Summer is the season for frozen treats, but let’s get real. We eat ice cream all year round. And you know I’m right. I’ve eaten it with gloves on outside in the middle of winter, and I’m not even sorry.
I don’t know if it’s just my location in the world, but the frozen yogurt world has really stepped up its game. The places that have me smitten at the moment are as follows:
As far as I can tell, Starfruit is exclusive to Chicago. That’s really too bad, because it’s so unique. Instead of plain old frozen yogurt, Starfruit serves frozen kefir. They call it a “miracle drink”, but what it really is is a fermented dairy product like yogurt that contains lots more live and active probiotic cultures, which are good for the immune system and digestion. It’s also a good option for people who experience tummy trouble with milk, because it’s 99% lactose free. I’ve had frozen kefir at Starfruit many times. You can pick from a few flavors. There are also lots of healthy and not-so-healthy toppings to add. I think the kefir alone is rich, satisfying, and totally delicious. One note – there’s a definite yogurty tang. I think it tastes a little like cheesecake, but it can be off-putting to some. If it’s your first time trying a kefir product, I’d suggest asking for a taste before you blow your money on something you don’t like.
Okay… when did Red Mango totally change everything? The last time I went was a few years ago in Columbus, Ohio. They had a couple of flavors. They all had that trendy tang. It was good, but not so good that I felt like going out of my way to find it again. Then, a week ago, Red Mango opened a new location RIGHT NEXT TO MY WORK OHMYGODDDD… and wow. Just wow. Everything is different from what I remember. First of all, most Red Mango locations are now self-serve. They didn’t used to be. And next to say, oxygen, a self-serve yogurt place is my favorite thing on planet Earth. There are close to a dozen flavors to choose from at any given time, including two “skinny” flavors with no added sugar! And they’re sweetened naturally with stevia! STEVIA! Can you believe the progress here, people? I rushed over to try the Dark Chocolate Skinny Sorbetto. It’s dairy free, sugar-free, contains healthy bacteria, and it only has 50 calories in half a cup. If I didn’t already know these things before trying it, there’s no way I would have been able to tell. It’s creamy, melty, incredibly rich, and almost unbelievable. I have no idea how they did it. It didn’t even need toppings. I mean, I returned to find a parking ticket on my car, and I didn’t even care. It was that good. This flavor alone has roped me in for life.
Even if you don’t have a Starfruit or a Red Mango near you, there’s a good chance you do have frozen yogurt options, self-serve or otherwise. Frozen yogurt seems like a healthier option than ice cream. Most of the time it is, but if you do it wrong, it can be just as bad… even worse! And it can get expensive. Check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self! Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Self-serve shops that require you to pay by the ounce. The cups they supply are GIGANTIC, because they’re hoping you’ll fill ’em all the way to the top. Don’t feel like you have to. Watch the heavy hand at the yogurt machine, and keep in mind, although fruit is healthy, it also weighs a lot because it’s filled with water. Choose lighter toppings like nuts and granola if you’re on a budget. And speaking of toppings…
- Pretend not to see all the delicious cookies, candies, hot fudge, etc. You might as well just go and eat a full pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Like I said, go with some nuts or a little fruit. Or just skip the toppings altogether.
- Try before you buy. Most yogurt shops will allow you to taste a few flavors before deciding on an order. Take advantage of the perk.
- Check the website before stopping by. These days, almost everyone has their nutritional information online. This way, if you’re watching what you eat, you can go in with a plan, and you can enjoy a little dessert without totally blowing your diet. And BONUS ALERT! Some shops have loyalty programs that give you discounts just for signing up! At Red Mango, I saved $2 on my first cup. Starfruit gives you a free order after so many visits. Don’t miss out on the perks!
Do you have a favorite summer treat? It doesn’t have to be ice cream. It could be anything… even fruit! Let me know in the comments section below, or e-mail me at email@example.com.