Is Frozen Yoghurt Good for You?

The frozen yoghurt craze has really swept across Sydney with stores popping up everywhere. In fact I can think of half a dozen stores off the top of my head! Some are self serve while others are priced according to size but all are marketed as a healthy dessert. But is it really?

Low fat?
Yes, as most frozen yoghurt places advertise, frozen yoghurt is low in fat. This is because the product is made with yoghurt (often with low fat milk) rather than cream so naturally it becomes lower in fat. However the two things that add taste and texture to food is fat and sugar. If the fat component is gone something else has to be added in to replace it; usually sugar. This means that most frozen yoghurt has about as much sugar or more as ice cream and this is before any toppings are added. To mimic the creamy texture that fat would give, emulsifiers, binders and thickeners are often added.

How about the probiotics?   
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria found in probiotic drinks, pills, yoghurt and newly in fruit juice. More and more research is going into probiotics now as its effects seem to reach beyond gut health. Gut microbiota (or the colony of bacteria in your gut) is thought to have a role in immune function. 

Something that will probably stay with me forever was a lecture I had at university on gut microbiota. The lecturer showed us a video of a faecal transplant... A patient had a faecal transplant done (faecal matter fed through a tube down their nose after it was filtered with coffee filters) to save their life from a life threatening bacterial infection. It worked a charm in resetting their immune function! Yep amazing stuff! It wasn't the easiest thing to digest in the morning but it was very intriguing.

Sorry to talk about human waste in the middle of a post about yoghurt......

When I started researching what types of probiotic strains are used for frozen yoghurt I came up empty. Most places had no information on the type or amount of beneficial bacteria in their product. This is important to know as you want strains that have good evidence backing up its health benefits and you want enoughbacteria that some reach your gut where it's needed. Also important is how the yoghurt is made. If excessive heat is used in the processing of the product much of that good bacteria is destroyed before freezing.

How many calories?

Yogurberry and Twisted both have nutrition information on their website. 100g of frozen yoghurt have around 400-500kJ (95-120Cal). This can be higher in the flavoured varieties and I have noticed that some places put a little disclaimer to the low calorie or fat claim that states only the original yoghurt are low in calories or fat. 400-500kJ is actually a good size for a snack however the problem is that often the serving sizes can be huge! You wouldn't see a bowl that big at ice cream places! Frozen yoghurt places that are self serve often don't even give you the option of a smaller bowl and even I find myself paying for 300g at the checkout.

Research by a leader in consumer behaviour, Brian Wansink, has shown that bigger serving plates lead to mindless over eating. This paper shows that even nutrition experts, given a bigger bowl, will serve themselves 31% more ice cream than those with a smaller bowl. Of course the other problem with self serve places is that I end up wanting a little bit of everything which ends up being a lot of everything...

The toppings can also add in a fair few calories. I always get overwhelmed with the choices available as they can range from fruits to lollies, cereals and biscuits. While a few pieces of strawberry won't make much of a difference, if you add just 1 Oreo biscuit you are adding 200kJ and about 5 pieces of mochi can be 150kJ. Just half a tablespoon of shredded coconut can add 350kJ! It's easy to see how the energy content of the frozen yoghurt can climb up quickly and drift away from a healthy snack.

Top tips when having frozen yoghurt
1. Pick the smallest size bowl. It's big enough, really.
2. If it's self serve, survey the flavours available and pick 1-2 yoghurt flavours only.
3.Make sure the toppings are mostly fruit based.

I'm a big ice cream and frozen yoghurt fan but I find I often over-indulge with frozen yoghurt because of the healthier halo it carries and the amount of choices I'm presented with (yes even I'm not immune sometimes!). Sometimes a scoop of ice cream can actually be the healthier option. Remember frozen yoghurt is only as healthy as how much you have and what you put into it!   

Update: I've just read an interesting study that may suggest eating foods that appear "guilt free" actually doesn't give our body the same satisfaction as foods perceived to be indulgent. What this means is that if you have that froyo thinking it's good for you, your body won't register the same sense of fullness as, if you had an indulgent snack that you think is bad for you. Therefore it may just be better to have that indulgent snack and feel satisfied!  


Anonymous said...

Great post. Love love love frozen yoghurt! Especially in summer with seasonal fruit, and for a treat a little bit of honey, its fantastic!

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The information presented on this blog acts as general nutrition advice and is not tailored to meet individual needs. It should not be used as a replacement for any medical advice you have recieved from medical practitioners. Please discuss any concerns for your health with your doctor or Accredited Practicing Dietitian before starting a new dietary or exercise regime as they can give more personalised recommendations.

I make every effort to ensure information on Nutrition with Wendy is correct and up to date however nutrition is an evolving field and discrepancies can arise. If the information here appears incorrect or out of date please let me know and I will do my best to update my posts.