Greek. Icelandic. Swiss. Fruit flavored. Fruit at the bottom. Nonfat. Lowfat. Full-fat. Soy yogurt. Almond yogurt. Sheep’s milk. Goat’s milk. Organic. All-Natural.
Have you ever stood in front of the yogurt aisle just completely overwhelmed by all of the choices?
I definitely have!
Once upon a time, yogurt was probably limited to plain or vanilla, with maybe a couple of brands to choose from. Today, the yogurt aisle is staggeringly long, with what seems like hundreds of different choices, brands, flavors, and textures — all of which claim to be “healthy.”
And of course, yogurt is a healthier choice for a snack than, say, a can of soda (although some yogurts, with the amount of sugar in them, come pretty close to that can of soda!)
But because it can just be so confusing, I thought I’d create The Picky Eater’s Guide to the Yogurt Aisle – with my tips and tricks for figuring out which yogurt is right for you, and a list of my favorite brands 🙂
To start – why is yogurt good for you?
- It’s a decent source of vegetarian protein that’s low in calories
- It is a good source of calcium
- It contains good-for-you bacteria – known as “probiotics” or “live and active cultures” that can help improve digestion and regulate your immune system
- It contains Vitamin D (which helps boost calcium absorption)
- And it tastes good!
Photo from CookingLight.com
So what should you look for in the yogurt you buy? Here are my 6 Rules for the Yogurt Aisle:
1. Protein Content: Keeps you fuller longer. For a true protein punch, try Greek Yogurt. Since it is strained, it requires three to four times more milk to produce than regular yogurt, which adds up to 15g to 20g more protein per 6 ounces – equivalent to 3 ounces of meat! (Regular yogurt has about 9g protein for 6 oz.)
2. Live Active Yogurt Cultures (i.e. healthy bacteria): The FDA requires at least two strains of bacteria in all yogurt, L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus. Yogurt makers can add more. Look for the National Yogurt Association seal: It ensures 100 million cultures per gram (i.e., lots) – (source: CookingLight.com)
3. Limited added sugar! This one is incredibly important. 6 oz of plain, unsweetened yogurt have about 6-10 oz of naturally occurring sugars from the milk. Fruit, honey, and sugars add more. Some yogurts (especially those made for kids) can have as much as 20-30g of sugar! That’s more than one can of Coke. Stick to unsweetened flavors, and add your own natural sweeteners (like fresh fruit or 1 tsp of honey) if needed.
4. Fat content: Low-fat yogurts are the best because they have a tiny bit of fat to help absorb the protein and vitamins in the yogurt, but they also have more calcium. When fat is removed, calcium gets concentrated. Lower fat yogurts have about 30% of your recommended daily intake. Greek yogurts have 20% (because some calcium is removed through the straining process). I’d choose low fat over non fat.
5. Organic / no rBGH (growth hormone): Dairy cows are routinely fed hormones, antibiotics, and pesticide-covered grains, all of which can end up in your milk and your yogurt! Buy organic with no hormones and you’ll be good to go.
6. No fillers or thickeners (i.e. cornstarch, gelatin, pectin or carrageenan): Fillers and thickeners are often added to non-dairy yogurts to give them stability and a good consistency, but they are also highly processed ingredients that may trigger digestive issues and inflammatory reactions in the body.
In terms of which brands to buy, here is my favorite: Stonyfield Farms: Organic, Plain, Low Fat Greek Yogurt. I like adding fresh blueberries, 1 tsp honey, and a handful of walnuts to it.
Here are some other brands that are great:
- Chobani Plain 0% Greek Yogurt
- Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt
- Dannon Oikos Plain 0% Greek Yogurt
- StonyField Farms Organic Plain Regular Yogurt
- Wallaby Organic Plain Regular Yogurt (they also have Plain Greek available)
- Trader Joe’s Organic Low Fat Plain Regular Yogurt
- If you want a flavored yogurt (e.g. you’re on the go and can’t add fresh fruit, a dash of honey or vanilla), choose one flavored with vanilla or honey – but watch out for the sugar content! Siggi’s Icelandic yogurt has one of the lower sugar contents for flavored yogurt – so that can be a good choice as well – but the texture of Icelandic yogurt is not for everyone so try it out and see how you like it before buying a ton of it!
I hope this post has been helpful for your next trip to the grocery store!
And now I’d love to hear from you: Which yogurt brands are your favorite? What do you look for in the yogurts you buy? Happy yogurt hunting everyone!