|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…
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
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)
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]
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.
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.
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):
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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