A Q&A with New York University nutrition major and frozen-yogurt lover Ayelet Schieber Think you’ve finally uncovered the secret to the ultimate healthy-yet-dessert-filled diet in the form of frozen yogurt meals? We’ve all had that false epiphany. Indeed, there’s a time and a place for this frozen bliss, but if you’re one of those girls who swears by her daily Pinkberry runs, it’s most likely time for detox. Hear it straight from New York University nutrition major Ayelet Schieber to find out the truth about froyo, understand the portions and ingredients, and get the scoop on enjoying that tart-and-tangy bliss in *gasp* moderation.
Her Campus: So, is froyo actually healthy or just healthier than ice cream?
Ayelet Schieber: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that froyo goes into the “healthy” category. The term “healthy” is usually associated with green veggies or fiber-packed cereals, and froyo should be seen as a supplement to these staples. While frozen yogurt and ice cream have a lot of similarities (both contain calcium and sweeteners) ice cream is usually made from regular milk and is often full of added treats like cookie dough, Oreos or peanut butter cups, which instantly ups the caloric content. So since froyo uses milk with a lower fat content and doesn’t already have candy packed into it, it can be a bit “healthier,” but it’s still full of sugar or sugar substitutes and should be seen as a treat.
HC: Let’s talk ingredients. What are some of the nutrients you can retain from froyo and how does it compare to regular yogurt?
AS: Froyo is often made with real yogurt, which is a great source for probiotics in your diet. Probiotics are basically a good kind of bacteria, similar to the natural bacteria in your body. They can help your body with digestion and other important systems. Plus, froyo also has calcium in it, so for those of us who aren’t huge fans of milk and yogurt, it can be a good and tasty way to sneak some calcium in occasionally. Taking care of your bones is especially important in college, as your bones build the most strength during your early twenties.
HC: Since froyo is full of probiotics and all this calcium, why shouldn’t I eat it in place of a meal?
AS: Nothing should ever replace a meal. While froyo might have some benefits, it can’t provide your body with all the nutrients you need and you burn through it pretty quickly—and believe it or not, a big serving of froyo can contain as many calories as a healthy, filling meal, like a veggie burger and side of steamed veggies. The best way to get as many vitamins and nutrients into our bodies is to have well-rounded and diverse meals that cover a variety of food groups. You might feel like replacing your meal with froyo is a sweet low-cal solution, but within a few hours, you’ll find your body craving everything it’s missing out on, and you’ll likely binge later and eat anything in sight.
HC: So what would be your advice to all the froyo addicts of the world—girls who are frequenting Red Mango or Tasti D-lite before, after, and sometimes in place of dinner—at least once a day?
AS: I’d advise a serious intervention. It is not okay to eat froyo three times a day, and even once a day is probably pushing it, but as long as you’re keeping your portions under control and not replacing froyo with the real food your body needs, it’s okay to have a slight addiction. If you’re really that obsessed, I would try to limit the froyo intake to a small portion a few times a week and make a deal with yourself that it’s only allowed provided you’ve eaten a good meal and that it only comes after meals.
HC: Smothering your yogurt in Oreos obviously doesn’t do much for you nutritionally. What are your feelings about toppings?
AS: A few Oreos are OK in moderation, but definitely load up on fruit, which is low in calories and full of natural vitamins and sugars that your body needs. If you’re craving chocolate, try some dark chocolate chips, which at least contain antioxidants. Also feel free to go for the nuts. While some people stay away from nuts because they’ve heard they are high in calories and fat, nuts contain good fats and lots of protein. By sprinkling some almonds or pecans on your yogurt, you’ll get the benefit of omega-3 (which helps with cardiovascular health), fiber, protein, and the great crunch.
HC: And what about all the artificial sugars and additives you hear about? All froyo clearly isn’t created equal, so what should I look for in choosing my yogurt? Calories/ounce? Sugars vs. artificial sweetener vs. sugar free?
AS: It’s always worth it to go for the real deal. You may think fake sugars are great because they’re lower in calories, but they aren’t your friends. A lot of the sweeteners used in froyo are derived from sugar alcohols, which are chemically contrived and totally foreign to your body and hard on your stomach. You want your body to be able to digest your food easily, and these sugars take a different path through your body and skip the normal digestion process. You want to look for froyo made with real yogurt to take advantage of the probiotics.
HC: What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when I’m thinking about enjoying some froyo?
AS: Definitely don’t hesitate to treat yourself, but also go into it with the right mentality. When you hear about frozen yogurt being fat free, it’s easy to think, ‘Amazing. I can eat as much as I want and not take in any fat.’ But remember that while it’s a better option than ice cream (which can also be fat-free), a large cup of Pinkberry’s plain yogurt contains 380 calories and 76 grams of sugar – and that’s before any toppings and assuming that the guy working the machine didn’t think you were cute and overfill your cup. And listen to your body—a small at Pinkberry is actually 1.5 servings, so just self-regulate: if you’re hungry and want the whole cup, then go for it, but try to enjoy your yogurt slowly, and once you start feeling full, put your spoon down.
Putting Some Perspective to the Yogurt Compare a few of hungrygirl.com’s featured low-cal dessert recipes to your standard Pinkberry order and see what other homemade sweet treats you can enjoy for your calories!
Medium Pinkberry pomegranate yogurt (no toppings) Calories: ~267 Fat: 0g Carbs: 59.8g Fiber: 0g Sugars: 48.3g Protein: 6.9g
Vanilla ice cream hot fudge sundae with berries Calories: ~198 Fat: 1.25g Carbs: 45.5g Fiber: 2.5g Sugars: 23.5g Protein: 3.5g
Chocolate-banana smoothie Calories: ~164 Fat: 1.5g Carbs: 35.5g Fiber: 3.75g Sugars: 18g Protein: 3g
Individual chocolate lava cake Calories: ~182 Fat: 4.5g Carbs: 32g Fiber: 1.5g Sugars: 18g Protein: 4g
Banana split Calories: ~237 Fat: 0.5g Carbs: 56.5g Fiber: 6.5g Sugars: 32.5g Protein: 4g