Dietitian Dine Around: Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt

It’s blazing hot out there! As an ice cream aficionado myself, one of my favorite ways to cool off is to indulge in a sweet creamy treat. And with National Ice Cream Month just around the corner (July), my latest Dietitian Dine-Around will be on self-serve frozen yogurt bars.

The fro-yo frenzy has only recently made its way to my area, but when I was living in Colorado two years ago these serve-yourself buffets were popping up everywhere. It’s like a candy-coated dream come true: a wall of a dozen or so frozen yogurt flavors, many of which tout “low fat,” “fat free” or “no sugar added” labels on them. Can’t be too bad for you, right? (eh…not so much)

Those fro-yo places are clever. First thing you do when you walk in is choose your bowl. Typically, your choices are: Big, Huge, and Ginormous. Seriously – the last place I went to had a bowl that could be used as a bucket to wash my car. Research by eating behavior expert Brian Wansink of Cornell University (author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think) shows that the size of the plate or bowl we use influences how much we serve ourselves. Typically, the larger the bowl, the more we take (and the more it costs – which means increased revenue for the franchisee. See, clever!)

Sure, you’re free to choose as much or as little frozen yogurt as you want, but with a myriad of delicious-sounding (and healthy-sounding) flavors such as nonfat Cookies N Cream or Greek Yogurt with a Touch of Honey or Soy Bean, it’s really hard to pick just one or two.

Credit: iStockphoto

Moving on to the topping bar – now THAT’s where things can get interesting. You can top your treat with everything from fresh cut-up fruit to Froot Loops; go traditional with Snickers crumbles or nostalgic with Nerds – the possibilities are nearly endless. Since you pay by the ounce, you might think it’s OK to allow yourself to go crazy on the flaked coconut but find yourself rationing yourself to one or two blueberries and other “heavier” toppings.

Now, I love a cool ice cream treat as much as anyone, but here are some tips to keep your waistline, wallet and taste buds in check:

  1. Choose the smallest bowl. Always. Even if you’re sharing. Believe me, it’s big enough.
  2. As with any buffet, check out your options first BEFORE you start piling on your plate (or in this case, bowl). Assess the flavors but also the topping bar. Think about what might go well together, and what would be overkill. A cookies n’ cream frozen yogurt flavor topped with crumbled Oreos sounds like overkill to me.
  3. Pick just one or two flavors of frozen yogurt to use as your base. Again, think complimentary, such as cake batter and strawberry, or peanut butter and chocolate.
  4. Practice restraint at the topping bar. Again, just a handful of toppings should be enough. Remember, soon this will all be a melted, gooey mess. Will you really be able to distinguish the Twix crumbles from the Kit Kat crumbles?

Otherwise, keep cool!


Disclaimer: The opinions on this post are my own. I was not compensated for writing this post, nor was I approached in advance by any of the companies or people mentioned within.

Published by

Elana Natker, MS, RD

I'm a dietitian, communications professional, wife, mother - just your typical modern-day woman trying to juggle it all.

9 thoughts on “Dietitian Dine Around: Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt

  1. I personally LOVE the various toppings that we can choose from at these DIY froyo places and would never place a limit on myself in terms of which toppings I can have and how many toppings I can choose from. Usually what I do is put a small base of french vanilla fro yo in the bottom of my bowl, then top it with berries and angel food cake and whipped cream. Then I put another layer of froyo in, usually more vanilla, but sometimes I experiment here. Then I top this layer with brownie bites, reese’s, etc and polish it off with some PB topping. This way it is like two desserts in one. I get the chocolate/indulgent taste I want, and then can finish it off with some sweet fruit.

    In my opinion, when I go to these places it is a treat and a very occassional indulgence. Therefore, I see no reason to have “rules” surrounding what I can and cannot have. If this was a more common place I ate at, then yes I would restrict myself, but since it is not, Good-by rule book!


    1. Hi Tanya! I agree that an occasional indulgence shouldn’t necessarily be bogged down with “rules.” But for people who can’t exercise restraint – or who tend to give themselves a lot of “‘occasional’ indulgences”, thought I’d provide a few tips for keeping themselves in check. You CAN have your cake and eat it, too…just maybe not every day nor all at once 🙂


  2. I know you’ll think I’m weird…heck I find myself weird thinking about this but for some reason, I’m thinking of a frozen yogurt version of…tzatziki!!! I mean, you did mention greek yogurt…Let me play and experiment with the concept but I’m thinking of canapes, hors-d’oeuvres to stick this on,,,,


  3. Have any of you guys seen that thing that makes bananas into ice cream? I think it’s called GoNanas or YoNanas or something like that. Looks amazing!


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