You're on the health bandwagon.
You're at your local, natural food grocer.
You're doing The. Right. Thing.
But here you are. Gazing at 36 types of yogurt.
All immersed in fruit. All whipped in vanilla. All touting only 100 calories.
But, wait. Why are there 4 different strawberry-vanilla whipped yogurts? Why is one made of almond milk? And another is fat-free? And the other is full fat? And you know Gwyneth Paltrow is on the Greek yogurt bandwagon -- so you should be, too. Right?
Gosh darn it, just tell me what to buy!
don't turn the cart around just yet
Just like health bars, yogurts can come loaded with sugars, emulsifiers and goodness-knows-what.
Yet, when selected carefully, yogurt can be a protein-packed, calcium-loaded, gut-bug-loving super food.
So, please -- don't turn the cart around just yet!
While yogurt can be packed with added sugar, there are naturally-occurring sugars in yogurt called lactose. These sugars are healthy -- no need to fret about these sugars.
Most 6-ounce servings of yogurt have between 8-12 grams of naturally-occurring, lactose-based sugar.
Pop-tart vs. Yogurt
If your yogurt has more than 16 grams of sugar, your yogurt has more grams of sugar than a pop-tart. Rage face emoji.
If your sweet-as-heavens-chocolate-strawberry-vanilla whipped Greek yogurt has less than 12 grams of sugar, your yogurt has artificial sweeteners added. Sad face emoji.
Let's take a look at 4 popular yogurts:
1. YOPLAIT GREEK 100 WHIPS!
Fat free yogurt (cultured pasteurized grade a nonfat milk, kosher gelatin, lactic acid esters of mono and diglycerides, citric acid, malic acid, yogurt cultures [l.bulgaricus, s.thermophilus], acesulfame potassium, sucralose), fruit blend (fructose, strawberry puree, water, modified corn starch, vegetable juice and beta carotene [for color], potassium sorbate added to maintain freshness, vitamin a acetate, vitamin d3), Nitrogen.
A SECOND LOOK
Teaspoons of sugar: 12 grams of sugar or 3 teaspoons of sugar
Added sugars: Fructose
Artificial Sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium, sucralose
Mono and diglycerides - Food additive used as an emulsifier; may contain trans fat, but aren't required to be labeled as trans fats on food packages
Malic acid - Naturally occurring substance found in many fruits and vegetables, used for the the sour taste.
Citric acid - Occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, serves as a natural preservative and flavoring in foods.
Acesulfame Potassium - No-calorie sugar substitute; 180x-200x sweeter than table sugar.
Sucralose - No-calorie sugar substitute known as Splenda.
- Good: I can't. Just can't.
- Bad: The grams of sugar is low because of the addition of artificial sweeteners. And -- nitrogen? Who wants to eat/inhale nitrogen? To top it off, it's marketed as a 100-calorie pack -- of which I am not a fan.
2. Trader Joe's French Vanilla Nonfat Yogurt
Cultured pasteurized nonfat milk, cane sugar, natural vanilla flavor, pectin.
A SECOND LOOK
Teaspoons of sugar: 25 grams of sugar or 6.25 teaspoons of sugar (more sugar than a pop-tart!)
Added sugars: Cane sugar
Artificial Sweeteners: Natural vanilla flavor
Pectin – Found in berries, apples and other fruit; a gelling agent, adds creaminess to yogurts.
Natural Vanilla Flavor - Added flavoring, both natural and artificial, could contain anywhere from 50 to 100 ingredients. Flavorings can compensate for flavor loss during processing or act as a substitute for the real ingredient -- like in this case for real vanilla.
- Good: Cows are not treated with the bovine growth hormone rBST, which is injected into dairy cattle to increase milk production.
- Bad: Cane sugar is the added sugar; fruit would be a better option. Also, not organic or grass-fed -- whomp, whomp...
3. chobani Greek yogurt with strawberry on the bottom
Nonfat yogurt, evaporated cane juice, strawberries, water, pectin, natural flavor, locust bean gum, fruit and vegetable juice concentrate (for color).
A SECOND LOOK
Teaspoons of sugar: 15 grams of sugar or 3.75 teaspoons of sugar
Added sugars: Evaporated cane sugar
Artificial Sweeteners: Natural flavor
Locust bean gum - Thickening and gelling agent; derived from the seeds of the carob tree.
- Good: The cows are not treated with rBST -- given to dairy cattle by injection to increase milk production. It is sweetened with strawberries.
- Bad: Evaporated cane sugar is the added sugar; just adding the strawberries would be a better option. Also, this is only 5.3 ounces, compared to the normal 6-ounce yogurt size -- which would be a reason why the sugar content is lower. Also, not organic or grass-fed -- whomp, whomp...
4. Maple Hill Creamery Creamline Yogurt Plain
Pasteurized whole milk, live yogurt cultures.
A SECOND LOOK
Teaspoons of sugar: 8 grams of sugar or 2 teaspoons of sugar
Added sugars: None.
Artificial Sweeteners: None.
Organic?: Yes. And from grass-fed cows.
- Good: Yogurt from 100% grass-fed cows means the cows have grazed in pasture year-round. Meat and dairy from grass-fed cows equates to higher quantities of omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (CLA can help in losing body fat, improving the immune system and increasing lean body tissue).
- Bad: Nothin'. Eat up!
Yogurt, especially from grass-fed cows:
- Is good source of omega-3 fats, which helps fight inflammation and improve cardiovascular health.
- Contains higher quantities of conjugated linoleic acid; CLA can aid in fat loss, improve the immune system and increase lean body tissue.
- Contains probiotics, which can improve gut health and strengthen our immune system.
Plain, unsweetened advice
Here are a few yogurts I recommend:
When my clients ask what they should look for when they buy yogurt, here's what I tell them:
- Skip the fruit/honey added -- just add your own if you need to
- Buy "plain" or "unsweetened"
- Look for "from 100% grass-fed cows" on the label. If grass-fed is not available, look for "organic"