Is Frozen Yogurt Good For You?

Find out how frozen yogurt and ice cream stack up nutritionally.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
5-minute read
Episode #54

Most Frozen Yogurt Does Not Contain Live Cultures

If you can find frozen yogurt that’s specifically labeled with the words “Contains live and active cultures,” however, you’ve hit the jackpot. Or, you can make your own! I’ll include Grammar Girl’s recipe for Fat Free Blackberry Frozen Yogurt in this week’s Nutrition Diva email tips. But, Grammar Girl warns that her frozen yogurt bears very little resemblance to the frozen yogurt you buy in the store.

“It freezes hard as a rock,” she says, “but so does every other recipe I've tried. I'm still experimenting to try to make it a better texture.” I think I have some ideas. Grammar Girl’s Blackberry Frozen Yogurt uses skim milk and nonfat plain yogurt, plus berries and sweeteners. Adding a little fat by using 1% or 2% milk instead of skim and low-fat yogurt instead of fat-free would probably improve the texture quite a bit--and might also allow her to reduce the amount of sweetener to boot. So, she might even be able to improve the texture without increasing the total calories.

Smooth, Creamy, and Fat Free: How Do They Do It?

Fats are a natural part of many foods, including most dairy products. When you take them away, the flavor and texture suffers. So how do manufacturers make low-fat and fat-free frozen desserts so smooth and creamy?

Food engineers have been amazingly resourceful about finding ways to fake the texture and flavor of fat. Although it’s quaint to think that it’s simply a matter of churning it twice, that has nothing to do with it. In fact, they use all sorts of emulsifiers, binders, and thickeners to mimic the texture and taste of higher fat products.

That may not be quite as bad as it sounds. Most of these additives are derived from foods like soybeans, eggs, and corn. But it’s not exactly the ice cream Grandma used to make, is it? Then again, it’s a heck of a lot lower in fat and calories than Grandma’s, too, which means we can eat it in vast quantities, right?

See, that’s where it all goes off the tracks. Obviously, if it’s got half the calories but you eat twice as much, you’re breaking even. And if you’re polishing off an entire carton every night, well…maybe Grandma was onto something.

Is A Little Fat So Bad?

Which brings me to Amanda’s question. She’s been standing around in the frozen foods aisle reading labels lately. “I found a variety [of ice crea made with only natural ingredients,” she writes, “and while it was low in fat, it contained saturated fat.  Another brand contained no fat (and therefore no saturated fat) but it contained maltodextrin, which I have heard negative things about. What would be the better choice for my overall health?”

If it were me, Amanda, I’d probably choose the ice cream with the small amount of saturated fat over the one with all the distinctly un-Grandma-like ingredients. Not only is a small amount of saturated fat not going to kill you, but it will probably taste a whole lot better. Just be sure to keep an eye on the serving size and, of course, no dessert until you eat your vegetables!


Get my take on sweetened yogurts in this Quick Tip.

Visit nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com for a transcript of this episode, along with links to more information on yogurt and frozen desserts and some recipes for making your own. And, if you’d like to try Grammar Girl’s Blackberry Frozen Yogurt , be sure you’re signed up to get my weekly email tips.

If you have a suggestion for a future show topic send an email to nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com. Do me a favor and include the topic of your question in the subject line of your email. Better yet, post your comments and questions on my Nutrition Diva Facebook Page or hit me up on Twitter

Have a great day and eat something good for me!


Guide to Food Additives (U.S. FDA)

Guide to Yogurt Varieties (National Yogurt Association)

Frozen Yogurt: Nutritious Snack or Decadent Dessert? (Nutrition Bite Blog)

Tangy Frozen Yogurt Recipe (Boston Globe)

Frozen Yogurt image courtey of Shutterstock


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.