ST. PAUL (WCCO) — As you venture out this spring and summer, you’ll find several new frozen yogurt shops have opened up in the Twin Cities.

They are part of a national trend that started on the West Coast — self-serve frozen yogurt that you pump out of a dispenser, and pay for by the ounce.

The concept is simple: grab a cup and fill up. Not just on vanilla or chocolate, but a variety of flavors, as many as you want to mix and mingle together.

“It is such a healthy alternative to ice cream,” said FreeStyle Yogurt owner Dave Brandner. “Roughly you are talking about one-third of the calories, half the sugar content, no trans fat, almost no cholesterol grams.”

Careful on the toppings though. You can go wild with fresh fruit and nut toppings, but then there are also dozens of candy and cookie choices.

“I got introduced to the self-serve frozen yogurt concept in California by an ex-girlfriend, I saw it come to Texas, be successful,” said Brandner. “It is just starting to come into the market now. You’re seeing a lot more of it in Minnesota. It has been wildly successful around the country.”

Back in January, Brandner opened up shop on the corner of Lexington Parkway and Randolph Avenue, right next to Trader Joe’s.

Brandner grew up in Wisconsin and, as a child, he regularly visited St. Paul to see his grandparents. But when it came time to choose a decor for this shop, he went with a beach theme.

“The California feel may be a little bit. Where else can you sit at a surf board table? Many people have never touched a surfboard. They ask if they are real surfboards and these are,” said Brandner. “It is just giving someone, beyond a great product, a store experience that is differentiated from just any other retailer.”

Part of that experience at FreeStyle is spinning the wheel at checkout. If you are lucky, you can end up paying less. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll spend a few cents more an ounce.

Either way, 14 different flavors of frozen yogurt are here at your fingertips, plus 50 different toppings.

A 4-ounce serving is between 90 and 120 calories, depending on what flavor you choose. If you are on Weight Watchers, that size serving would be worth 2 points.

FreeStyle has Kosher-Certified yogurt that comes in many non-fat, no-sugar added, gluten-free flavors, as well as dairy-free Sorbets.

Here are some of the frozen yogurt stores that have been popping up in the Twin Cities:

FreeStyle Yogurt, 500 Lexington Pkwy. S., St. Paul, 651-699-1992
The Yogurt Lab, 3100 Excelsior Blvd., Mpls., 612-926-8212
Freeziac, 375 N. Mall of America, 952-303-6801; 16532 W. 78th St., Bloomington, 952-934-4748; 4105 Vinewood Ln. N., Plymouth, 763-383-0300
Tutti Frutti, 7781 Main St. N., Maple Grove, 763-416-0362
Menchie’s, 750 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-797-6428
Chilly Bill’s Frozen Yogurt, 314 15th Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414, 612-843-4278