Is Frozen Yogurt Really Guilt-Free?

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Who doesn't want a guilt-free indulgence? The steady growth of the uber-chic frozen yogurt, often self-serve, "cafe" is a testament to our desire. They are prolific and multiplying in Valley malls like bunnies in a hutch.

Frozen yogurt -- just the words -- conjure the image of a cold nutritious treat. After all, we are talking yogurt, food that contains probiotics, calcium, and protein. The stuff that strengthens bones, our immune systems and keeps our digestive tracts healthy. But hold on, not all "frozen yogurt"  is what the name implies.So what do we need to know about our favorite fro-yo to score a true guilt-free hit?

(After the jump, consult our Fro-Yo Facts.)

If It Contains Active Live Cultures, It Is Good for You. The National Yogurt Association, a voluntary, non-profit trade organization, has a labeling program that testifies if a frozen yogurt has live bacteria culture (lactobacillus bulgarious, streptococcus thermophilius and lactobacillious acidophilus) levels that are beneficial to health. Pinkberry (which took some legal heat in 2007 for ingredient labeling ), Red Mango, and even Kroger participate.

If You're Lactose Intolerant, Rejoice! Yogurt is a fermented dairy product. Live bacterial cultures are added to milk. During fermentation the bacteria break down lactose (sugar) into lactic acid, and if you are lactose intolerant this makes frozen yogurt digestible,

If You Investigate First, You Can Find Healthy Fro-Yo.  Frozen yogurt contains milk, live active cultures (we hope), sweeteners, colorings and flavoring. Here's where it gets tricky, the sweetener can be artificial or natural as well as those pretty colors and yummy flavors. Sugar free and fat free may have  sugar or fat substitutes with no nutritional value. Check your favorite fro-yo website for nutritional information. (Wouldn't it be nice if they all posted the info in their stores?)

Beware the Add-Ons. Sticking to plain yogurt with no added sugar can be a little boring, customizing your treat is part of the fun. Choose fresh whole fruits or chopped nuts to keep it clean.

Also Beware: Self-Serve = Super-Size Me. A hands-on coolness factor of some frozen yogurt shops is the bank of self -serve machines. The challenge: filling the bucket sized cup with a scant 4 oz serving of yogurt. The ingredient/nutrition lists posted on some of the fro-yo websites are based on ½ cup servings, and whether you have it scooped for you or measure out your own, the small serving size is usually 1.5 x's the listed information.

We didn't want to bust your frozen brain buzz -- really. Just don't be fooled into thinking you can substitute any frozen yogurt for a "healthy" guilt free dessert. Enjoy the fun factor of the fro-yo café, and have a treat.  But, get to know your fro-yo first.

Check tomorrow for a recipe to make your own healthy frozen yogurt.


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