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August 30th, 2016

Did You Know: Adding “healthy” toppings to your frozen yogurt can actually make you eat MORE.

…. And make you underestimate the total calories of what you just ate, too.

seller pours sauce on a soft frozen yogurt in white take away cup

If you’re heading to your local froyo spot to get your last licks of summer, this is for you!

A 2014 study published by the Journal of Consumer Psychology examined the effect of adding toppings to foods on consumers’ perceptions and consumption. The study found that people who add healthy toppings to foods not only underestimate their caloric content, but also eat more of the food.

Think frozen yogurt, salads, and other food items marketed as “healthy.” Frozen yogurt is often advertised as such, with most versions being around 25-30 calories per ounce. These numbers may seem small, but beware! Most “low-fat” or “sugar-free” flavors retain a sweet (and addicting) taste by adding sugars in place of fat or fats in place of sugar, depending on the label’s “health” claims.

The slippery slope of entering the froyo store doesn’t stop at your flavor selection. The real danger comes in as you approach the bar of innocent-seeming, yet sugar-laden toppings. It’s no surprise that chocolate candies, gummies, chocolate sauce, nuts and other toppings can add hundreds of calories and grams of sugar to your sweet treat. However, even the seemingly innocuous toppings such as granola or fruit, can work against you. As the aforementioned study found, people not only eat more of a food when they add “healthy” toppings to it, but greatly underestimate the total calories of what they’re eating too–even more so than when they add “unhealthy” toppings to it. Researchers suggest this is because adding “healthy” toppings to an “unhealthy” food increases perceived healthiness for consumers. It’s important to note that these “healthy” toppings are not as innocent as you might think. Fruit can be served in a sugary syrup, and granola is often made with extra sweeteners and high-calorie nuts, making a ¼ cup serving add another 200 calories of crunch (and we’re not talking about the ab exercise!)

If you choose to indulge in frozen yogurt, remember adding toppings, even the “healthy” ones, add calories, fat and sugar. If you still want to top it off, go with lighter choices like fresh fruit and unsweetened coconut flakes. Remember, there’s no shame in ordering a kid size. Keep it simple and keep it small.