Is froyo a healthier option with its lower calories and probiotics, or is ice cream the better choice?

Ever since the popularization of frozen yogurt in the leg-warming, jazzercising 1980s, folks have been touting this soft-serve desert as a healthier alternative to ice cream. But froyo isn’t quite the same thing as sticking a tub of plain yogurt in the freezer — so is it really all that healthy?

We’ve got the scoop on the pros and cons of froyo and how it compares to ice cream.

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Just note that nutrition can vary a lot by brand, flavor, and any toppings you add.

Vanilla frozen yogurt, 1/2 cupVanilla ice cream, 1/2 cup
Calories114 kcal137 kcal
Carbs17.4 grams (g)15.6 g
Sugar17.3 g14 g
Protein2.88 g2.31 g
Fat4 g7.26 g
Saturated fat2.46 g4.48 g
Calcium103 milligrams (mg)84.5 mg

Lower in calories and saturated fat than ice cream

Unless your froyo is packed with chocolate pieces, capped off with a butterscotch shell, or otherwise heavily decorated, it’s likely to contain fewer calories, fat, and saturated fat than ice cream. This is because ice cream generally starts with, well, cream. In fact, for ice cream to earn its name, it has to have at least 10% milk fat. (It’s a federal law!)

Frozen yogurt, on the other hand, has no such specifications. It can begin with any type of milk. Some manufacturers create theirs with skim milk, others with whole milk, and others with a mixture of different milk fat percentages. That’s why its calories, fat, and saturated fat tend to be relatively low.

May contain probiotics

Not every brand of froyo is rich in probiotics (the good bacteria that promote a healthy gut) — but some do contain them. To be sure you’re getting some beneficial gut bugs, look for the words “live and active cultures” on frozen yogurt packaging. The probiotics in yogurt have been linked with benefits like better digestive health, cardiovascular health, immunity, and bone health.

That said, there’s some debate about how many bacteria survive the processing and freezing required to make froyo. Some studies show that probiotics hold up well under these conditions, but others indicate that probiotic content decreases significantly.

Contains calcium

Calcium content is the cherry on top. A 1/2 cup serving of frozen yogurt offers 103 mg of calcium, which is 8% of the Daily Value (DV). This is good news since a) it’s delicious and b) getting enough calcium is associated with healthier bones, among other health perks.

At the end of the day, we all wanna know: If you choose frozen yogurt over ice cream, are you doing your health a solid? (Or, um, a semi-solid?)

In multiple important categories, frozen yogurt does outshine its creamier cousin.

Compared to vanilla ice cream, the same amount of vanilla froyo contains

  • fewer calories
  • less fat
  • less saturated fat

Even the calcium content of froyo is higher than ice cream. And whereas frozen yogurt may provide you with some gut-friendly live and active cultures, the same can’t be said for ice cream.

Flavors and added ingredients

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that nutrition seriously varies by brand and flavor. Some frozen yogurts may contain vastly more added sugars than some ice creams, not to mention extra calories and fat from mix-ins like chocolate, cheesecake bites, or Oreo pieces. Extra gums and thickeners in frozen yogurt can also be a concern since they add an extra layer of food processing.

Like many food comparisons, the frozen yogurt-versus-ice cream one isn’t as simple as it might seem. When you want a cold and creamy treat, mindfully enjoying a small portion of minimally processed ice cream might be a better choice than downing a large froyo confection with gummy bears and chocolate sauce. On the other hand, at a basic level, frozen yogurt generally has a better nutrition profile than ice cream.

The choice is yours — so grab a spoon and enjoy!