Every time I walk down the refrigerated aisles of my grocery store, I feel like there are more and more varieties of yogurt. Low-fat, Greek, organic, “light”, sugar-free, non-fat, plain, with fruit, with honey, whipped — even some that claim they can help your digestive system (although those claims are being called into question).
Yogurt has a “healthy” reputation, but it’s all too easy to pick a sugar-laden, high-calorie yogurt from the wide array of options.
Our general advice? Read the nutrition label and select a yogurt that’s low in fat and sugar and high in protein.
It’s all the rage these days — and experts with the American Council on Exercise (ACE) say Greek yogurt is actually a healthier option when compared to its American counterparts. Greek yogurt is strained three times, so it takes three pounds of milk to make one pound of Greek yogurt, which makes it more nutritious. Greek yogurts also tend to be lower in sugar and fat and higher in protein.
A note of caution: even Greek yogurt can be a diet pitfall if you add sugary mix-ins. For example, a six-ounce container of plain, Fage Total 0% Greek yogurt has 100 calories, 7 grams of sugar, zero fat and 18 grams of protein — a great choice if you want to eat a little something and feel satisfied for hours.
Compare that to Fage Greek yogurt with honey, which has 170 calories, just 13 grams of protein and a massive 29 grams of sugar. Let me do the math for you: that’s nearly twice the calories of the plain option and more than four times the sugar with less protein. It might satisfy your sweet tooth, but less protein means you’ll be searching out another snack shortly.
As you scan the options in the yogurt aisle, look out for clever words that might cloud your judgement.
99% Fat Free: Sounds great, right? In the case of Yoplait’s Banana Cream 99% Fat Free (and many others) they’re actually measuring the fat as a percentage of weight. Adding water to the yogurt bumps up its weight but keeps the fat at the same level. Sneaky.
Light & Fit: I want to be light and fit — don’t you? This line from Dannon is fairly accurate (to a point). These yogurts are relatively light on calories (80 per six-ounce serving) and just 11 grams of sugar is on the “fit” side for American style yogurts. The problem here is in the protein. This yogurt has just 5 grams of it, meaning you’ll soon be peering into the refrigerator looking for something more satisfying.
All Natural: It’s easy to be drawn toward products labeled as “organic” or “all natural”, but take a closer look at the label before you put them in your grocery cart. Dannon’s All Natural Vanilla Yogurt has 150 calories per six-ounce serving, including 25 from fat and 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Definitely not the healthiest option out there.
If you’re like me, you’re pretty much never going to voluntarily eat plain yogurt. The experts at ACE understand and have a couple of recommendations.
First, you can try adding some frozen fruit to your plain yogurt. It’s far better for you than the juice concentrate often added to yogurts with fruit already mixed in.
Another option is to add a few nuts to your yogurt. You’ll get great taste, texture and a boost in both protein and fiber!