6 Easy Tips to Choose the Healthiest Yogurts

Certified Dietitian in New York City Discusses the Sweet Secret of Added Sugars in Yogurts

Mary Jane Detroyer

 

When somebody says the words, “healthy snacks,” I can almost guarantee you that yogurt popped into your mind.

Why wouldn’t it?

With summer around the corner, yogurt is the panacea of snack foods, right along with homemade trail mix, cut up fruit, and veggies dipped in hummus. It’s that quick, healthy, go-to-snack that satisfies our sweet tooth and keeps hunger at bay. Plus, with all those fantastic probiotics to keep your intestinal flora happy, who doesn’t love yogurt?

I love yogurt, but I have a conversation every single day with clients about how much added sugars there are in some of our favorite yogurts and how harmful that can be.

In 2015, The Dietary Advisory Panel came up with guidelines that dramatically restrict sugar, recommending adults reduce their sugar intake to 12 teaspoons total a day (including 6 teaspoons added for women, 9 for men), less than half of the average 25 – 30 teaspoons we normally consume.

Just as we don’t think of muffins as cupcakes (Come on! They’re healthy. They’ve got blueberries, right?), we generally don’t think of yogurt as a dessert. By snacking on yogurt, we’re having our dessert and eating it, too. And, over the course of a day, those added sugars can pile up and end up weighing us down.

I’m going to give you 6 quick, easy tips to choose the best yogurts, look for hidden sugars, and become a savvy consumer so you can eat yogurt as a healthy snack!

  • Mary Jane DetroyerGoing Greek or Natural Cuts Out Added Sugars: Generally, plain Greek-style and plain regular yogurt have no added sugars. They have naturally occurring sugars in lactose coming in at 8 – 9 grams of sugar for an 8 oz cup of Greek yogurt and an average of 15 grams of lactose (sugars) for regular natural yogurt. Indulge!
  • Easy Steps to Figure out What the Food Labels Aren’t Telling You: Food labels still only list total sugars, so to figure out how much added sugar there is, you’ve got to do a little math.  Take the # of grams of sugar in your flavored yogurt and subtract the # of grams of sugar in the plain version (of the same brand). See the difference? Those are your added sugars.
  • Translate grams to teaspoons to understand how much you’re consuming:  There are 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon. Divide the sugars on food labels by four to see how many teaspoons of sugar you’re eating.  Remember, you want to keep it to twelve teaspoons of added sugars a day.
  • Give Your Yogurt Pizazz and Keep the Sugar Content Down: Plain yogurt doesn’t have to be … plain. Add fruit, berries, nuts. Even drizzle a bit of honey (4 – 6 grams of added sugar which is a teaspoon of honey) to give you the flavor and sweet you’re craving. Make a yogurt bar with the kids. Keep things crunchy, flavorful, low-sugar and fun.
  • Artificial Sweeteners Can Bug Your System: Artificial sweeteners are relatively new to the world, but there are already red flags about their over consumption. This isn’t the answer to cut down on sugars. Harvard School of Public Health states that “One concern about artificial sweeteners is that they affect the body’s ability to gauge how many calories are being consumed. Some studies show that sugar and artificial sweeteners affect the brain in different ways.”  If you’re really craving some mad sugary yogurt, indulge once in a while. Steer clear of the artificial stuff.
  • In Just Two Weeks, You Can Train Your Tastebuds and Curb the Crave: As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, our bodies were built to crave sweets. That said, we’re spooning on too many and overloading our systems. Cut back on sweets gradually. Start by mixing your favorite flavored yogurt with plain yogurt. Pretty soon, your body will want less and less sugar and appreciate more and more flavor.

Take the time to look at the labels. Some yogurts have as many as 25 added grams of sugar (over six teaspoons and half of your recommended daily dose!). Just because it comes in a healthy-looking, 8 oz. cup, doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack on the sugar grams.  Finding yogurt options with little added sugar and cutting down on added sugars in your diet is a great way to successful summer snacks and health!

These two articles do a great job of breaking down the sugar content in your favorite brands:

• How Much Added Sugar is in Yogurt? MyNetDiary.com, May 2015

• Healthiest Yogurts: How Much Added Sugar is in Your Favorite Yogurt? Margaret Wertheim, March 2016