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Just Ask Children's

Ice Cream vs. Frozen Yogurt: What's the Healthy Difference?

A bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt with raspberries, blueberries and a strawberry.

Every child has heard the jingle “You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream!” But should we be screaming for frozen yogurt instead? Let’s take a closer look at both so you can make an informed, healthy choice.

Why choose low or nonfat frozen yogurt?

  • A low fat frozen yogurt might be better for a young athlete (instead of ice cream) if they are eating it prior to a workout or competition, as it will digest more quickly.
  • To supply an athlete with a good amount of carbohydrates for fueling and protein for muscle recovery without the excess calories from fat. This makes it a good choice for a young athlete who eats frozen desserts frequently and/or has reached his/her adult height and is at an ideal body weight.
  • To offer a higher amount of calcium. Again, this can vary greatly so it is worth reading the label. Note that 10-15% of daily value per ½ cup is a good source for calcium. Learn more about calcium and vitamin D.
  • Frozen yogurts may contain probiotics, depending on the product. While a more definitive connection needs to be established, research says that these cultures may play an important role in immune function and prevention of some chronic diseases. Look for the “Live and Active Yogurt Cultures” seal on the label to ensure a certain amount of active cultures in the product.
  • Frozen yogurts with active cultures are usually better tolerated by people with lactose intolerance, as the cultures help break down the lactose in the product. Learn more about lactose intolerance.

Why choose ice cream for young athletes?

  • Because they are kids and they may just want a bowl of ice cream after a hard work out or on a hot summer day.
  • Young athletes need a variety of foods, including some fat, in their diet. Ice cream may be where they choose to get it from, and depending on the product, it can still be a decent source of calcium.
  • Ice cream can also be helpful for young athletes who need to gain weight.

Eating variety is essential. And the truth is: Frozen yogurt and ice cream can both be part of a healthy game plan. Use the information above, product labels and/or nutrition facts (see below) to make an informed choice.

What is the difference between ice cream and frozen yogurt?

(1 cup serving of vanilla flavored dessert)**


  Calories* Protein Fat Carbohydrates Calcium
    gms gms gms % DV+
Frozen Yogurt-low fat 240 8 4 44 40
Frozen Yogurt-non fat 200 6 0 46 20
Ice Cream-Regular (store bought) 280 4 14 32 12
Ice Cream-1/2 Fat (store bought) 200 4 7 30 12
Ice Cream (from a specialty ice cream shop) 500 8 30 50 30


*Add 100-200 calories per cup to flavored ice cream and for each 1-2 ounces of many ‘mix-ins’ in yogurt
**Source info: labels and frozen yogurt information for soft serve. These values can vary greatly with flavor and brand.
+ Daily value=1000 mg calcium

Learn more about our Clinical Nutrition Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

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Written by: Lauren Furuta, MOE, RD, Clinical Nutrition, Children’s Hospital Colorado. We are happy to consult with parents or referring providers before a patient is seen at Children’s Colorado.

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