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Frozen Yogurt vs. Ice Cream: Which is Healthier?

24 min read -

Everyone has loved ice cream for literal centuries. There are records of desserts similar to ice cream being made and consumed as early as 200 BC. Frozen yogurt, on the other hand, has been around since the 1970’s, making it newer than Led Zeppelin. That’s pretty recent history. 

Frozen yogurt was originally billed as a healthier alternative to ice cream. This got people interested. In the 70s, the idea of a low fat diet was starting to become trendy. People were looking for healthier foods, even if they didn’t understand what it meant for something to be truly healthy. 

Frozen yogurt found a following, and people still love it to this day. Many people claim to prefer frozen yogurt because they still get the impression that it’s healthier. We know a lot more about nutrition now than we did in the 1970s. Does the theory that frozen yogurt is a healthier swap still stand up to the test of time?

An Overview of Ice Cream

Ice cream is any frozen dessert made of dairy that contains at least 10% fat from dairy cream. It’s traditionally sweetened with refined sugar and flavored with things like vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. 

Generally speaking, things like natural vanilla, non-alkalized cocoa, and berries are relatively healthy. The only problem is that they’re used so minimally that they don’t contribute much to the ice cream from a nutritional standpoint.

What About Light Ice Cream?

Light ice cream is any ice cream that contains less than 10% fat from dairy cream, but no less than 5%. Everything else remains the same. It still has the same amount of sugar, even though it’s labelled as “light”. If it doesn’t contain the same amount of sugar, there’s a high likelihood the manufacturer is using a non-nutritive artificial sweetener or sugar alcohols instead. This isn’t necessarily an advantage. These sweeteners don’t work well with the human digestive system and may cause uncomfortable gas or bloating. 

What About Non-Dairy Ice Cream?

Technically, there is no such thing as non-dairy ice cream. The definition of ice cream requires the presence of at least some dairy fat. All non-dairy ice creams have to call themselves “frozen desserts.” Because there is no formal definition, non-dairy ice cream can be made of almost anything. 

In most recipes, the framework for ice cream stays the same. Manufacturers use plant milks instead of dairy milks and then proceed the same way they would for traditional ice cream, adding in their sugars, flavors, and any potential additives. The consequence that most people don’t consider is that plant milks, with the exception of soy milk, are very low in protein. This means that non-dairy ice cream often provides even less nutritional benefits than dairy ice cream, depending on the base. 

A Nutritional Verdict on Ice Cream

Dairy ice cream does contain a significant amount of protein, but is that protein really worth everything else that comes with it? Think of it this way. Would you get home from a great workout and dump ¼ of a cup of sugar into your protein shake? Of course not. It serves no purpose, and it undoes a lot of the hard work you just put in. 

If you’re not getting a lot of sugar, you’re getting a lot of artificial sweetener. It may seem better to avoid refined sugar in favor of something that doesn’t fill your body with empty calories, but things aren’t always what they seem. 

Your body has to work harder to break down artificial sweeteners in order to use them as fuel. Because of this, many people experience uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects when they consume a significant amount of these sweeteners. A pint of fake sugar might cure your cravings, but it may upset your tummy in the process. 

An Overview of Frozen Yogurt

The term ‘frozen yogurt’ exists in a grey area. The term isn’t regulated by the FDA. There are only vague suggestions about what a frozen yogurt could be. Typically, any dairy dessert made with live cultures could be considered a frozen yogurt. 

The only real difference between ice cream and frozen yogurt is these live cultures. Frozen yogurt is made almost exactly the same way and contains just as many dairy ingredients. However, using yogurt instead of full fat milk does cut the fat content and provide a modest reduction in calories.

A Nutritional Verdict on Frozen Yogurt 

Live cultures, if present in a meaningful amount, are good for your digestive system. That being said, you don’t need to ingest all of the added sugars of frozen yogurt to benefit from live cultures. Consuming plain Greek yogurt is definitely a more nutritious way to go about getting them so long as the brand you choose is low in sugar.  

A lower calorie count doesn’t necessarily mean that a food you’re eating is supplying your body with anything necessary. Your body can do much more with a 200 calorie green smoothie packed with plant protein and antioxidants than it can with a 100 calorie serving of frozen yogurt that gets the bulk of its calories from refined sugar. The smoothie is helping your body work. The frozen yogurt is just filling up your stomach for a small amount of time. 

Neither is Particularly “Healthy”

Neither ice cream nor frozen yogurt fits the bill as a health food, mostly because there’s nothing nutritious in them. You’re getting a little bit of protein, but you could just as easily get protein from a handful of nuts or seeds. Ice cream and frozen yogurt aren’t valuable sources of protein if they’re weighed down with refined sugar, which is something your body doesn’t need for any reason. 

Finding a Healthy Alternative

If you love frozen treats and you’re trying to be mindful about the things you eat and the way they impact your body, you’re going to need a valuable alternative to ice cream and frozen yogurt that’s designed to supply your body with proper fuel. This doesn’t mean skipping dessert. It just means that you’ll need to choose a better dessert. 

That’s what Snow Monkey is built to be. Our plant-based ice cream is made of fruit only and seeds, and sweetened with maple syrup. You won’t find any refined sugar or artificial sweeteners in Snow Monkey. Our ingredients were chosen specifically for the nutritional benefits they provide. You can dig your spoon into a whole pint of Chocolate Snow Monkey without thinking twice. 

The Takeaway

The question isn’t really if frozen yogurt is healthier than ice cream. The question is actually which is less bad for you. Neither is particularly great from a nutritional standpoint. It’s not what you cut out of a dessert, but what you put into it that changes its nutritional profile. Reducing fat or calories doesn’t mean much if those reductions don’t do anything to provide your body with vitamins, nutrients, or antioxidants.

Snow Monkey is the perfect replacement for frozen yogurt and ice cream. It’s nutritionally sound and something you can enjoy at any time of day whether for breakfast, a post-workout snack, or evening indulgence. Our ice cream is vegan, paleo, and free from all eight major food allergens. You can’t go wrong with a pint of Snow Monkey. 


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