Frozen yogurt tastes cool and creamy but has a tang absent in ice cream. This tang indicates that the milk in frozen yogurt has been cultured with bacteria, creating lactic acid. Frozen yogurt can be made from many components, but unless the package ingredients state otherwise, you can assume that it contains dairy products.
The Ingredient List
Most products labeled frozen yogurt are, in fact, yogurt and do contain dairy products, including fresh and powdered milk, as well as sweeteners, flavorings and active yogurt cultures. The difference between frozen yogurt and ice cream typically lies in the calories and fat. One-half cup serving of nonfat frozen yogurt contains an average of 110 calories, 0 grams of fat and 20 grams of sugar. The same size serving of vanilla ice cream generally contains about 137 calories, 7 grams of fat and 14 grams of sugar, reports NutritionData.com. In both cases, you'll find a wide variety of options, including low-fat and nonfat versions.
You can also find non-dairy frozen dessert alternatives in yogurt shops and the freezer section of the grocery store. These frozen treats are made from soy, rice, almond or coconut milk, making them an ideal choice for people who are lactose intolerant. Read the ingredient labels, though, because these products may contain added sugar or fat to boost flavor.
Frozen yogurt contains less fat and fewer calories than ice cream, but it's generally not as healthful as regular yogurt because it contains fewer live bacterial cultures. Frozen yogurt isn't standardized, according to the National Yogurt Association, and products may vary in the amount of active live cultures they contain. Even though a manufacturer may add active cultures to the frozen yogurt, there's no guarantee that those cultures will survive the heating or freezing process. Overall, frozen yogurt has significantly fewer active live cultures than refrigerated yogurt.
Health Food Status
Put frozen yogurt in the same category as ice cream -- as a cool, refreshing indulgence, rather than a healthful dairy product. Make it an occasional treat and keep portions small. If you go to a yogurt shop, keep in mind the crumbled cookies, cheesecake cubes and gummy bears can completely eliminate any advantages frozen yogurt has over ice cream. Opt for fresh fruit toppings or take small servings of candy and cookie toppings. If you're lactose intolerant or simply trying to avoid dairy products, seek out non-dairy frozen yogurt options instead.
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."