Happy National Vanilla Ice Cream Day! Vanilla ice cream is one of the most, if not THE most popular ice cream flavor. It reigns above the hundreds and thousands of flavors created on this planet and tends to be the base for other flavors to build upon. It’s so regular, so vanilla, but also very universal and loved by everyone. What about vanilla frozen yogurt? It’s sweet and cold, too, but is it actually better for our health?

Let’s talk about ice cream. By law, ice cream is required to have at least 10% milkfat. The fat, usually from cream, gives ice cream its smooth and creamy mouthfeel. If a product has less than 10% milkfat, it’s actually called ice milk which is considered by the USDA as “low-fat” ice cream. Ice cream has lots of added sugar which also contribute to the texture and taste we’re familiar with. Now, let’s talk frozen yogurt, aka “froyo.” If we’re looking for a healthier ice cream alternative, frozen yogurt probably comes to mind, and it should since it tends to have less fat, calories, and sugar than ice cream. Though it can be healthier, it doesn’t have the same creaminess of ice cream.  Frozen yogurt is not made with cream, it’s made with yogurt of course. But it still tastes good and some varieties even contain live probiotics that survive the freezing process which can help promote a healthy gut.

Here’s a table comparing regular and no sugar added (NSA) French Vanilla ice cream and frozen yogurt per 4 ounce serving:

Ice Cream NSA Ice Cream Frozen Yogurt NSA Frozen Yogurt
232 cal 172 cal 100 cal 100 cal
24 g sugar 8 g sugar 18 g sugar 8 g sugar
12 g fat 8 g fat 1.5 g fat 0 g fat

Fat-free and sugar-free options are available, but that doesn’t necessarily mean less calories. Fat free options may have lots of extra additives and carbohydrate based fat replacers to compensate for the loss of taste and texture once the fat has been removed. The “no sugar added” options for both still have naturally occurring sugars in the milk and may also be sweetened by sugar alcohols which are not included in the nutrition label. You might be better off eating the regular product, but in moderation. Next time you’re at the store, try to compare the ingredients of a regular and fat or sugar free product and see the differences.

So, is frozen yogurt a healthy replacement for good old fashioned ice cream? It can be! Ice cream shops are not usually self-serve, and sell by the scoop. Frozen yogurt shops are usually presented buffet style, giving you a variety of yogurt flavors to mix and match with, and anywhere between 20-30 different toppings on both the healthy and not so healthy sides of the spectrum. This is the part where you might break your clean eating streak, ending up with a froyo masterpiece that can have more fat, calories, and sugar than that regular ice cream we tried to ditch earlier. Of course, these stores usually offer a wide selection of fresh fruits too. So if you’re aiming for healthy, stick to the fruits, granola, nuts, and maybe even some dark chocolate.

Something to remember for any food product: if you’re eating sugar free, fat free, or even low calorie options, that doesn’t mean you can have twice the normal amount. All foods can be incorporated into a balanced diet in moderation, so a scoop or two of ice cream or a reasonably decked out cup of froyo every now and then is perfectly fine for your health and is also good for your soul!