The self-serve frozen yogurt revolution

Plus, where to find it in Tampa Bay and a free fro-yo event.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and yogurt shops are back in the limelight. Today, however, self-serve yogurt shops are all the rage. With numerous yogurt flavors and toppings, it is yogurt insanity! If you have a wallet full of cash or are a care-free kid, cost or calories may not matter. For those of you pinching your pennies or your love handles, there are ways to prevent the creation of a seven-dollar, 700-calorie cup of yogurt:

Samples are super: Take advantage of as many samples as possible before filling your cup. Nobody likes to waste money and cup space on flavors they do not care for.

Toppings are top priority: If you add a mound of M&Ms to that dish of yogurt, the calorie count will skyrocket. Choose flavor-packed toppings where a little goes a long way, like a dusting of crushed Butterfinger or Heath.

Weight is a heavy issue: Select lighter toppings, such as Kit-Kat, crushed cookies, almond slivers, mini chocolate chips, shredded coconut or sprinkles, and avoid heftier toppings like M&Ms.

Cups are better half-empty: Do not let the giant cup size fool you; most are a whopping twelve to sixteen ounces! This gimmick encourages customers to create monstrous-sized concoctions. Although a half-filled cup may look puny, your wallet and waistline will thank you. (You could load your cup with fruit, but keep in mind that fruit can be a heftier topping.)

Here are a few local places to whet your appetite:

(Tampa): The main attraction is their “Only 8” Frozen Yogurts, which are 8 calories per ounce, fat-free, sugar-free and gluten-free.

CALI YOGURT (Clearwater, Tampa): Trendy, contemporary yogurt spot, perhaps mimicking the cool California vibe for which it is named after. Green tea is a featured yogurt flavor.

FROGURY (Tampa): This “frozen yogurt factory” features yogurt, coffee, fruit salad and all-natural juice. Try their high-energy yogurt for an instant pick-me-up.

PINKBERRY (Tampa): This yogurt spot is fairly new to Tampa Bay. The salted caramel yogurt resembles caramel popcorn, and is extra delicious with Heath topping.

TCBY (Brandon, Trinity): America’s original yogurt giant is as delicious as ever. Stick with the yogurt and pass on the sorbet, which lacks authentic fruit taste.

YOGURT MOUNTAIN (Clearwater, Tampa): There is a mountainous selection of toppings, over fifty, to be exact. Includes offbeat toppings, such as Capt’ N Crunch, Lucky Charms and Apple Jacks cereals. There is an impressive selection of yogurt flavors as well.

YOGURT SPOT (Tampa, Palm Harbor): A new yogurt shop with a cool, contemporary vibe and cool prices. With fun yogurt flavors like Tiki Taro, you are in for a fun and tasty treat.

YOGURTOLOGY (Saint Petersburg, Tampa): Saint Petersburg’s premier yogurt spot. With graham cracker, marshmallow and milk chocolate toppings, the Oatmeal Cookie yogurt is like frozen s’mores in a cup.

YOU SAY WHEN YOGURT SHOPPE (Saint Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Brandon): Located in many area malls, this yogurt spot provides a refreshing retreat from a busy day of shopping. The cake batter flavor is a nice alternative to vanilla.

To further prove that yogurt mania has once again gripped the nation, other frozen dessert and beverage establishments are trying to get a “bite” of the profit by introducing their own line of yogurt. For example, Cold Stone Creamery has introduced a 34-calorie per ounce yogurt. It has a slightly higher calorie count than competitors' yogurt, but compared to the usual calorie bombs on their menu, like a 500-calorie small dish of ice cream, it is a caloric bargain! Also, Planet Smoothie has jumped on the yogurt bandwagon, proudly displaying “Now Serving Frozen Yogurt” banners in the store windows. However, the most surprising establishment to join the 'self-serve yogurt revolution' is none other than TCBY!

Whichever place you choose, you are now armed with yogurt survival 'Cliff Notes', and just may get out of there with a six-ounce, 250-calorie, $3.50 dish of yogurt!

Free yogurt event: TCBY’s Trinity location is slotted for a grand opening extravaganza on Sunday, August 14. Stop by for five ounces of free yogurt, live entertainment and prizes! Five ounces of free yogurt will also be available on Monday, August 15. (3140 Little Road, Trinity, 727-375-1177. Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. — 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m. — 10 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. — 8 p.m.)

In Tampa Bay’s scorching summers, it is essential to "keep your cool." And unless you have been living under a rock, you probably have noticed that frozen yogurt shops are popping up all over. This is a fairly new trend and has put a new, retro spin on the frozen yogurt frenzy of the 1980s. Introducing the self-serve yogurt revolution.

It began in 1981 with Frank Hickingbotham’s creation of TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogurt), which was marketed as the healthy, guilt-free alternative to ice cream. Since many people associated yogurt with an unpleasant aftertaste, TCBY derailed that pre-conceived notion. Before long, yogurt mania gripped the nation, peaking in the mid to late 1980s. Even Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney was a spokesman for the new-fangled treat. Another selling point was that ice cream contained ten to twenty percent fat, whereas TCBY's yogurt only had four percent fat. It seemed as though yogurt was here to stay. Then, out of nowhere, yogurt shops became as scarce as snowmen in Florida.

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