How To Pick A Healthy Yogurt

Yogurt is a nutritious addition to a healthy diet and an excellent way to meet your calcium needs, boost your immune system, and aid in your weight-loss efforts! There are so many different varieties to choose from and health promises to decipher through, that it’s no wonder I get so many questions about how to pick a yogurt! Plus, we all know that PLAIN yogurt has the most nutritional value but (dare I say…) what if you just don’t like it??! So I am here to help you learn how to pick the best products! So let’s get started!

1. Nutrition Facts/Ingredients List
Just like any other product, the longer the ingredients list, the lower the nutritional value of the yogurt. In fact, some yogurt provide more calories from added sweeteners than the actual yogurt!
Think about it. A cup of nonfat milk contains ~90 calories. So if yogurt has more than 150 calories per 6oz…keep browsing!
Also, there should be at least 35-40% calcium per 8 oz serving. Any less and you are probably looking at a yogurt with lots of fillers and other additives.

2. SUGAR

This is a tricky one because ALL milk products contain some natural sugars and there is a difference between ADDED sugars and NATURALLY occurring sugars. For instance, one cup of regular milk contains ~12 grams of naturally occurring sugars per cup. So even plain yogurts will contain sugar.  However, with the flavored varieties, added fruits and other sweeteners will increase the sugar content.

The confusion lies in that the naturally occurring sugars are not separated from the added sugars.  So my suggestion is to try to steer clear of yogurt containing more than 30 grams of sugars per CUP (keep in mind MOST yogurt servings are 4-6oz so 15-24 grams of sugar is a decent range for the little yogurt cups).

3. Live Active Cultures
The highest quality yogurt will be those containing “probiotics” or live cultures to promote better gut health, cellular immunity, and increase good cholesterol. Look for bacteria like  L casei, L Acidophilus, or B Bifidum,which have been well studied and are shown to benefit your digestive system OR look on the label for Live Active Cultures or Living Yogurt Cultures.

4. Artificial Sweeteners
This is a controversial topic. There are some foodies out there that will not go near the stuff and others that want you to use artificial sweeteners for just about everything (think Hungry Girl).

As a dietitian, I used to believe sweeteners could be a part of a healthy diet, as long as the other staples in your diet are not also artificially sweetened. However, my opinion has changed with further investigation. I believe that the risks don’t outweigh the lower calorie benefits. You are much better off choosing a regular variety with REAL sugar.

5. Organic vs non-organic
Organic yogurt means that the curd does not contain pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives. These days, pesticides and other man made chemicals have even been found in breast milk! So it’s obvious that these residues show up in low concentrations in cow’s milk.
My suggestion? Go organic with the foods you consume MOST. I eat ALOT of yogurt, so that is something I like to eat organically. But if you hardly eat yogurt, then it might not be your priority. Make sense?
COMMON BRANDS FOUND AT YOUR REGULAR GROCER
(not health food stores like Whole Foods, etc)

*suggested for review by Healthy Apron Fans! Become a fan!!

1. StoneyField’s Organic Yogurt Brands :
*Love the taste, more reasonably priced than the Greek varieties, organic, higher in sugar but still reasonable. Six live active cultures! Highly recommend this brand, as it is readily available at most grocery stores and CAN be more affordable than other organic yogurt.

2. Oikos Plain GREEK yogurt (organic):
*Low in calories and sugar and very high in protein! Five live active cultures! An excellent choice if you can afford it! It was $2.29 at Kroger yesterday for a small 7 oz container! Yikes.

Anyone know where to get the best deals on GREEK yogurt? I am curious!!

3. Yoplait Original (99% fat-free)
*Great flavor, but higher in calories (170 calories per 6 oz container) and sugar (33g per container), sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), contains live active cultures, but still not highly recommended by me as I try to stay away from high fructose corn syrup and it does not meet the guidelines I suggest.

4. Dannon Fit n Lit:
*Low in calories but sweetened/colored with controversial ingredients; aspartame, acesulfame K, Red 40, Blue 1.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recommends to avoid products containing acesulfame K and aspartame and use caution with artificial coloring like Red 40 and Blue 1. 

5. Weight Watchers Yogurt Brands:
*Good flavor, low in calories, and sweetened with sucralose (Splenda), which is considered safe, according to CSPI. However, this variety does contain Red 40 and Blue 1 which are cautioned against. I would probably not recommend this brand!

6. Yoplait Lite:
*I will admit, I used to LOVE the taste of this yogurt. However, HFCS is an ingredient I avoid and I do not like how it is also sweetened with aspartame and colored with Red 40 and Blue 1. Not recommended unless you consider it an occasional treat (like once every few MONTHS).
These six are the main yogurt varieties mentioned by The Healthy Apron Fans
What is your favorite yogurt variety?? I would love to help you navigate through the nutrition facts!!

Also, be sure to check out my post on How To Pick A Healthy Cereal! For more tips and tricks!!

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7 comments to How To Pick A Healthy Yogurt

  • [...] Organic. I know I have mentioned this in my post about “How To Pick a Healthy Yogurt,” but it IS important to choose organic IF you decide to eat dairy. Non-organic brands [...]

  • Livia

    A great place to buy Greek yogurt is surprisingly Costco! If you buy a package of Greek Chobani yogurts (which we love) it’s wayyyy cheaper than buying them individually. They come with peach strawberry and blueberry. Fantastic!

  • [...] equal, and some can actually do more harm than good.  The Healthy Apron has a great post on How to Pick A Healthy Yogurt.  In a nutshell, you want to make sure that you’re not ingesting too much sugar (many of the [...]

  • Great post! I enjoy a good greek yogurt, and I eat 1-2 a day. I usually opt for plain because my sweet tooth is pretty small. If I want to, I’ll add a little fruit jam. I don’t make much of organic, but I DO make sure the cows were not treated with growth hormone. Fage makes my absolute favorite favorite greek yogurt.

  • hey,I find out that your weblog is really educational and helpful and we were interested if there is really a possibility of obtaining More web content like this on your site. If you willing to support us out, we can be willing to compensate you… Kind regards, Melodi Dockendorf

  • Naomi

    A reeeally good yogurt (if you can find it) is 0% balkan style yogurt. It has 60 calories per 1/2 cup, 5g of sugar and 27% of the daily amount of protein. I love this stuff, its natural and a bonus for me is, its local. :D

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