FroYo: The New Cupcake?

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
Yogurlite
Yogurt Mountain
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
calories 120 80 270 90
fat (g) 2 0 18 0
sodium (mg) 65 65 70 50
carbs (g) 23 21 21 20
fiber (g) 3 4 0 0
sugar (g) 17 6 21 4
protein (g) 4 4 5 3
calcium 20% 20% 15% 8%
Vitamin A 10% 10% 15% 0%

Sources: TCBY Nutrition Info, Calorie-count.com

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
Very Vanilla
Chobani Yogurt
(vanilla, no fat)
calories 120 80 73 79
fat (g) 2 0 0 0
sodium (mg) 65 65 60 50
carbs (g) 23 21 13 9
fiber (g) 3 4 0 0
sugar (g) 17 6 10 9
protein (g) 4 4 4 11
calcium 20% 20% 13% 13%
Vitamin A 10% 10% 10% 0

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!



23 thoughts on “FroYo: The New Cupcake?

  1. you are SO FUNNY as you nailed it in a way Id not before.

    IT IS THE NEW CUPCAKE (she shouts :)) all over austin its the 80s again with fro yo on every corner…

  2. We get large containers of Greek yoghurt each week during our market trip, it is one of my staples, I eat it every day, usually topped off with a nice seed, nut, dried fruit mix, or on top of a nice fruit salad. I’ve never asked the actual nutritional breakdown, I’m assuming it’s healthy. If it’s not, I don’t want to know :-)

  3. You are too funny & educational all at once! :-)

    We have had frozen yogurt shops around my neck of the craziness for a long time now but even more are cropping up. Golden Spoon was our mainstay for a while & now more are moving in. I treat Golden Spoon as a “treat” for me, like my cookies… not something I partake in a lot. I rather have the cookie treat! ;-)

    But you are so right in watching the nutritionals on these plus people tend to add on the “add ons” too!

    Waiting for your Foodnetwork show!

  4. Oh you knew I would love this post! Yep, the trend hit here too. Even bigger than cupcakes locally. My teen was going for ages and I never thought twice. But we went to one my older son’s last day home before heading back to college; hubby was dyiiiiiing to try it. Mistake! I have been back once and thought of it often since. Our local paper did a big feature on all the shops and had a nice low calorie count. But the store does not have little cups for portion control!

  5. I haven’t noticed any froyo OR cupcake places around town. Could be because I only go into town once a week, and am usually very busy with crammed-in errands.

    BUT … I agree that people automatically think yogurt is healthy. These gogurts I buy for my son are way cheaper than his favorite goat yogurt, but we’re in a money crunch so I can’t afford the healthy goat yogurt. And when I was looking for low-carb yogurts, I had to buy plain greek yogurt (5 carbs per) because everything else had sooo much sugar and additives in them. Horrible.

    But I sure do love cupcakes!

    Vee at http://veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

  6. Strangest thing…. just a few miles down the road from Memphis (Jackson MS)—– we are starving for Fro-Yo. What is the deal? We used to have several shops in the area— now, even the TCBY has closed down. Weird.

    Someone needs to step up and open something— oh, wait, even fewer people in Mississippi are interested in diet and nutrition. Oh, well!!!

    Thanks Cammy!!!

    WeighDownSouth.com

  7. It’s a little bit different up here in the cold country. Our ice cream and yogurt shops are seasonal. We had 1 new yogurt only shop open up, and they are going to try to stay open year round. Hope it pans out for them. We have tons of seasonal ice cream shops, but not many of them sell yogurt in addition to the ice cream.

    There are really 2 cupcake shops around here, and both are 15 miles from my house (good thing). A couple other places sell cupcakes, but more as a side item.

  8. We have 7 or 8 FroYo places in town and only 1 cupcake place which is a gluten free bakery. I have poked my head into a couple of the FroYo places to see if they offer low fat and sugar free choices. One had some labeled,one place did not. Neither one had the calorie counts – so I did not buy any.

    I noticed that one place had different sized cups and the other had cups all the same size and charged per the weight. I think that allows people to add on a lot of toppings, which include fresh fruit but mostly candy, cookies and nuts.

    My favorite from the last round of yogurt shops back in the 80′s is vanilla with almonds on top. One of these days when I have really earned the treat, I am going to go for it!

  9. I think PinkBerry in NYC might have had something to do with the craze… When I was in Toronto, though, I found frozen yoghurt was a little old (you could always find a yummy Yogen Fruz around at the malls) and the new “big thing” was gelato. Here in Auckland, I can’t really find much of either – ice cream is still #1 by a landslide!

    And I think as long as I’m gluten-free (which, I’m guessing, will be forever considering it’s an intolerance) there will always be too many bakeries, wafting their sweet, delicious scents out to tempt – and tease – everyone who walks by.

    Of course, now that I’ve discovered banana soft serve, I don’t think any fro-yo/ice cream/gelato shop will be all that tempting anymore. :)

  10. Really???

    I never saw any fro-yo places in Memphis! It was one thing I was always jealous other cities had lots of and we didn’t. That’s cool that there are some now.

    But at the same time, nothing will replace cupcakes in my eyes.

  11. I have not noticed either of those things in my immediate area, but we live in the stodgiest, most boring portion of the metro area.

    The frozen yogurt fallacy of being super-healthy is like salad bar “healthy”. Only if you eat the non-fat stuff and in reasonable portions. Step away from the crushed peanut M&M’s and the bacon bits.

    Thanks for reminding me that I needed to eat my Activia for the day. I like Greek yogurt, too. Something I might not have tried without the endorsement of healthy bloggers!

  12. Wow, that’s a lot of great info! I have never seen a cupcake place. I guess I’m living in the boondocks. :-D Now that I’m gluten and dairy-free, I can’t really enjoy either one. Fortunately we have a Vitamin Cottage nearby where I can get frozen soy or coconut milk treats. Love the frozen chocolate coconut milk!

    Before I went dairy-free, I gave up the Yo-plait when I read the ingredient list and switched to Greek yogurt. I still enjoy the Greek stuff as a treat once in a while. :-)

  13. I recently tried froyo and got it with oreo crumbles (hello- defeats the purpose!) and I didn’t like it- it had a sour taste. I’m thinking if I give it a go again, I’ll have it with fruit.

  14. I enjoy fro-yo, but it is too much like my nemesis, ice cream, for me to indulge in (yet). Also, there is the issue of sugar which revs up the sugar lobe in my brain and has a tendency to de-rail me. Greek yogurt is as far as I dare go for creamy goodness (sounds kinky, eh?) on my food pyramid these days. Cupcakes – not even on my radar screen for the next 60-pounds, unless it’s a very planned special occasion.

  15. Great post Cammy! I don’t know about cupcake bakeries in my area I think I may have seen an ad for a couple but the grocery store bakeries are full of cupcakes!

    The self serve yogurt shops have popped up all over where I live. I have been to two of them over the past couple of years. The cups are huge! I don’t like the fact that the general public is touching all of the serving utensils, the handles for dispensing the yogurt, the spoons for the toppings. I am a little germ phobic about it I guess. I just want about 1/2 cup for a serving with no topping, it looks silly in those giant cups!

    I too eat a lot of fat free plain yogurt with fresh fruit at home. It is much healthier and a whole lot cheaper.

  16. Can you believe I’ve never actually seen a cupcake shop–either in my travels or in the local big towns I frequent? Its probably all for the best. I got a cyber-fixation with cupcakes, and then got over it before I actually had one. I do love my frozen yogurt though.

    • Thanks, Katharine! I have corrected the glaring typo and assigned everyone else 5 demerits for not noticing and/or mentioning it.

  17. hi there, my name is alan brown i was surffing the net looking to my some health foods and loss weight and here i am , i am trying to loss weight my swimming and so for so good, i am going to look out for fro-yo, and try them thanks for the sharing, ill be book marking this site

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  19. I enjoyed reading this. Here is Phoenix I have seen an explosion of both cupcake and frozen yogurt joints. I read an article recently that said that snacks are the biggest growing segment of the food industry as Americans are snacking more than ever. I think you are right that frozen yogurt is more dangerous than the cupcake because we label it “healthy” which allows us to eat with abandon! I also read a study that said most people when asked which is the more important consideration to your health/weight – what you eat or how much – the vast majority said that it is what you eat that is more important. I think it is this mistaken thinking that has led to such portion distortion and our expanding waistlines! While the nutrition information is interesting, I really love to read ingredient lists before indulging. I have a real preference for real food and try to avoid all the additives, preservatives, and artificial stuff plus I am too cheap to pay such ridiculous prices for these treats!

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