I consider yogurt a healthy breakfast, snack or dessert option. It’s a great source of protein, vitamin D, calcium, and healthy bacteria , which is 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, unnatural 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 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 berries are local, and a great alternative to fresh in the fall/winter months.) You can also add homemade granola or some omega-3-rich nuts and 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 thick texture) and artificial sweeteners (chemicals) such as aspartame or sucralose. Real, natural yogurt has some fat in it, but if you have the proper serving size: half a cup to three quarters of a cup, then the extra fat won’t make a difference. I’d rather eat full-fat yogurt that’s natural instead of consuming chemicals and 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 three ingredients: skim milk, honey, and bacteria culture. http://www.presidentschoice.ca/LCLOnline/products.jsp?type=details&productId=prod1270027
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 and Europe). My favorite yogurt is Liberte 2% Plain, but there are lots of Canadian dairy companies to choose from! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Dairy_products_companies_of_Canada
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, such as skim milk powder, carrageenan, corn starch or citric acid, put it down. These are all unnecessary preservatives.
Happy (healthy) yogurt shopping!