Unlike most summer dessert eaters, I crave frozen treats all year-round and simply can’t get enough of their sweet, creamy texture. But because I indulge so frequently – at least once a week – I try and keep my choices healthier by avoiding full-fat ice creams and keeping the toppings on my ‘froyo’ tower to a reasonable minimum.
Nutritionally speaking, frozen yogurt is perceivably healthier than ice cream because it typically contains live active cultures, and is often available in low- or no-fat and reduced-sugar varieties. Ice cream, on the other hand, is typically laden with fat and rarely comes in low-sugar flavors. Let’s keep track of the points, shall we?
Frozen yogurt: 1: Ice cream: 0.
In terms of quality, most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops have equally high standards when it comes to their ingredients. Ben & Jerry’s, for instance, is well known by now for its die-hard commitment to only the highest quality ingredients, and even tries to source local ingredients when possible. Now that’s a sweet deal: One point for each.
Frozen yogurt: 2; Ice cream: 1.
When it comes to overall health benefits, yogurt has this one in the bag. Yogurtland yogurt, for instance, is gluten free, kosher, boasts plenty of benefits from calcium and live active cultures, and comes in more than 25 non-fat flavors. In addition, their fruit flavors are fortified with vitamin C, and several flavors even contain free radical-fighting antioxidants. Can you say that about ice cream? Certainly not.
Frozen yogurt: 3; Ice cream:1.
In an episode of her “What the Heck Are you Eating” series, TODAY nutritionist, Joy Bauer, RD, points out that ice cream must contain at least 10 percent milk fat to be considered true ice cream, however, it often contains more. But frozen yogurt typically contains low-or non-fat milk, which means less calories and fat overall. Bauer also points out that most frozen yogurts contain live active cultures, which can help increase the healthy bacteria in our gut and in turn benefit our digestive systems.
Frozen yogurt: 4; Ice cream: 1.
To find out which frozen dessert is healthier per serving, we compared the products of some of the most popular frozen yogurt and ice cream shops in the nation. For the frozen yogurt category we chose Orange Leaf, Yogurtland and Pinkberry. And for ice cream, we looked at Dairy Queen, Ben & Jerry’s and Coldstone Creamery.
First is the nutritional comparison of a one, 1/2 cup serving of each frozen yogurt company’s vanilla and chocolate flavors with the exception of Pinkberry whose “original” flavor is closest to vanilla as we could find.
When it comes to healthiest frozen yogurts, Pinkberry’s original and Yogurtland’s chocolate win out as the most calorie-wise options. And Yogurtland’s vanilla ties with Pinkberry’s original for first place in the low-fat category. However, all of these options are considerably healthy when it comes to a frozen dessert.
Next, the nutritional comparison of a “medium” size serving of traditional vanilla from each of the following ice cream shops, with the exception of “sweet cream” from Coldstone.
When it comes to ice cream, the fat, calorie and sugar counts are noticeably higher than frozen yogurt. Out of the three, Dairy Queen takes top prize with its “medium vanilla cone.” And Coldstone Creamery’s “love it” size comes in last with a shameful 530 calories and 46 grams of sugar.
Final Count? Frozen yogurt: 5; Ice cream: 1.
Frozen yogurt wins by a longshot as the healthier choice of the two with far fewer calories, fat and sugar per serving. However, it’s important to note that too many unhealthy toppings can easily send your frozen yogurt calorie count through the roof.
Bauer recommends sticking to just one topping to keep dessert in check. But you could also split one serving into two or three toppings if you prefer more variety, which is more my style.
While I’ll still usually opt for froyo when my sweet tooth kicks in, sometimes nothing satisfies like a double dip ice cream cone no matter how many calories I’m consuming. As long as you usually opt for the healthier option, you can still enjoy a full-fledged indulgence every once in a while without feeling a lick of guilt – no pun intended.