How to Choose the Best Yogurt
Not all yogurts are created equal. My friends are often shocked to learn that what they think is a light breakfast or a healthy snack is basically a dessert in disguise.
To make sure your yogurt is helping you stay on track – and not derailing your diet – here are three important tips to help you navigate the refrigerated aisle.
1) Be a sugar natural
Lurking inside some of those innocuous looking yogurt containers is more than 20 grams of sugar – that’s almost as much as one of those single-serve (I’ll use that term loosely) bags of M&Ms! I won’t point fingers, but you can take a look for yourself the next time you go grocery shopping.
All yogurt is going to contain some sugar, because there is natural sugar in milk (lactose). There is nothing wrong with natural sugar in moderation. It’s the added sugar you want to watch out for. Unfortunately, nutrition facts labels do not currently distinguish between natural and added sugars (although there may be changes in nutrition labels coming soon to fix this). For now, a good rule of thumb is to aim for single-digit sugar content. This should ensure that all or almost all of the sugar in that product is coming from milk.
Plain (unflavored – not vanilla) yogurts generally have less sugar than flavored varieties. I like to add my own fresh fruit to plain yogurt for a dose of natural sweetness and, as an added bonus, some filling fiber!
2) Don’t get fat
Another thing you want to watch out for is fat content. Like the milk it is made from, yogurt comes in three varieties: full fat, low fat, and nonfat. As a general rule, more fat = more calories.
In addition, dairy fat is the same saturated variety as that found in red meat. This type of fat can raise cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7% of calories. Translation: if you eat about 1800 calories a day, 14g of saturated fat is your limit.
Stick to low fat or nonfat yogurt to keep your waistline in check and your heart healthy.
3) Go for protein
Protein is your friend. It helps you to feel full. This satiety enhancing effect is especially important when you’re cutting fat, because fat also has filling power. Carbohydrates alone usually don’t cut it.
When it comes to protein, aim for double digits. For a knockout protein punch, grab a Greek yogurt, which boasts double the protein of regular yogurt.
Now you’re stocked with all the knowledge you need to hit the shelves!
This post was written by Alyssa Tucci. Alyssa is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology at Columbia University in New York City.