Fro-Yo: Nutritious Snack or Decadent Dessert?
Over the past year, hundreds of frozen yogurt chains have popped up throughout the country…Pinkberry, Penguins, Tasti D’lite, Red Mango, Menchies, TCBY, etc. Many people assume that frozen yogurt is much healthier than ice cream, lower in calories and fat, and contains all the beneficial nutrients that regular yogurt offers. However, just because a frozen dessert has the word “yogurt” in it does not mean that it is nutritious or is equivalent to eating real yogurt.
NUTRITIONAL FACTS AND FIGURES
Yogurt gets a lot of good press. This is because by definition, yogurt is produced by the bacterial fermentation of milk. The presence of probiotics (live microorganisms containing beneficial bacteria) has been found to provide health benefits ranging from strengthening the immune system to combating stress and allergies. Plain yogurt, which is associated with health benefits, has a naturally tart taste. The latest flavor craze at frozen yogurt chains is “tart”, resembling the taste of plain yogurt. This flavor in particular is often attributed with the health benefits of natural yogurt.
While all frozen desserts marketed as “frozen yogurt” contain some yogurt, much of the beneficial bacteria can be lost during commercial processing. To ensure that the frozen yogurt you eat (tart or sweet flavor) contains beneficial bacteria, look for the “live and active cultures” seal established by the National Yogurt Association. This seal indicates that the yogurt contains 10 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture (a level associated with the maximum health benefits). Red Mango, Pinkberry, Golden Spoon and YoCream are a few of the frozen yogurt chains that have the live and active cultures seal. As a customer, you also have the right to ask to read the food label of the product they serve. If you plan ahead, you can visit each store’s website to read their food labels before you pick a yogurt store to visit.
Besides reviewing the ingredients of the yogurt, you must consider the ingredients of the various toppings. Stick to natural non-processed foods like nuts, chocolate, and fresh fruit. Avoid the processed candies and syrups like sprinkles and chocolate syrup.
If you find a yogurt with active cultures and you have chosen fresh ingredients as toppings, make sure to not over-do the portion size because you’ve made healthy food choices. It is very easy to way over serve yourself with the huge cups at the self-serve places. Reminder to check in before eating to see if you are even hungry, and if not, if you just want a small amount to satisfy your sweet tooth, then just take a very small amount. Having a larger portion of fat free frozen yogurt when you are not hungry, will still prevent you from losing weight – even if it is fat free!!
Many popular frozen yogurt chains now sell tart-flavored yogurt that resembles “real” yogurt. While they are promoted as healthy treats, rich in beneficial bacteria, this is not always the case. Look for the National Yogurt Association’s “live and active cultures” seal to ensure that the frozen yogurt contains healthy bacteria. And remember to make smart choices when it comes to your toppings – these affect your health just as much as yogurt.