It’s summer and most of us will find ourselves enjoying some frozen yogurt or ice cream at some point. It can be a fun treat at the end of a hot day spent outside. Not to mention, the frozen yogurt bars have become really popular in the last few years. It seems like there is one in every strip mall. And, it might be a quick choice because it’s healthier than ice cream, right? Or wait, is frozen yogurt better than ice cream? What exactly is “frozen yogurt”?
I remember learning all about the milk fat requirements in ice cream, cream cheese, and the specifications of other food products in school. However, as I was thinking before I started my research for this post, I realized I couldn’t remember learning about frozen yogurt.
Frozen Yogurt: what does that mean exactly?
It turns out frozen yogurt (unlike yogurt) is not a standardized food (probably why I don’t remember learning about it in school.) This means there is not a set form of regulations which define it to be “frozen yogurt.” When we think of yogurt, we generally think of the healthy probiotic bacteria. And, in fact, the definition of yogurt as set by the FDA does mandate it to be cultured dairy containing Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermopiles.
However, because frozen yogurt is not regulated to include probiotics, some frozen yogurt may have this beneficial bacteria and some may not. For example, some companies will use heat treated yogurt which kills the beneficial bacteria. Other manufactures may even add cultures to the mix, but then skip the fermentation process.
The Difference Between Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream
You may be wondering why you continue to choose frozen yogurt if it may not even have the added benefits of probiotics. Perhaps you are wondering what classifies something as ice cream instead of frozen yogurt?
The main difference between frozen yogurt and ice cream comes down to milk fat. Ice cream is regulated and required to have 10% milk fat and weigh at least 4.5 lbs per gallon. Therefore, frozen yogurt is often (but not always) lower in fat than ice cream, and it may be made from yogurt instead of milk.
Is Frozen Yogurt Better than Ice Cream?
Some frozen yogurts are certainly better than others. While it’s still a sweet treat, some frozen yogurt do offer probiotics and perhaps a healthier ingredient list than most ice creams as well. Just like any food product, it’s important not to fall for the pitfalls of clever marketing and become an educated consumer.
Choosing Your Frozen Yogurt
So what now? It is possible to find frozen yogurt better than ice cream, but what should you look for? Read on to find out!
Live and Active Culture Seal
As it turns out, the National Yogurt Association actually does have a seal to provide some standards for frozen yogurt. In order to qualify for the seal, a product must be made by fermenting milk with traditional yogurt cultures. Some manufactures will then mix this yogurt with the other ingredients to create their frozen yogurt.
However, without the seal, it is not at all guaranteed that the frozen yogurt will offer the live and active cultures that we’ve come to expect with yogurt!
Examine the Ingredient List and Nutrition Facts
In addition to checking to see if your frozen yogurt contains live and active cultures, as with any food, it’s beneficial to read the ingredient list. Any sweet treat is going to be sweetened, so you may want to see what it is sweetened with or where sugar falls in the list of ingredients. Additionally, you may want to see what additives are included and if it has artificial colors.
A quick look at the nutrition facts will also help you determine the sugar content of the frozen yogurt. Remember, it’s made with milk which contains lactose, a naturally occurring sugar. However, comparing one product to the next on grams of sugar may help to provide some insight on how much sugar is contained. In general, I’m not a huge proponent of calorie counting (though I do believe it has it’s time and place). But, it is certainly beneficial to be aware of the serving size and calorie content in choosing a food product. This will at least help you avoid overconsumption.
Popular Question Answered: Does Freezing Kill the Probiotics?
The good news is, it doesn’t! Freezing will only cause it to go into a dormant state, and when we eat it it heats back up to become active again. So, if it has the seal and you know the live and active cultures are there to begin with, no need to worry about the freezing process.
Evaluating Popular Frozen Yogurt Chains
Since there are no regulations which strictly define frozen yogurt, stores can vary widely on everything from presence of active cultures to ingredients. Here’s how some of the more popular chains stack up against each other.
- Red Mango – Has the Live and Active Culture Seal and contains 5 different probiotic strains. Nonfat yogurt is the first ingredient and the ingredient list is relatively short. Contains no artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, or high fructose corn syrup.
- Menchies – Has the Live and Active Culture Seal and contains 6 different probiotic strains. Pasteurized and cultured skim milk is the first ingredient. Contains no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, and no high fructose corn syrup. They do, however, contain corn syrup.
- Orange Leaf – Does not have the seal. In an email I received from Orange Leaf, they actually stated they cannot guarantee any significant amount of active cultures remain after reactivating the dehydrated yogurt by mixing it with milk in the store. It makes sense then that nonfat milk is the first ingredient. You don’t see “yogurt powder” until generally the 6th ingredient. Many flavors contain artificial colors. Some contain corn syrup and/or high fructose corn syrup.
- TCBY – Has the Live and Active Cultures Seal and contains 7 different probiotics. Pasteurized and cultured skim milk is the first ingredient. They contain corn syrup and many flavors have artificial colors. The “no sugar added” options contain artificial sweeteners.
- Sweet Frog – Does not have the seal. Pasteurized and cultured skim milk ranges from the 1st to the 4th ingredient. Contains artificial colors and corn syrup.
- ColdStone Creamery (Frozen Yogurt) – The frozen yogurts have the Live and Active Cultures Seal. Yogurt is the first ingredient. Contain artificial colors, flavors, and corn syrup.
And the Winner is…
Out of the common frozen yogurt chains I looked at, Red Mango definitely seems to be the best choice! It has a short ingredient list, with yogurt being the main ingredient. Watch out Red Mango, I’m coming for you! It’s a bummer that places like Orange Leaf are just using the term “frozen yogurt” as a marketing tactic. In my area, Orange Leaf is one of the most common chains. Hopefully, they will rethink their ingredient list in the future.
Frozen Yogurt is Still a Treat
At the end of the day, we should remember that frozen yogurt, like ice cream, is still high in sugar and should be considered a treat. It some cases, frozen yogurt can certainly be better than ice cream, but it’s still important to be a proactive consumer. Just because the word “yogurt” is included doesn’t mean it’s a health food. 😉