It’s not all Greek
Yogurt has become such a popular product that annual sales are predicted to hit more than $9 billion this year.
It has become the queen of dairy, you might say, having surpassed milk in consumer consumption more than a decade ago.
There are several reasons yogurt has begun taking up so much space in the grocery store:
- It’s marketed as a healthy food—and it is, although some brands can have lots of sugar and they’re sometimes low in important nutrients.
- It has protein and probiotics.
- It’s a convenient food item, at home and on-the-go.
- It’s offered in a variety of flavors and textures.
Some of the more popular yogurt brands are Dannon, which owns Oikos, and Yoplait, which offers a variety of products, such as Thick and Creamy and Whips. Greek yogurt powerhouses Chobani and Fage also dominate the shelves.
U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend three low-fat servings of dairy each day. Given the plentiful options, that’s a pretty reasonable goal.
In choosing from such a wide variety of yogurts, it often comes down to what you want out of your yogurt and how good it tastes. Take a minute to think about what nutrients you need most. Is it protein? Probiotics? Calcium or vitamin D?
Masters of variety
An excellent all-around choice for yogurt is plain, nonfat, Greek yogurt. If you prefer something with added fruit, just be sure to compare the sugar grams in each flavor.
There is, of course, an upside and a downside to having such a wide variety of yogurts. Consumers have plenty to choose from, but it can also be harder to choose.
There are generic, organic and grass-fed varieties, as well as yogurts made with soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk.
A few good examples:
- Yoplait nonfat Greek. Low in calories and sugar but contains protein, calcium and vitamin D.
- Siggi’s plain Greek. Has a whopping 28 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving and is low in sugar.
- Oikos Greek Triple Zero. Contains protein, calcium, vitamin D and not too much sugar. Beware of added chicory root, if you have irritable bowel syndrome.
- Chobani. Advertised as having the fewest ingredients while still packing good nutrition. Others have few ingredients, too.
- Fage. A Greek yogurt lover’s favorite, for its thickness and flavor and a good nutrition profile. It does add a lot more sugar in the split flavor containers.
- Smari. Has a good nutrition profile and features profiles of each of their cows on their website for fun.
- Elli Quark. Low in calories and sugar but contains 5 grams of erythritol, which could upset your digestive system.
Greek and regular yogurts all come in nonfat, low-fat, whole and light varieties. It’s recommended that most children and adults opt for the nonfat (0 percent fat) and low-fat (2 percent fat) varieties, as opposed to whole fat (4 percent fat). Whole fat may be fine if your diet is low in saturated fat overall.
To add protein to your breakfast or snack, choose a Greek yogurt to feel full longer. Most Greek yogurts have at least 12 to 15 grams of protein per serving, although some varieties can have a whopping 28 grams. By comparison, a non-Greek yogurt might have as little as 5 grams of protein per serving.
Most yogurts start with about 5 grams of sugar, simply from the milk used to make it. Plain yogurts will have the least amount of sugar. If you add fresh fruit, it’s OK because you’re only adding healthy vitamins and minerals.
Adding fruit to Greek yogurt will bring the total sugar content to 8 to 12 grams per serving. Many Greek yogurts with fruit are in this range. If the sugar content is much higher, however—18 grams or more, for instance—you should carefully weigh your options because it’s a possible indication of added sugars.
Keep in mind that some regular yogurts can have up to 28 grams of sugar, too. It’s best to steer clear of those.
If you are using yogurt as a source of calcium in your diet and your favorite yogurt contains less than the recommended daily value for calcium—15 to 20 percent—it may be time to switch.
Most yogurts are in the 15 to 20 percent range, but some are as low as 10 percent. The trick here is to simply find a yogurt that offers sufficient calcium and a flavor you prefer. There are many ways to meet your calcium needs.
Only a few yogurts on the market add vitamin D. If you’re aiming to get this nutrient from yogurt, choose Oikos, Yoplait Greek or Yoplait’s Thick and Creamy. Always check the label. This nutrient is best absorbed into the body with some dietary fat, so add a small amount of almonds or walnuts for some healthy fat.
The healthy bacteria for your gut is important. If your diet has enough protein, calcium and vitamin D, this may be the most important reason to eat yogurt. A regular yogurt with the fewest calories and the least amount of sugar is your best bet. Dannon’s Light and Fit is a good option.