I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but around here, frozen yogurt emporiums are sprouting up all over. In my travels in recent years, I had seen (and visited) a few for-yo shops, but Memphis has mostly been a TCBY town. Well, not anymore. No fewer than four new fro-yo enterprises in various stages of opening in one small area:
YoLo Frozen Yogurt
Sweet Cece’s Frozen Yogurt and Treats
That’s a lotta yogurt, especially considering that there are three TCBY franchises within 5 miles of these newcomers. By the end of the month, the fro-yo will outnumber the cupcake bakeries in the area, which makes me think the current national fascination with all things cupcake is being replaced by frozen yogurt. I wish the bakeries much success, but considering that I’ve only had two cupcakes this year (or was it three?), and that I’ve had fro-yo 50+ times, you can see where my heart truly belongs.
In addition to TCBY, I’ve tried YoLo (yummy) and Yogurlite (meh), and I’m looking forward to trying the other two when they open. While I like the standard size TCBY offers, I also like the self-serve feature of YoLo. I can control my own toppings that way, which is usually a good thing, but not always. Depends on the day.
I sometimes forget that the majority of the world is not focused (not even semi-) focused on calories and nutrition. So when I was at YoLo a few weeks ago and heard one woman remark to another, “It’s so nice to have such healthy snacks for the kids,” I was a little surprised, especially since their kids were over at the bar loading up their over-sized cups with gummy bears and about a cup of chocolate sprinkles each. I later heard her say something to the effect of Ben & Jerry’s (located around the corner from YoLo) would miss them.
While frozen yogurt is healthIER than ice cream, it’s not what I would consider a healthY food. In a comparison of frozen yogurt and ice cream, here’s how the numbers stack up per half-cup serving:
|TCBY Golden Vanilla||TCBY NSA vanilla||Haagen Dazs
Vanilla Ice Cream
|Edy’s NSA, FF|
Just because I’m citing sources, don’t think this is any sort of scientific analysis. I just think it’s interesting to look at them side by side. To that end, I’ve used a couple of different options to include those with added sugar and the no sugar added (NSA) varieties. Comparing TCBY to Haagen-Dazs (as if one could shows that the yogurt has substantially fewer calories and fat, but not really that much less sugar or sodium. In looking at the NSA versions of TCBY and Edy’s, there’s not much difference at all until you get to the calcium and vitamin A.
Another consideration in the relative health benefits of fro-yo vs. ice cream (NSA or high test) is the purported probiotic benefit of some brands of fro-yo. Some folks (and I used to be one of them) see the word yogurt and think it’s healthy, but some yogurt-y products don’t contain any live or active cultures. Don’t worry if you’re a fro-yo fan, TCBY and Pinkberry are among those brands certified by the National Yogurt Association, a trade organization, as containing both live and active cultures. (Note to Cammy: Ask the new kids in town which live and active cultures they contain. Pretend to know which ones are important.)
Still, there’s all that sugar to consider. which puts fro-yo in this gal’s weekly (or 2x week, at most, and only if they’re really small servings) category. For more frequent indulgence, as in daily, regular yogurt is a much healthier option. Here’s how those numbers compare:
|TCBY Golden Vanilla||TCBY NSA vanilla||Yoplait Light
(vanilla, no fat)
Sources: TCBY Nutrition Info, Calorie-count.com, and Chobani Nutrition info. (Note: I originally looked at calorie-count.com for the Chobani info, but when verifying with Chobani’s site, I discovered that Chobani lists higher values for sodium, carbs, and sugars, so those are the numbers I went with. Again, a non-scientific approach.)
Ahhh, look at that Chobani. In round numbers, Chobani vanilla has half as much sugar and almost three times the protein of fro-yo. It freezes nicely, too. AND you can add your own drizzle of chocolate syrup (sugar free or regular, your choice) for a homemade fro-yo treat!
For me, Greek yogurt or lower-sugar yogurts available in the dairy case are among the healthier foods I eat. Frozen yogurt, particularly the NSA type in a reasonable portion, is more of what I consider a go-to treat. It’s not devoid of any nutrition (apparently), but it’s not the best choice. Ice cream isn’t even on my radar. I’ve had one 1/4-cup serving in 3 years, and I don’t miss it at all. Mostly.
(Seriously, I can barely even remember the smooth creaminess of B-R’s Praline’s & Cream and how it was perfectly offset by the salty caramel ribbon and the crunchy praline-coated pecans.)
Okay, back to the topic o’ the day, and there really was one when I started, which was that there are a lot of frozen yogurt shops sprouting up all over. I’m highly in favor of that, but because I know the nutritional profile and where fro-yo fits in the “healthy” hierarchy, I’m aware of the need for portion and topping control. I’m pretty sure most people aren’t paying quite as much attention, and that bothers me.
You’d probably be hard-pressed to hear anyone bragging that cupcakes are healthy; instead, they would be indulging in them fairly infrequently. But there are people who think anything yogurt is automatically healthy. I wonder if occasional cupcake treats will give way to more frequent trips to the frozen yogurt shop.
I doubt we’ll be seeing “Fro-Yo Wars” on the Food Channel anytime soon. I hope not, anyway, since they’d probably feature Salmon Frozen Yogurt w/Dill & Tarragon Syrup or something like that. (Hey, it could happen! They had a fish cupcake, for crying out loud!)
What would make an interesting show, in my ever so humble opinion, is a hidden camera at the yogurt shop. Let people load up those cups and dig in, then the host/hostess (perhaps someone who’s unemployed and clearly has too much time on her hands) could jump out from behind a potted plant or large-ish urn and tell them the estimated caloric content and nutritional value of what they’ve consumed. (You’d have to wait until after they’d eaten; otherwise, no frozen yogurt shop would let you anywhere near the door.) People who have reasonably healthy servings and toppings could win a prize. (Positive reinforcement.)
As I said earlier, I’m also curious (and a teensy bit worried) that this fro-yo trend signals the end of the cupcake shop. I hope not, because I haven’t sampled nearly as many as I’d like. (I kind of got side-tracked by YoLo and their sumptuous toppings, plus I’ve been sandbagging splurges for an upcoming vacation.)
Are you seeing more frozen yogurt shops opening in your area? Fewer cupcake bakeries? Am I the only one noticing these things?
That’s it for me today. I’ve got to go write up my newest pitch for Food Network: Fro-Yo Five-O!