This post about eating out gluten-free frozen yogurt contains affiliate links. This post is sponsored by Nima Sensor. Please see my disclosures for details.
Going out for frozen yogurt or ice cream is something my family loves to do. My kids LOVE frozen sweet treats, and it’s always good family fun to visit a frozen yogurt or ice cream shop.
But, like many restaurants, ice cream and frozen yogurt shops are full of gluten! Yep, the place you love to visit is suddenly a minefield of gluten this and that!
Have no fear!
In this post, I will share with you:
- How you can still enjoy ice cream and frozen yogurt at popular shops
- The results of my Nima Sensor gluten detecting test at Yogurtland
- My tips for eating gluten-free frozen yogurt and ice cream outside of the home – don’t miss!
We have a lot to get to, so let’s get started!
How to Enjoy Ice Cream at Popular Shops
There are several restaurants where you might find yourself tempted by this sweet, cold treat. Let’s discuss a few of the most popular joints and how you can safely order a gluten-free treat:
Dairy Queen: If you find yourself at Dairy Queen, you can order soft serve ice cream served in a cup. You can also order a hot fudge sundae with chocolate or caramel sauce (both gluten-free), and you can enjoy the fruit smoothies and Orange Julius drinks, too.
I recommend avoiding Blizzards as the machines come in contact with gluten all of the time.
If you want an even safer option, you can enjoy the pre-manufactured novelties such as the Fudge Bars, Vanilla Orange Bars or Starkiss Bars, all which are gluten-free. You can find them in clear, sealed plastic wrappers. These treats are made off-site and have limited risk of cross contact. The Dilly Bars or Buster Bar Treats are also gluten-free, however, they are made on the store premises and therefore subject to potential cross contact.
Please read the Dairy Queen Allergen Menu carefully to understand what is and isn’t safe for someone avoiding gluten.
Baskin Robbins: If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, I do not recommend you eat at Baskin Robbins at all because all ice cream flavors are scooped using ice cream scoopers that have been used to scoop both gluten and gluten-free ice cream varieties.
Even if the server gets a clean new ice cream scoop for you, the damage has been done. Previous scoopers have touched the ice cream you would like to eat and cross contact is inevitable.
Sometimes the server will fish out a fresh, untouched tub of ice cream for you, and if that happens, they you can safely eat at Baskin Robbins. You can find a list of ingredients, along with the clearly labeled allergens, on the Baskin Robbins website. Click on each individual flavor to decode its ingredient list and allergen labels.
Ice cream scoopers are used to scoop and mix both gluten-free and gluten-full ice cream flavors. Cake batter, cinnamon bun, cookie dough and oatmeal cookie batter contain gluten, as well as many of the ice cream toppings contain gluten.
If you tell your server you have a “gluten allergy,” they will wipe down the stone to prepare your ice cream (this is ESSENTIAL), however, residual gluten may still be on the mixing surface. You’ve been forewarned!
Check the Cold Stone allergen menu for more information.
How to Enjoy Frozen Yogurt at Popular Shops
As discussed, eating at an ice cream shop is risky. However, the same is not true when going for frozen yogurt. In fact, eating at a frozen yogurt shop is quite safe, when done right.
That’s why when my family wants to enjoy a safe, cold treat, we head over to our local frozen yogurt shop. You may have heard of many of them like TCBY, SweetFrog and Yogurtland – although chances are you have a yogurt shop near you that isn’t part of a national chain.
Our frozen yogurt shop of choice these days is Yogurtland. There is one near my house just outside of Denver.
Inside the store, each flavor is clearly marked with an allergen label, making it easy to navigate the frozen yogurt bar with ease.
If your frozen yogurt place does not have these labels, consult the store manager about what is gluten-free. Ask to see the allergen menu so you can see for yourself what is and isn’t gluten-free. Don’t rely on the memory of those working at the shop.
Online, you can use Yogurtland’s Flavor Finder to identify which flavors are gluten-free. One exciting thing about Yogurtland is that many of the flavors that sound like they would contain gluten (like “cake batter”) are actually gluten-free. I love when that happens!
I took my Nima Sensor to Yogurtland so I could be certain I was indeed getting a gluten-free frozen yogurt treat. Watch me test several frozen yogurt flavors (Salted Caramel and Red Velvet Cupcake Batter) live on Facebook Live (video coming soon).
The Nima Sensor is an awesome device, especially if you are sensitive to gluten. I know even a little gluten will send me running to bathroom!
In order to test your frozen yogurt for gluten, simply put a pea-sized amount of it into the test capsule. In about 2-3 minutes, Nima will tell you if the piece of food you tested contains gluten. Isn’t it nice to gain a little insight into whether or not your food is really gluten-free? Food transparency is here!
You can learn more about the Nima Sensor in this detailed, informational article, and you can purchase one for yourself HERE. I carry my Nima Sensor wherever I go, and if something is in question, I have Nima by my side to help me know for sure!
OK, back to the frozen yogurt shop.
You’ll notice that frozen yogurt toppings are mostly self-serve these days… and this, my gluten-free friends, is where cross contamination exists.
While you already know an M&M or chocolate chip is gluten-free, what you don’t know is if bits of other toppings have been dropped into those bins, or if the scooper has scooped/touched gluteny toppings as well.
Avoid eating off the toppings bar altogether.
Instead, ask the person working at the shop if you can scoop toppings from a clean tub that hasn’t been exposed to the self-serve bar. This way you get to scoop from the fresh stuff and can worry less about what toppings have come in cross contact with gluten.
Tips to Eating Gluten-Free Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream
Now that you understand a bit more about how to eat gluten-free frozen yogurt and ice cream outside of the home, I want to offer a few tips to ensure a safe, all-around experience:
(1) READ ingredient labels carefully. Avoid anything with wheat, barley and rye. Be particularly aware of barley malt – it is not gluten-free and is often found in ice cream. Barley malt is not detected by the Nima Sensor either because it’s fermented (fermentation breaks down the gluten protein) but I assure you, just because the gluten has been broken down, it is still in there!
(2) AVOID flavors with “cookies” and “dough” in it unless otherwise specified as gluten-free.
(3) REQUEST a sample-size of your choice flavor before you order. Test the sample with your Nima Sensor.
(4) CHOOSE soft serve ice cream and frozen yogurt – it comes straight from the tap and is less likely to come in cross contact with other flavors.
(5) AVOID ice cream scoopers – they are used to serve all flavors.
(6) ASK for fresh toppings that are not found in the display case and therefore have not been exposed to potential cross contact with gluten.
(7) BEWARE of malt, shake and Blizzard(R) machines (at Dairy Queen) due to cross contact with gluten flavors and toppings.
I hope you learned a lot about how you can safely enjoy eating out gluten-free frozen yogurt and ice cream this summer. It’s always a learning process, but with time, you get a better sense of what you can and cannot safely eat.
And trust me, don’t be tempted to order something that you’re unsure about. It’s not worth the risk of getting sick, especially given that you can easily buy ice cream at the grocery store without missing a beat!
Happy to all and may you enjoy plenty of delicious froyo!