When Kristen Bell’s character on The Good Place dies and ends up somewhere akin to heaven, there’s frozen yogurt everywhere, with flavors galore. But dietitians don't believe the tasty treat is heaven-sent. Although many people believe FroYo is a more nutritious alternative to ice cream because there’s less fat and fewer calories, that’s not the whole story, according to Brigitte Zeitlin, registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition.
“It’s low in calories because the manufacturers are removing the fat, but to make up for taste, they’re adding artificial sweeteners, sodium, and other additives,” Zeitlin says. “Reading the exact ingredient list for any of the brands will tell you exactly what they have added in to make up for flavor that is lost by removing fat.”
And it’s important to remember that fat isn’t bad, Marisa Moore, RDN, says. (Think: avocados.) “Fat is an essential nutrient, meaning we need some to thrive,” Moore notes. “The goal is to choose the healthiest fats possible.” So, just because something is “fat free,” doesn’t mean it’s totally healthy. In the case of most FroYo, you’re get the nutritional benefits of protein and calcium from skimmed cow’s milk, but no healthy fat, Zeitlin says.
“I’m a big believer in having a smaller amount of the real thing — having the ice cream instead of the fake option,” Zeitlin says. “The fake options have a lot more added sweeteners and sodium than the food they’re trying to re-make. More often than not, the original food ends up being the cleaner version of the fake stuff.”
There is some moderately good news for FroYo lovers though. Frozen yogurts do have probiotics in them, which are beneficial bacteria known for being good for your gut. “While these strains do survive the flash-freezing process so that you do in fact ingest and absorb the probiotics, all frozen yogurts are made differently,” Zeitlin says. She cautions that there are no federal standards governing the production of frozen yogurt. “It’s hard to say what is on the label is what you are actually getting,” she says.
Frozen yogurt also isn't as healthy as regular or Greek yogurt, Zeitlin notes. If you were thinking of turning a bowl of FroYo topped with granola into lunch like you might a regular tub of Greek yogurt, Zeitlin is here to rain on your parade.