I consider yogurt a healthy breakfast, snack or dessert option; it’s a great source of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, and healthy bacteria (good for digestion). That being said, not all yogurt is created equal. It’s easy to fall into the “yogurt is healthy” trap and grab any brand or “fruity” flavor that is full of sugar and extra un-natural ingredients.
When it comes to yogurt, I have a few rules you should follow to ensure you’re actually buying a healthy product.
Plain yogurt is the way to go. Unfortunately most of the fruity flavors out there (Iogo for example – love their branding though!) just mean added sugar (cane sugar is still sugar). Some brands of yogurt can have upwards of 20 grams of sugar per serving. That’s about 4 teaspoons of added sugar! And as we all know: extra sugar that your body doesn’t use as energy turns into stored fat.
If you want to sweeten up your yogurt, use natural sweeteners such as real maple syrup or honey (keep it to a minimum: 1 tsp), or chopped banana or berries (Europe’s Best frozen wild blueberries are Canadian, and a great alternative to fresh in the fall/winter months). You can also add homemade granola or some omega-3-rich nuts & seeds such as hemp, pumpkin seeds, chia or walnuts.
Don’t bother with “Fat-Free” or “0% Fat” options, which have added ingredients such as, gelatin (to give it a fake, thick texture) and artificial sweeteners (aka chemicals) like aspartame or sucralose. Real, natural yogurt has some fat in it, but if you have the proper serving size: ½ cup – ¾ cup, than the extra fat won’t make a difference. I’d rather eat full-fat yogurt that’s natural instead of consuming chemicals & unnecessary ingredients for the sake of saving a few grams of fat.
One exception to my fat-free rule is PC Greek Yogurt with Honey. It only has 3 ingredients: skim milk, honey, & bacteria culture.
Buy Organic or Canadian Dairy
Organic ensures no antibiotics, hormones or pesticides were used, and buying Canadian ensures no Bovine Growth Hormone (it’s illegal for use on dairy cattle in Canada & Europe). My favorite yogurt is Liberte 2% Plain, but there are lots of Canadian dairy companies to choose from!
Only a Few Ingredients
To ensure you’re buying a truly natural product; your yogurt should only have a few ingredients:
Bacteria or Active Cultures
If you see added ingredients like ‘skim milk powder’, ‘carrageenan’, or ‘corn starch’, or ‘citric acid’ then put it down. These are all unnecessary added preservatives.
Happy (healthy) yogurt shopping!