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Frozen Yogurt is Not a Health Food

August 28, 2012

Pinkberry-Frozen-Yogurt
Photo by LWY

Frozen yogurt chains are popping up like crazy. Vancouver now has most of the popular chains found in the US, like Menchie’s, Yogen Fruz, TCBY, and Pinkberry. Carrying around some frozen yogurt seems to be the next most popular accessory, after a Starbucks cup and a miniature dog. I don’t really get it though. I guess it’s an ice cream alternative. And because it’s yogurt, people are equating it with being healthy… is that the logic? I guess these people don’t read ingredient labels.

Yogurts, even those found at Whole Foods, are some of the least healthy foods in the grocery store. And what’s worse, is that they’re actually masquerading as health foods. Not only are the majority of these yogurts low-fat or fat-free (including the Greek ones – oxymoron!), but they’re full of additives and sugar. And anyone that’s buying yogurt for probiotics is fooling themselves – most of the probiotics in commercially produced yogurts are killed off during the pasteurization process.

Considering the state of regular yogurts sold in grocery stores, it’s not really all that surprising that the ingredient lists of frozen yogurts are far from healthy. If you’re going to indulge in frozen yogurt, that’s your choice – but don’t let the marketers trick you into thinking it’s good for you.

 

Marketing Health Benefits

It’s unfortunate that these shops are actually touting the health benefits of frozen yogurt. And sadly, based on their popularity, it appears to be working.

For example, Yogen Fruz has a whole “health benefits” section:

“When you find the right balance, living a healthy life is second nature. And whether you’re at Yogen Früz to improve your health, change your lifestyle, or just want to do something great for yourself, we’re happy you’re here!”

Then they actually list vitamins in various  “fruit combinations”:

• Blueberry – Raspberry: Excellent antioxidant and support for cell membranes and veins
• Strawberry – Peach: May aide in heart and vision protection
• Blackberry – Melon: Vitamin A, Vitamin C and antioxidant blend
• Strawberry – Banana: May aide in anti-inflammatory and antacid stomach relief

Yes, fruit have antioxidants and vitamins. What does that have to do with frozen yogurt? Just eat the fruit!

Or check out TCBY’s “Super Fro-Yo”:

“a new classification of super nutritious frozen yogurt that remains unparalleled. Super Fro-Yo includes a special combination of nutrients that work together to improve your overall sense of well-being.

To qualify as Super Fro-Yo, most of our frozen yogurts meet or exceed the following guidelines per serving:

  • Fiber: Must have a minimum of 3 grams
  • Probiotics: Must have a minimum of 7 types of live & active cultures
  • Vitamin D: Must have a minimum of 20% DV
  • Calcium: Must have a minimum of 20% DV
  • Protein: Must have a minimum of 4 gram

In addition to the above nutritionals, the following values are also present in Super Fro-Yo: 120 calories or less; minimum 10% DV Vitamin A; 1 gram or less of saturated fat; minimum of 20 billion live & active cultures per serving at manufacturing.”

After reading that, you probably wouldn’t expect to find artificial flavors and various stabilizers and emulsifiers – you’d be wrong…

The Ingredients

Here are the ingredients for frozen yogurt at some of the biggest chains. I’m only looking at the actual yogurt – but how many people do you think order these plain as opposed to smothered in sauces and toppings? Where I couldn’t find a plain option, I opted for vanilla to the benefit of the shop. The more involved flavours will have an even longer list of ingredients.

Case in point, check out Menchie’s Red Velvet Cupcake:

Pasteurized & Cultured Skim Milk, Sugar, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Milk Solids, Maltodextrin, Cake Mix [Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Iron, Niacin, Thiamine, Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Vegetable Shortening, Nonfat Dry Milk, Wheat Starch, Baking Powder, Salt, Modified Food Starch, Egg Whites, Natural & Artificial Flavor], Cocoa, Natural and Artificial Flavor (Water, Vegetable Gum, Propylene Glycol, Natural and Artificial Flavors), Mono & Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Cellulose Gum, Standardized with Dextrose, Salt, Carmel Color, Natural & Artificial Flavor (Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Natural and Artificial Flavors), Natural Butter Flavor (Water, Ethyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Tragacanth Gum), FD&C Red #40

Menchie’s

Classic Vanilla (“no sugar added”):

Pasteurized & Cultured Skim Milk, Maltodextrin, Sorbitol, Polydextrose, Whey, Glycerin, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Mono & Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Pectin, Dextrose, Aspartame, Vanilla Extract (Water, Ethyl Alcohol, and Vanilla Bean Extractives)

Yogen Fruz

Non Fat vanilla:

frozen yogurt [milk ingredients, cultured yogurt (milk ingredients, bacterial culture), sugar, maltodextrin, citric acid, mono & diglycerides, cellulose gum, guar gum, carrageenan, natural flavor, bacterial culture]

TCBY

Vanilla (no sugar added):

Skim Milk, Condensed Skim Milk, Maltodextrin, Polydextrose, Sorbitol, Erythritol, Contains 2% or less of: Whey, Stabilizer and Emulsifier (Propylene Glycol Monoesters, Mono & Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan), Vanilla Extract, Natural Flavors, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Cream Flavor, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sucralose, Annatto, Acesulfame-Potassium, Vitamins A & D. Milk cultured with the following the live active cultures: B. lactis, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. lactis, L. casei, S. thermophilus, L. rhamnosus.

Pinkberry

Original:

Nonfat milk, sugar, nonfat yogurt (pasteurized nonfat milk, live and active
cultures), nonfat yogurt powder (nonfat milk, culture), fructose, dextrose, natural
flavors, citric acid, guar gum, maltodextrin, mono- and diglycerides, rice starch

Sugars & Additives

First of all, all of these frozen yogurts are made with the worst kind of dairy: processed low-fat or zero-fat skim milk. But the bigger problem here is all the sugars and additives these frozen yogurts contain:

Sugars: plenty of sugars or sugar alternatives: dextrose, maltodextrin, polydextrose, sorbitol, erthritol, aspartame, sucralose

Stabilizers/emulsifiers/additives: propylene glycol monoesters, mono & diglycerides, guar gum, cellulose gum, carageenan

Flavors: many “natural flavors” as well as some artificial ones (TCBY)

It’s basically all the crap that manufacturers add to processed foods. How these could ever be classified as “healthy” is beyond me.

Best Choices

If you do insist on having some frozen yogurt, do your homework as the degree of crappiness does vary. From the list above, Pinkberry appears to have the best ingredients (although note that they didn’t have a vanilla option, and the ingredients are just for their “original” yogurt).

I’ve heard of some artisanal frozen yogurts shops popping up as well, and those might have better ingredients – but I haven’t seen these yet locally. Also, I hear Red Mango is pretty big in the States, and this is their ingredient list, which is better than the ones above (they emphasize that they are “natural” and don’t use artificial ingredients):

Vanilla bean:

Nonfat Yogurt (Skim Milk, Guar Gum, Cultures), Filtered Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Natural Flavor, Whey, Carrageenan, Citric Acid and less than 1% of Sodium Citrate and Potassium Citrate (natural buffering agents).

Personally, I consider yogurt a “treat” and I only buy the full-fat Greek kind (preferably organic). If I want to indulge in a frozen dessert, I go for artisanal ice cream or gelato, with natural or organic ingredients. Making your own would be even better.

What’s your take – do you eat frozen yogurt? Any spots to recommend or pitfalls to avoid?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kaitlyn August 28, 2012 at 10:29 AM

I indulge in frozen yogurt from time to time. I used to really enjoy a plain “tart” flavor that they sold at a coffee shop near my school, but since I don’t go there anymore, I’ve only had the froyo at a new location that opened near my house. I don’t think froyo is healthy at all, with the toppings and flavorings. Plus, they usually give you enormous cups so it doesn’t look like you’re putting much in when in reality, you’ve just filled your cup with $8.00 worth of sugar.

I actually work at a Whole Foods and so many people buy the “healthy” non-fat sugar laden yogurts BY THE CASE. I usually prefer Fage total but bought a container of Greek Gods when it was on sale last week, not realizing that the only kind on sale was honey flavored. 22 grams of sugar per serving. Just, wow.

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[email protected] August 28, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Crazy, eh? It’s the mindset that makes all the difference too. If you want to buy caseloads of dessert, great. Just be conscious of what you’re doing. But when marketed as a health food, people will eat that, and won’t account for it as a treat when making other dietary choices.

And yah, I know just the honey flavored one you’re talking about. I remember it so well because I was shocked to find that honey flavored didn’t mean it was simply sweetened with honey. The ingredients clearly list “honey flavored sugar”. (WTF). It was so sweet that I felt I was eating some overly sweetened dessert, not yogurt. But otherwise I love that brand for their plain stuff – so good.

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Julie August 28, 2012 at 3:32 PM

I suspected it wasn’t that good for me, but on occasion I am known to have a dish of the plain,original flavor with raw coconut, shaved almonds and chocolate chips plus what ever berries they have in the toppings case. I have been making thick yogurt from the raw milk a friend gives us. Would love to attempt making my own frozen yogurt.

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[email protected] August 28, 2012 at 6:19 PM

I imagine homemade frozen thick yogurt made from raw milk would taste divine! You’re lucky to be able to get raw milk!

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KimHo August 28, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Thanks for writing this. Ever since Qoola sort of started all this long time ago, I have been criticizing those so-called health benefits and it has fallen into deaf ears for the most part. As for myself, I go for plain yogurt (regular or Greek); however, if fruits or something is required, I would get some frozen fruits, put them in a fruit processor and pulse it until mixed. If necessary, add some honey or agave syrup. If it is for indulging myself, though, I go for a soft serve! At least I am not fooling myself, hehehe!

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[email protected] August 28, 2012 at 6:21 PM

That’s the thing with ice cream – at least you know what you’re getting yourself into. You might want to look into agave though – everyone thinks it’s healthy at first, but when you dig a little deeper you find out that it’s actually worse for you than HFCS! Shocking, but true.

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KimHo August 29, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Yup, I am aware of the agave syrup controversies; however, I use it for one reason: GI index. Then again, I seldom use it, as it does not contribute to flavouring the same way as honey or maple syrup. (I bought two bottles from Costco over a year ago and barely have used a couple of spons from the first bottle!). :D

Aaron August 28, 2012 at 7:12 PM

Nice post. The only one I’ve heard of is TCBY. I need to get out of Dodge a bit more often.

However, when I was last in Portland there were these FroYo self serve joints popping up all over the place. They all had the same premise, but under different names. 10 to 12 self serve flavors of frozen yogurt, including a huge toppings bar with every kind of sugar/candy imaginable. And you pay by the pound.

While visiting one with the family, I had to tell the clerk that I was going to the ice cream place down the way to get my dessert and come back to eat it with the family because they did not offer a full fat FroYo option. So, yeah, you nailed it with this post … people think frozen yogurt is healthy, and even more so if it’s low or non fat. Geeez.

Anyway, I eat sheep’s milk yogurt a few times a week.

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[email protected] August 29, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Haha. I love how you “had to tell the clerk” that, good job! :) I’ve only tried sheep milk’s yogurt once, when I was in the US and absolutely loved it. Such a unique yet very mild flavor. I haven’t checked to see if we have it locally – doubt it, but I should check.

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