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Counting Calories at Frozen Yogurt Hot Spots

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There have been several new frozen yogurt places popping up around town over the last year or so. Frozen yogurt is an appealing and refreshing treat, especially in the sweltering heat of the summer. Many wonder … are some healthier than others, lower in fat and calories? There are a few differences.

Some of the newer frozen yogurt hot spots are Pinkberry, Tutti-Frutti and Pure Yogurt Culture. The difference between these and more familiar traditional yogurt places like TCBY is that the yogurt served contains an increased number of live and active yogurt cultures (stamped by the National Yogurt Association), much like traditional non-frozen yogurts available in supermarkets. Yogurt provides good bacteria, beneficial for digestion and immunity. Most of the flavors are actually made with real yogurt and nonfat milk.

The calorie and fat count for the frozen yogurt in most of these places is very similar. The calories range anywhere from about 100 to 140 per half cup serving (four ounces). A few flavors are made with 1 percent milk instead of nonfat, making any difference in fat content minimal. Pinkberry’s flavors generally contain 100 calories per four ounce serving. All of the flavors, except chocolate and coconut, are fat-free.

Pure Yogurt Culture offers what they call “Only Eight” frozen yogurt. These flavors provide only eight calories per ounce, compared to the others at approximately 20 to 30 calories per ounce. The Only Eight flavors are sweetened with fructose, so they are a better choice for diabetics for blood glucose control.

So how do these places measure up in taste? While Tutti-Frutti and Pure Yogurt Culture are satisfying enough to cure that sweet tooth, in my opinion (and my family’s), Pinkberry is the best. And, you can’t beat all of the different and interesting flavors available like Green Tea, Pomegranate and Salted Caramel.

If you’re watching your waistline, be mindful in your selection of toppings. It’s best to stick to fresh fruit and maybe a small serving of nuts to add a little more protein to make it a sustaining snack.  Pinkberry offers as many toppings that will comfortably fit into your cup. If you fancy some of the other more decadent toppings, limit them to one small scoop.

TCBY has been a popular yogurt stop in New Orleans for many years. While the yogurt at TCBY does provide some active yogurt cultures, it does not contain quite as many as the places listed above. Some may prefer the frozen yogurt at TCBY because it tastes more like ice cream than yogurt. Most of the TCBY flavors are 96 percent fat free. They also offer a few fat-free and sugar-free flavors as well. The calories are not very different from other types of frozen yogurt, ranging from about 80 (for fat-free, sugar-free) to 130 calories per half cup. If you’re calorie conscious, avoid the fruit that’s served in sugary juice and the nuts with sugar coating or sauce. Stick to fresh fruit, a small spoon of nuts or sugar-free chocolate toppings. TCBY is still a delicious, lower-calorie alternative to ice cream.

While all frozen yogurt is generally lower in calories than most ice creams, if you’re watching your weight, don’t think just because it’s frozen yogurt you eat so much more. Combined with some of the higher calorie, higher sugar toppings, and you could have had a small cup of real ice cream. Also, keep in mind, while frozen yogurt is generally low in calories, it does contain a fair amount of sugar. Like anything else, you can indulge guilt-free as long as you enjoy an appropriate portion.

You’ve got questions? Our nutritionist, Elesha Kelleher, LDN, RD, MPH has the answers. E-mail her at ekelleher@ochsner.org