Fro-yo is fun to say, sure, but let’s be honest, it’s even more fun to eat. In the last few years, the cool treat has become even cooler as the trendy dessert for people on-the-go. But don’t be duped, just because “yogurt” is in the name, the seemingly healthy treat makes the Greatist dangerfood list because of its calorie-and-sugar overload potential.

Say Yo To The Fro'—The Need-to-Know

First thing’s first: all frozen yogurts are not created equal. While some stick to the under-100 calorie profile (before hitting the topping bar), some of them (ahem, Tasti D-lite), aren’t even yogurt!

The key to finding a true frozen yogurt is to go for a brand that has live, active yogurt cultures. Any real yogurt has cultures, or small colonies of living organisms (lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, to get specific) which are what actually convert milk into yogurt during the fermentation process. Those bacteria (don’t worry, they’re the good kind!) convert sugar in milk into lactic acid, which is what gives yogurt that tangy flavor. All that other stuff is just low-calorie, low-fat ice cream (read: not yogurt). Choosing a true yogurt gives a good dose of calcium without the fat, and with a much lower dose of sugar (assuming we forego the Cap’n Crunch and Fruity Pebbles toppings). Plus, live yogurt cultures have been shown to aid in digestion Should yoghurt cultures be considered probiotic? Guarner, F., Perdigon, G., Corthier, G., et al. Digestive System Research Unit, University Hospital Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona, Spain. British Journal of Nutrition. 2005 Jun;93(6):783-6., and may even be a “natural” way to fend off infection Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. Parvez, S., Malik, K.A., Ah Kang, S., Kim, H.Y. Heliz Pharms Co. Ltd., Kyung-Hee University, and Department of Biological Sciences of Oriental Medicine, Graduate School of Interdepartmental Studies, Institute of Oriental Medicines, Kyung-Hee University, Seoul, Korea. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 2006 Jun;100(6):1171-85..

And while these cool treats are a better choice than traditional ice cream, all yogurt does contain sugar. What makes frozen yogurt dangerous is that it has about double the amount of regular refrigerated yogurt. While a typical 1 cup serving of plain yogurt carries 19 grams of sugar, 1 cup of a typical “original” flavored fro-yo can pack about 40 grams of sugar—and that’s before any toppings!

Tasty Twists Galore!—Your Action Plan

The key to keeping this fun frozen treat healthy is serving size. While enjoying a small dish with a few fresh fruit toppings may be a fine healthy snack or dessert once in a while, ordering a large or medium can contain up to 390 calories! Change the order to a smoothie or parfait and that calorie count skyrockets.

The best bet to avoid the danger zone? Pick a fruit or tea-flavored swirl, keep the toppings minimal, and choose the fruit (or, the occasional dose of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate). In the end, remember frozen yogurt is a dessert and hardly a guilt-free snack.

Updated January 2012.

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