-- What's better than a little froyo? And it's yogurt, right? Yes, but the amount of added sugar may shock you.
Nutritionist Maya Feller says even the plain tart flavor at your local frozen yogurt shop is "absolutely different" from the plain yogurt in the grocery store.
And there's another problem: Of the six local self-serve yogurt shops I visited in the towns of Oakland, Berkeley and Walnut Creek, California, none offered a 4-ounce cup. One provided a 12-ounce cup, but most had 16-ounce, 20-ounce, and 32-ounce cups.
But maybe people just serve themselves a modest amount in those quadruple portion cups? To find out, I went to a yogurt shop franchise in Walnut Creek and weighed the cups of yogurt people purchased before they took a bite. I found weights of 5, 6, 8, 10, and 17 ounces.
In the case of the 17-ounce yogurt, there were 1 to 2 tablespoons of nuts on top, so I adjusted my yogurt weight down to 16 ounces. Even with that conservative downgrade on weight, the added sugar was 120 grams. That's the equivalent of 30 cubes of sugar.
And keep in mind we're talking about yogurt alone, before we even get to the toppings.
One yogurt customer told me she chooses yogurt over ice cream because she thinks of it as a healthier choice. She cited the fact that many frozen yogurt options are non-fat. But she also admitted that this perception is what she uses to give herself permission to add a few candy toppings, which roughly average 7 grams of added sugar per tablespoon (I used Gummy bears, brownie bites, Butterfinger and Heath bars to get to that average number). That bumps the added sugar numbers up even more.
When we compared the added sugar in the frozen yogurt to the same size serving of a higher-end international ice cream chain's ice cream, the frozen yogurt had twice the sugar. Granted, the ice cream had 17 grams of fat -- no small amount, but in a straight sugar comparison the difference was staggering.
So what can you do?
Tips for Eating Healthier When You Go for Frozen Yogurt
1. Visit yogurt shops that serve the yogurt for you.
In almost all of those shops I visited they offer 4-ounce cups.
2. Visualize 4 ounces. A 4-ounce serving of frozen yogurt is slightly less than the size of your fist.
3. Pile on the fruit. Once you put a fist-sized serving of yogurt in your bowl, if you want more and you want toppings, add fresh fruit and a few nuts for crunch.
4. Consider it an occasional treat.
I love frozen yogurt, but now I know it's not a freebie that I can indulge in all the time. When we reached out to one of the brand locations we visited -- certainly not the only yogurt brand with significant sugar numbers -- they offered that advice too: perceive yogurt as a "special treat."
"...We offer a variety of custom frozen yogurt flavors and toppings that appeal to the tastes and dietary needs of our guests; these include gluten-free, non-dairy and no sugar added frozen yogurt flavors that are also all kosher," the brand said in a statement. "Every day, our guests tell us how much they appreciate making their own creations knowing they can be as indulgent or as healthful as they choose, and they value the wide variety of choices we offer."
A few notes to consider in methodology and specifics: While many yogurt shops do offer a no-sugar added option, most of those use artificial sweeteners.
We used the distinction "added sugar" here because dairy products all contain milk which has its own lactose sugar. We allotted 6 grams of lactose sugar per 4 ounce serving. Yogurtland’s listed sugar content was 36 grams per 4 ounces. We called that 30 grams of added sugar per 4 ounces to account for the lactose.