There was a time when buying yogurt meant choosing between two or three brands and deciding if you wanted your snack to be plain or one of a few fruit flavors. These days, grocery stores’ yogurt sections run from floor to ceiling and are equally as wide. Not only have the flavor options expanded dramatically, but now you can decide between traditional, Greek, whipped, non-dairy, mix-ins, and more. Originally yogurt was one of the mainstays of healthy eating, but how do the countless new varieties affect that characteristic?
Yogurt is often known for being a good source of calcium and protein as well as being a food source of probiotics. Areas to watch out for include saturated fat and sugar content. Dairy-based yogurts naturally contain both. To limit saturated fat, choose yogurts made with low-fat milk. When it comes to sugar, it’s the added (not naturally occurring) sugar that you want to limit. Keep in mind that 8 ounces of plain, whole milk yogurt naturally contains between 10 and 14 grams of sugar. So, when choosing a yogurt that sounds yummy to you, aim for 12 grams of sugar or less per serving and enjoy!
Helpful Hints. Consider these ideas when perusing the yogurt aisle.
Size matters. You’ll notice the portion sizes in the chart vary a bit based on the companies’ cup sizes. The small ones may be skimpy on the protein and calcium while the large ones may go overboard on fat and sugar. Choose those that meet your specific needs best.
Plain Jane. Added sugar-wise, plain is certainly the best choice, but not everyone cares for the flavor. You can try added your own fruit, spices, and extracts to enhance the flavor. Or, look for a flavored yogurt with a lower sugar content and count a few grams as part of your daily added sugar budget.
Missing nutrients. The dairy-free alternatives often lack the protein and/or calcium of their counterparts. If choosing these, be sure the rest of the day’s food choices provide adequate amounts of these nutrients.
—Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD