What to Look for in Yogurt

Jul 6, 2022

What is cool, creamy, and delicious? Yogurt! Even better, it is a great part of a healthy diet for all age groups. Yogurt is rich in protein and contains calcium and potassium. Some yogurts contain live, active bacteria cultures, as indicated on the label. These cultures, or probiotics, are considered “good bacteria” for the gut and can help maintain healthy digestive systems. Yogurt comes in an array of flavors and styles. On a single trip to the supermarket, a shopper could easily see more than a dozen different brands with multiple varieties of each.  Between low-fat, fat-free, fruited, flavored, plain, Greek, and traditional, the choices of yogurt can be overwhelming.

What Kind of Yogurt to Buy?

Whole Milk, Low-Fat, or Fat-Free?  Overall, it is best to choose low-fat or fat-free yogurt as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. There are many delicious low-fat and fat-free options to choose from.

Fruited, Flavored, or Plain?  Added sugar is a common ingredient in fruited and flavored varieties of yogurt. Skip the added sugars by choosing plain yogurt and adding your own fruit or flavors such as cinnamon and vanilla. When you read the Nutrition Facts label on plain yogurt, you still will see that it lists “sugar” even though no sugar has been added. This is because even plain yogurt contains lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in milk.

Greek Yogurt or Traditional Yogurt?  Greek yogurt is strained. This process makes it thicker, creamier, and smoother than traditional yogurt. It also has double the protein of traditional yogurt, but reduced calcium. In both traditional and Greek yogurts, bacteria cultures help break down lactose, so yogurt is sometimes an easier dairy food to digest for those who are lactose intolerant. Greek yogurt has less lactose than traditional yogurt, so lactose-sensitive individuals may tolerate it even better than traditional yogurt.

Dairy or plant-based?  Whether you cannot or choose not to consume dairy, the good news is there are loads of plant-based dairy alternatives on the market. Be sure to look for versions that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Fortified soy-based yogurt has the closest nutrition profile to dairy-based yogurt, while coconut milk and almond milk varieties are lower in protein.

How Much of a Good Thing?

One cup of dairy-based, fat-free or low-fat yogurt provides 30 to 45% of the daily value for calcium, so you can get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck. If you are using frozen yogurt, one cup provides about 10% of the daily value for calcium. Remember to look for fortified varieties if you are choosing plant-based alternatives. Be sure to look for versions that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Check in next month for creative ideas on adding yogurt to your diet.

Adapted from resource through Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2022. Prepared by Rachel A. Mischler, RD, CDN. If you wish to speak to Rachel with any questions or nutritional concerns, please contact her at 607-744-0245.

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