Let’s start with some good news: Just like regular yogurt, the frozen treat contains live and active cultures, which boost immunity and fight disease in the gastrointestinal track.
“Frozen yogurt is generally low in fat and sugar and can be a great alternative to richer ice creams,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of “Read It Before You Eat It.”
Now, the bad news: Froyo can quickly turn into a diet disaster when you begin mixing in sugary syrup, candy and chocolate. “You’re just adding sugar to something that already has enough sugar,” says Taub-Dix. (Better choices include nuts, which provide a dose of healthy fats, and fresh fruit, which adds natural sweetness to your dessert.)
We examined the nutrition facts for eight chains and store-bought brands to reveal the worst frozen yogurts for your waistline, along with those that can help you indulge without adding bulge.
Worst at Pinkberry
Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt
170 calories, 7 grams fat, 20 grams sugar
The nutrition facts provided by Pinkberry are for a serving size of 100 grams, but a small-size order is actually 1.4 servings. That means a small peanut butter frozen yogurt has 238 calories, 9.8 grams of fat, and 28 grams of sugar. If you top your bowl with lemon cookie crunch, you’ll pack on an additional 100 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 6 grams of sugar (assuming Pinkberry sticks to one serving size). The grand total for your decadent dessert: 338 calories, 16.8 grams of fat, and 34 grams of sugar
Best at Pinkberry
120 calories, 0 grams fat, 24 grams sugar
This 2012 summer special includes strawberry frozen yogurt, strawberries, watermelon and watermelon puree. Since strawberries and watermelon are essentially all water — both are 92 percent H2O by volume — they’ll add few calories when spooned upon your favorite summery treat.
Worst at Red Mango
Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Frozen Yogurt
250 calories, .5 grams fat, 56 grams sugar for a small
“A cup of milk contains 12 grams of sugar naturally,” says Taub-Dix. “Beyond that, it’s all added sugars.” Without toppings or a cone this small order of frozen yogurt has nearly five times that amount. In fact, you’d have to snack on nine milk chocolate Ghirardelli squares, more than two servings of candy, to take in 56 grams of sugar.
Best at Red Mango
Madagascar Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
120 calories, 0 grams fat, 26 grams sugar for a small
While there is considerably less sugar in vanilla yogurt than there is in Ghirardelli’s milk chocolate froyo, you’ll keep things that way if you’re mindful about toppings. Taub-Dix suggests asking for them on the side so you stay in control of portions.
Worst at Coldstone Creamery
Chocolate Hazelnut Frozen Yogurt
250 calories, 6 grams fat, 36 grams sugar for a small
This treat may be on Coldstone’s “Healthy Indulgences” menu, but it can easily become a more diet-derailing pick than some of the chain’s ice cream selections. For example, add a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and you’ll tack on 190 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 17 grams of sugar. Ordering your creation in a dipped waffle cone means an additional 310 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 31 grams of sugar. When you’re done, your indulgence could total 750 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 84 grams of sugar.
Best at Coldstone Creamery
160 calories, 0 grams fat, 29 grams sugar for a small
Opt for the pineapple frozen yogurt and stick to a small or “like it” size. It’s one of the smartest selections at the creamery. The healthiest mix-in available is blackberries, which add only 10 calories per } cup and are packed with fiber, vitamin C and potassium.
Worst at TCBY
Don’t assume sundaes, banana splits or shakes are automatically healthier than their ice cream-based cousins when you order them at a frozen yogurt shop. A Shivers from TCBY, which is yogurt blended with your choice of toppings, can be calculated anywhere from 530 calories up to — get this — 1,850 calories, 85 grams of fat, and 159 grams of sugar!
Best at TCBY
It’s much easier to keep track of calories when you stick to a simple bowl sans toppings. The soft serve selection at TCBY is chock-full of flavorful options, like toffee crunch yogurt, which has only 130 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, and 19 grams of sugar per half-cup serving.
Worst Greek Frozen Yogurt
Ben and Jerry’s Blueberry and Vanilla Greek Frozen Yogurt with a Graham Cracker Swirl
200 calories, 7 grams fat, 25 grams sugar for a half-cup
The latest release from the Vermont-based ice cream maker isn’t that bad compared to other items on this list. But as far as Greek frozen yogurt goes, there are better options available in your supermarket’s freezer case.
Best Greek Frozen Yogurt
Oikos Super Fruits Greek Frozen Yogurt
110 calories, 0 grams fat, 20 grams sugar for a half-cup
This organic, nonfat frozen yogurt is the treat that’s closest to regular, nonfrozen Greek yogurt. In fact, the brand’s Super Fruits Greek yogurt has 130 calories and 16 grams of sugar.
Worst Fruity Store-Bought
Key Lime Pie Yoplait Frozen Yogurt Bites
200 calories, 10 grams fat, 14 grams sugar for 7 pieces
If you can’t stop at seven pieces, this dessert probably isn’t for you. While bite-sized portions can quickly curb a craving, helping yourself to half a bag will set you back. “The trick is to take a few and step away from the container!” says Taub-Dix. “Even bite-sized calories can take a big bite out of your calorie budget if you’re not careful.”
Best Fruity Store-Bought
Turkey Hill Southern Lemon Pie Frozen Yogurt
120 calories, 0 grams fat, 18 grams sugar for a half-cup
This option saves you 80 calories and 10 grams of fat compared to Yoplait’s frozen yogurt bites. It’s also a good source of calcium and Vitamin D. While you may be drawn to a dairy-based dessert that’s fat-free, don’t forget to check the calcium content, as you want a variety that has plenty of the bone-building mineral, says Taub-Dix. One serving of Turkey Hill’s Southern Lemon Pie froyo squeezes in 20 percent of your daily calcium and 15 percent of your vitamin D.
For more information on making the smartest choices in the dairy aisle, check out the chapter Utterly Delicious from Bonnie Taub-Dix’s “Read It Before You Eat It.”