If you love fro-yo, I’m going to share the secret reason frozen yogurt makes you gain weight, that may help make the difference between a small treat and a weight control disaster.
When I was in college, my uncle opened a frozen yogurt franchise. This was during the “fat-free” craze of the early 1990’s and long before self-serve fro-yo came into existence. Remember when you could supposedly eat whatever you wanted as long as it was fat-free? It’s no wonder that everyone working with me started to gain weight!
One of the first things I learned as an employee was how to determine the proper amount of yogurt to fill each cup or cone. As a dietetics student, I cared about providing the correct amount of calories and nutrients, I’m sure everyone else just wanted to make sure we didn’t give away too much product to put a dent in the profits. Then, the science nerd in me took over and I figured out the secret reason frozen yogurt makes you gain weight!
When the nutrition information for frozen yogurt is listed, the calories, fat, sugar, etc., are stated per ounce. FLUID OUNCE. But, the weight of the product on a scale is different than the fluid ounces which are measured as volume. For example, a kiddie cup typically weighs 3 ounces, but contains 4 fluid ounces. If your fro-yo is 35 calories per ounce, you are consuming 140 calories, not 105. Not much of a difference in small size, but the larger the cup, the higher the caloric discrepancy. One particular national frozen yogurt chain (not self-serve) offers cups that weigh in as follows:
kiddie cup, 3 ounces (4 fluid)
small, 5 ounces (6 1/2 fluid)
medium, 7 ounces (9 1/3 fluid)
large, 9 ounces (12 fluid)
In a large cup, that’s approximately 100 extra calories you didn’t know you were consuming. It’s nearly impossible to accurately calculate the total because the volume of air introduced into the yogurt mix will vary. Have you ever seen frozen yogurt that’s super wet and dense, while sometimes it’s very airy? The heavy, dense kind will contain more calories per fluid ounce as it has less air taking up space.
Fast forward to the last decade when self-service frozen yogurt shops popped up in every town. I guarantee there are no kiddie sized cups to be found on display. In fact, most cups available for filling are 12-16 ounces, some even contain 32 ounces!! As a casual observer, I rarely see a cup that’s not filled close to the top. If you are taking a careful look at the nutrition info for each flavor, it can vary dramatically in calorie and sugar content. I’ve seen some 4 fluid ounce servings contain over 200 calories and 25 grams of sugar! This is more than most regular ice creams. That also means if you fill the smaller size cup to the top, you’ll be taking in at least 600 calories and 75 grams of sugar before you add anything else. Just saying, that’s not waistline friendly and you’re packing in about 3 days’ worth of the recommended daily intake of sugar for women.
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Do I indulge in this frosty treat? Yes! I’m just very aware of the portion size I’m willing to enjoy. It also helps that there’s a location about ¾ of a mile away from my house, so we walk when we are in the mood for some dessert. If you are trying to stick to a standard 4 fluid ounce serving size, my trick is to count while you fill. Pull the handle and say “1-Mississippi-2 Mississippi-3 Mississippi” and stop. That should be approximately 4 ounces.
The final takeaway is: when you weigh your cup at the register, you need to add about 1/3 on top of the ounces you see on the scale to get a true calorie count on your tasty treat. Toppings? Well, that’s a whole other story….