Robin Quay, MS, RD, Sodexo Dietitian
And why not? Frozen yogurt is a delicious combination of cool, sweet and tart. It’s low fat or non-fat, and contains protein, calcium and phosphorus. The interactive nature of self-serve frozen yogurt makes the yogurt shop an exciting destination. With lots of yogurt flavors, and a variety of toppings including fresh fruit, candy, hot fudge, cereal, nuts, brownies and whipped cream, the experience delights the senses and gives consumers the power to make their dessert just the way they like it.
Although frozen yogurt is fun, and provides some nutrition, it’s not without some nutrition pitfalls. A 4 oz serving of frozen yogurt has 100-140 calories and 3 grams or less of fat. That’s not a bad snack. But self-serve yogurt is like self-serve anything (think buffet). People almost always take more and eat more when they serve themselves. The smallest cup at the yogurt shop is 16 ounces. If it’s filled up with yogurt, that’s 400-500 calories before toppings are even added.
Toppings can add a lot of calories and fat. Candy is loaded with sugar and chocolate has fat, too. For example, a tablespoon of candy coated chocolate pieces has 63 calories, 3 grams of fat and 8 grams of sugar, 5 gummy worms have 146 calories, 0 grams of fat and 22 grams of sugar, and 11 mini peanut butter cups have a whopping 200 calories, 12 grams of fat and 21 grams of sugar. The healthy frozen yogurt snack is now up to 460-700 calories.
However, there’s no need to pass up a trip to the yogurt shop. By planning ahead and making good choices, frozen yogurt, including toppings, can be a snack that fits into a healthy meal plan.
First, use the smallest cup available, and fill it only to about ¼ to 1/3 full, which will be about 4 to 6 ounces of yogurt. Then choose toppings that provide some nutritional benefits at a fraction of the calories of the candy toppings. Fresh fruit is the best choice, providing fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients for few calories and no fat. Granola is also a respectable choice, with a tablespoon containing 26 calories, 1 gram of fat and 1.5 grams of sugar. Nuts, though high in calories, provide enough nutrition and heart healthy fats to make them worth eating. 14 walnut halves contain 185 calories, 18 grams of fat and 1 gram of sugar. A tablespoon of semi-sweet chocolate chips provides 50 calories, 3 grams of fat, 7 grams of sugar, and the good antioxidants found in dark chocolate.
So enjoy going out for frozen yogurt. If you watch the portion, and choose healthy toppings, it’s a great treat.