Health Habits: What to look for in Yogurt

This week’s health habit: take a closer look at how you choose yogurt.

Health Habit: What to Look for in Yogurt


            Buying yogurt can be a very confusing and overwhelming experience if you’re not sure what to look for.  Supermarkets offer a variety of brands, flavors and types to choose from.  How do you choose?  Do you just choose the prettiest label? Or the one with the most protein or the least added sugars? What about live cultures? Full-fat, low-fat or non-fat?  Its ultimately a matter of preference, but it may help to have some knowledge to apply towards your decision.  

            Yogurt is rich in calcium, protein, potassium and contains live bacteria cultures that are beneficial for your gut and digestive health.  It can also be high in added sugars, which can be counterproductive for gut health. The amount of fat in yogurt comes from the fat content of the milk used to make it. Whole milk is about 3.25% fat, low-fat milk is about 0.5% to 2% and non-fat is less than 0.5% fat. The Dietary guidelines for Americans recommend low-fat or fat-free yogurt.  This is not to say one may not enjoy whole-milk yogurt occasionally.

             Fruit-on-the-bottom, flavored or plain?  We live in a world where sugar is most of our processed food.  Added sugars are a key ingredient to look for on a nutrition label.  The recommended amount of added sugars to have in our diet is no more than 10% of our daily calorie needs.  Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt contributes the most to added sugars, followed by flavored yogurt.  The best thing to do is purchase plain yogurt and add your own fruit. When fresh fruit is unavailable, frozen fruit is a fabulous option. 

            Greek or traditional? This is mostly a matter of preference, but a few facts may help you make the choice.  Greek yogurt is strained, thus the thicker consistency and higher protein content. However, it is lower is calcium than traditional yogurt. Both types may have live cultures, so its recommended that you choose the brand with the bacteria strains clearly labeled. Some labels may claim that live cultures are in the product, but do not list the bacteria strains.  Choosing the brand that labels them clearly would be recommended.

            Dairy or plant-based? Again, a matter of preference. There are lots of great dairy-free choices for variety or for those who are lactose intolerant.  When purchasing plant-based yogurt, you’d benefit from the ones fortified with calcium and vitamin D.  Coconut and almond milk varieties of yogurt are lower in protein, but soy-based tend to be closer in nutrition profile to its dairy counterpart. Plant-based yogurt tends to be a little runnier than dairy yogurt, but they offer interesting flavor profiles. 

            Once you choose your yogurt, these are some of the ways you can enjoy it:

1.     Dip it: Use it as dip for fruit, animal crackers or add ranch to plain Greek yogurt to dip veggie sticks.

2.     Mix it: Mix fruit or granola for a quick and filling breakfast or snack.

3.     Blend it: Add it to smoothies for a creamier consistency.

This week’s health habit: take a closer look at how you choose yogurt. 




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