Counting calories: fro-yo vs. ice cream
We'd all like to believe that that something sweet we crave really isn't so bad for us after all. Certainly this is what advertisements seem to have convinced Pittsburghers about a favorite sweet treat -- frozen yogurt.
Frozen yogurt, or fro-yo, has been around since the '70s, but it has been revolutionized since its self-serve form has gained popularity. These days we walk into popular frozen yogurt shops and are bombarded by an array of flavors and numerous toppings, all of which we can help ourselves. While we serve ourselves and taste the frozen deliciousness in various shops, we may notice signs advertising yogurt's health benefits, often comparing it to ice cream. Some customers may believe all of the health claims (even more with every delicious bite), but others may be skeptical: Is frozen yogurt really healthier than regular ice cream?
The answer, in general, is yes. Frozen yogurt (not including the toppings some customers drown it in) can have about half the calories, and a third of the fat of regular ice cream, according to Cold Stone Creamery's Calorie Counter.
Take for example, a prominent fro-yo hotspot in Pittsburgh, Razzy Fresh. This shop has been open since the summer of 2010 and found immediate success with customers at its Murray Avenue, Squirrel Hill, location, according to employees there. Since then, a second shop has opened on Forbes Avenue and a third on South Craig Street, both in Oakland.
At Razzy Fresh, whether the customer is a newcomer or a regular who likes something basic but scrumptious, he or she might go for the "original tart" yogurt. This flavor is the "classic" of the fro-yo world, just like vanilla bean is for ice cream. The difference is, comparatively, "original tart" yogurt is a classic with almost half the calories. A typical serving of 4 ounces of frozen yogurt has only 110 calories, according to Calorie Counter. It also has zero carbohydrates and zero grams of fat. The only real downside to fro-yo in terms of our health, is that when frozen, yogurt's healthy bacteria is killed.
Nevertheless, the fro-yo lovers can rejoice. With its proven good nutrition compared with regular ice cream, why not visit the yogurt shop more often?
Just steps away from this shop's original Squirrel Hill location is a more traditional ice cream shop, Cold Stone Creamery. Although these shops have similar locations and serve up similar chilled confections, the nutritional facts in each of their products is where they differ. At Cold Stone, a classic flavor and a go-to for many is vanilla bean. This flavor may be a little less enticing, however, if people counted calories. In just a kid-size (3-ounce) serving of vanilla bean ice cream, there are 200 calories, according to Cold Stone's Calorie Counter. This small serving also has 19.5 carbohydrates and 11.5 grams of fat. Still delicious? Yes. Just maybe a little less diet than expected.
For those who prefer to stay true to good-old ice cream shops, don't let the facts put a damper on your all-time favorites. A few small changes in what you order can make a big difference in how ice cream affects your health.
Cold Stone does offer reduced fat options, such as its Sinless Sweet Cream ice cream, which has a similar taste to vanilla. It also has a number of delicious fruity sorbets that are much less detrimental health-wise than regular ice cream. The frozen yogurt on its menu starts at 34 calories per ounce.
Whether you choose to go for the fro-yo or try a healthy ice cream alternative, there are many options in making this delicious treat less of a sinful splurge in your diet. After all, the healthier the frozen confection, the more often we can enjoy it. And with ice cream and fro-yo shops left and right here in Pittsburgh, most of us can't get enough.
Sophie Roe, 16, is a sophomore at Fox Chapel Area High School. This essay was written during this fall's Allegheny Intermediate Unit gifted and talented journalistic writing and reporting apprenticeship taught by professor Helen Fallon at Point Park University.