After receiving positive feedback for my Best Cereals post, I decided to create an ongoing series for different product categories. Today we are tackling yogurt.
Going down the yogurt aisle can be very confusing for parents. How can you tell the difference between the natural sugar in milk and the added sugars? How much calcium should yogurt have? Is organic essential?
So I developed some general criteria, looked around and picked some yogurts I really like. I’m sure I missed some great products along the way so feel free to leave the ones you like in the comments.
There are five important factors in choosing yogurt: sugar content, added ingredients, calcium, live and active cultures and taste (of course).
Sugar: Because milk already contains natural sugar in the form of lactose, it can be difficult to tell how much added sugar is in the product. The best thing to do is to compare the sugars in the plain version (if it’s available) to the flavored one. So if the flavored product has 26g of sugar and the plain has 13g the product would contain 13g of added sugar.
In general, plain yogurt and milk has about 12g of sugar per 8 ounces. So that means 4 ounces has about 6g and 6 ounces has about 9g. After examining a number of products the following cut offs for total sugars seem reasonable. 8oz: 26g or less, 6oz: 20g or less and 4oz: 13g or less.
Tip: Flavors like vanilla tend to have less sugar than fruity flavors and fat-free yogurt usually has more sugar than low fat or whole.
Added ingredients: Watch out for artificial colors, preservatives and filler ingredients that make for less yogurt in the cup. Look for yogurts without artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. Just plain old sugar will do.
Live & Active Cultures: You want to make sure that the yogurt you choose contains “live & active cultures,” which are also called probiotics. If you see the Live & Active Culture seal from the Yogurt Association, you know the product contains adequate amounts.
The large intestine needs healthy, “good” bacteria to thrive and help fight disease. These live bacteria also help breakdown lactose so people with lactose intolerance may be able to enjoy yogurt.
Calcium: The smaller the serving size, the less calcium the yogurt will contain. Shoot for at least 15% Calcium for 4 oz (150mg), 20% for 6 oz (200mg) and 30% for 8 oz (300mg).
Fat and organic: Kids under two need full fat dairy products for optimal growth and brain development so choose whole yogurt for them. People over two can go with low fat or fat-free yogurt (3g of fat or less).
I didn’t include organic in the criteria. Generally, I recommend full fat yogurt be organic but leave it optional for lower fat varieties. For more details see Is Organic Milk Worth the Price?
Yogurts that fit the bill
1. Plain Yogurt (any brand): You don’t need me to tell you that plain is the healthiest choice for yogurt. I highly recommend parents start their babies on plain whole organic yogurt instead of the flavored kind and keep them on it.
I made the mistake of offering my daughter sweetened yogurt and she looked at me like I had two heads when I tried to give her plain again.
2. Plain Greek Yogurt (any brand): Greek Yogurt is very popular right now. It is similar to regular yogurt but the extra liquid is strained out so it is creamier and thicker in texture. It also contains more protein and active cultures. The only downside is it contains less calcium.
3. Yo Kids Organic Low Fat Yogurt: Stoneyfield Farm wins high marks for their yogurt made especially for kids. For a 4 ounce serving it contains 13g of sugar, 1g of fat, 20% DV of calcium and 25% DV of vitamin D. It contains beet juice for color and organic sugar/juice as the sweetener.
4. Yoplait Kids: : YoPlait has a nice little product for kids. For a 4oz serving it contains 13g of sugar, 2g of fat, 1g of fiber, 20% DV of calcium and 10% DV of vitamin D. Like Yo Kids it contains beet juice for color and sugar as the sweetener. It also contains modified corn starch and inulin which adds some fiber.
5. Trader Joes Organic Low Fat Yogurt: This is a great yogurt with a creamy taste and wins for the least amount of sugar for 4 ounces. It has 12g of sugar, 3g of fat, 2g of fiber and 15% DV of calcium (less calcium than Yoplait Kids and Yo Kids). Sugar is the sweetener and it’s made with inulin and pectin for added fiber.
6. Ronnybrook European Style Yogurt: Before you get too excited about this one, you should know that it is only sold in New York. I have not tasted it but it looks and sounds amazing. Their 8 ounce non fat vanilla maple contains only 7g of added sugar and 35% DV for calcium. Their vanilla flavors don’t appear to have any added sugar. If you are in NY take a look!
7. Strauss Family Creamery Organic Yogurt: As kids get older they will need more calcium and will be able to eat 6-8 ounce servings of yogurt. Strauss organic yogurts have a very short ingredient list. It’s organic yogurt sweetened with evaporated cane juice and vanilla extract. For an 8 ounce serving of non fat vanilla, it contains 25g of sugar and 45% DV for calcium (that’s 450mg!).
8. Chobani Greek Yogurt: For a 6 ounce serving this yogurt contains 17g of sugar, 14g of protein, 3g of fat and 15% DV of calcium. It’s short on calcium but high in protein. The sweeteners used include evaporated cane juice, strawberries, bananas and juice for color.
Now that we have cereal and yogurt done, let me know what other product categories you would like to see reviewed.