It's a fun and tasty treat, but if you're living with diabetes, you may wonder if frozen yogurt is bad for diabetes and if sticking to low-sugar frozen yogurt brands is enough. The answer is a little more complex than you might think. It can be an occasional treat, but there are some caveats too.
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The Scoop on Frozen Yogurt
When living with diabetes, you need to keep a close eye on your sugar and carbohydrate intake because they can cause a spike in your blood glucose, or blood sugar. And that's why sweets should be something you enjoy in small portions and reserve for special occasions, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Frozen yogurt sounds so healthy — after all, it's made with yogurt, so does fro-yo really deserve to belong in the dessert category? It's similar to ice cream but doesn't have cream, so it's lower in calories and lower in fat than regular ice cream.
A cup of regular frozen vanilla yogurt has about 200 calories, according to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and that portion size packs just 6 grams of fat, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But it can also have a wallop of sugar. Popular fro-yo brand TCBY has 32 grams of the sweet stuff in a one-cup serving.
Low-fat and nonfat frozen yogurts may have similar or slightly lower calorie counts than regular fro-yo with only one to three grams of fat. However, they may have similar amounts of sugar.
How do those numbers compare with ice cream? A cup of vanilla has 279 calories, about 15 grams of fat and nearly 29 grams of sugar, USDA says. Keep in mind that these numbers can vary widely by brand.
There are also frozen yogurts that are low-sugar. These will typically use non-calorie, artificial sweeteners, so it's important to read the labels and make sure you are OK with the type of sweetener being added.
Is Frozen Yogurt Healthy?
Frozen yogurt can have some health benefits because it's lower in calories than many other frozen desserts, Sonya Angelone, RDN, CLT, a registered dietitian nutritionist and San Francisco-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says. However, it's a processed food that is still high in added sugars. Also, its nutrition profile can vary widely by product and by brand.
Angelone says that if you have diabetes, limit frozen yogurt to an occasional treat, just like other sweets, and definitely hold off on calorie- and sugar-laden toppings.
"Adding gummy bears and syrup will increase blood sugar much more than adding fiber-rich blueberries and sliced almonds," Angelone says. It's also better to have a small portion of frozen yogurt after a meal with healthy fat and protein so it has less of an impact on your blood sugar, she says.
Consider how well you're controlling your blood sugar before you reach for fro-yo and other types of indulgences. If your blood sugar numbers are generally good, then an occasional frozen yogurt should be fine. On the other hand, "Others have blood sugars that are not managed well and really need to avoid frozen yogurt," Angelone says.
Also, keep in mind that compared to regular yogurt, frozen yogurt is a less healthy choice and was associated with a lower intake of vitamins and minerals and a higher intake of sugar, saturated fat and cholesterol among those who ate fro-yo regularly, according to research published in June 2017 in Nutrition Research.
As for the best frozen yogurt when you have diabetes, Angelone favors brands that don't have added sugar. By using your own healthy toppings, you can even boost the nutrition. Strawberries and bananas are healthy-choice toppings, according to UPMC.
Because both low-fat and nonfat frozen yogurts still tend to have a lot of added sugar, Angelone says to focus more on the sugar content rather than the fat when making your selection, and read labels so you know just how many calories and how much sugar and fat you're getting.
- American Diabetes Association: “Statistics About Diabetes
- American Diabetes Association: “Myths About Diabetes”
- UPMC: “Is Frozen Yogurt Really Healthy?”
- Nutrition Research: “Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream Were Less Healthy Than Yogurt, and Adding Toppings Reduced Their Nutrition Value: Evidence From 1999-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey”
- Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, CLT, registered dietitian nutritionist, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, San Francisco
- TCBY: “Nutrition, Golden Vanilla Soft-Serve”
- USDA: "Ice Cream, Vanilla"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Giant Eagle Inc. - Frozen Yogurt Vanilla"