozen yogurt without the added sugar.

Is It Healthier Than Ice Cream?

Brunette Eating Soft Serve Ice Cream

One of the reasons people choose frozen yogurt is because it’s
thought to be a healthier option than ice cream.

The main difference between the two products is that frozen
yogurt is made with milk and not cream. This means that ice
cream contains more fat (2, 16).

However, it’s important to note that manufacturers often make
up for this lack of fat
with sugar. So beware — your frozen yogurt can contain as much,
if not more, sugar than ice cream.

This is especially true for the nonfat versions of frozen
yogurt, which tend to contain more sugar.

Combined with large serving sizes and a variety of high-sugar
topping options, this means that frozen yogurt can end up
having way more calories and sugar than an ice cream cone.

So despite the healthy-sounding name, frozen yogurt is a
dessert just like ice cream. Neither is better than the other,
and either can be enjoyed occasionally as a treat.

Bottom Line: Ice cream contains more fat
than frozen yogurt. However, frozen yogurt can contain high
amounts of sugar, meaning it should be treated as a dessert.

How to Choose a Healthy Frozen Yogurt

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

To make your frozen yogurt as healthy as possible, try the
following:

Watch Your Portions

Despite being a sweet treat, frozen yogurt generally comes in
much larger serving sizes than ice cream.

To keep your portion in check, stick to around half a cup —
about the size of a baseball.

If it’s self-serve, you could also try filling your cup with
fruit and serving a smaller amount of frozen yogurt on top.

Choose Healthy Toppings

To make your dessert healthier, go for a topping like fresh
fruit.

Other toppings like candy, fruit syrups, cookies and chocolate
chips can bump up the sugar content without any added fiber or
nutrients.

If you do want a more indulgent topping than fruit, try

dark chocolate
or nuts, both of which contain less sugar
and come with some beneficial nutrients (17).

Look for Varieties Without Added Sugar

Some frozen yogurt is made with artificial sweeteners, rather
than sugar.

If you want to keep your calorie intake in check, consider
trying it.

Avoid Fat-Free Varieties

Fat-free varieties contain more added sugar than low-fat or
regular varieties.

Eating excess added sugars has been linked with poor health
outcomes, so it’s probably better to stick to a low-fat or
full-fat frozen yogurt (18).

Look for Live Cultures

Due to their potential health benefits, frozen yogurts that
contain live probiotic cultures are the best choice.

To pick a variety that contains them, look for the words “live
active cultures” on the nutrition label.

Make Your Own at Home

Making your own frozen yogurt at home can give you more control
over the ingredients and calories in your dessert.

There are lots of simple recipes online, like this one and this one.

Some people like using Greek yogurt as a base due to its higher
protein content (19).

Bottom Line: To make your frozen yogurt
healthier, keep your portions in check and avoid fat-free
versions. If you can, try making your own at home.

Take Home Message

Frozen yogurt often comes in large servings and can be high in
sugar.

Like other desserts, it’s fine to eat occasionally as a treat,
but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a health food.

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