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
This article is a detailed review of frozen yogurt, exploring
its nutritional content and health effects, particularly as a
substitute for ice cream.
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
Milk: This can be liquid milk or powdered
milk. Powdered milk is referred to as “milk solids” on the
Yogurt cultures: These are “good” bacteria
like Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus
Sugar: Most companies use regular table
sugar, but some brands use alternative sweeteners like agave
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.
|Regular Frozen Yogurt||Nonfat Frozen Yogurt|
|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 may have some health benefits, compared to other
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
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.
To see if your frozen yogurt contains probiotics, check for the
claim “live cultures” on the label.
It May Contain Lower Levels of Lactose
However, most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate
small amounts of dairy, especially if it contains probiotics
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
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
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
However, make sure to watch your portion sizes and topping
choices. If you’re not careful, these can easily bump up the
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?
Yogurt can be a healthy, tasty addition to your diet.
In fact, sugar is one of the most important ingredients in the
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
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?
One of the reasons people choose frozen yogurt is because it’s
thought to be a healthier option than ice cream.
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
To make your frozen yogurt as healthy as possible, try the
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
Other toppings like candy, fruit syrups, cookies and chocolate
chips can bump up the sugar content without any added fiber or
Look for Varieties Without Added Sugar
Some frozen yogurt is made with artificial sweeteners, rather
If you want to keep your calorie intake in check, consider
Avoid Fat-Free Varieties
Fat-free varieties contain more added sugar than low-fat or
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.
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
Like other desserts, it’s fine to eat occasionally as a treat,
but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a health food.