Have you noticed that the yogurt aisle at the grocery store seems to be getting longer and longer? And every commercial on TV that isn’t for beer or trucks is for Activia or Oikos? With so many yogurt options out there, how do you pick which one is the best for you and your family? Why isn’t there a manual at the end of the aisle that directly compares all 500 yogurts? Well, we haven’t compared all the yogurts out there (sorry), but we have narrowed things down a little so you know what to consider when you’re making your choice. And in all that yogurt noise, it looks like there really is a clear winner for versatility and health.
Lactose is a sugar that is naturally occuring in milk products, including yogurt, but that’s not our main concern when looking at sugar content. The real problem is added sugars. A little fruit flavouring can turn your healthy snack into a dessert-caliber indulgence containing upwards of 30 grams of sugar. Yikes!
It’s really healthiest to opt for yogurts with no added sugars and sweeten them yourself with either honey or maple syrup (this is Canada). Those natural sweeteners add a depth of flavour you don’t get with the artificial stuff and you’ll always add less than the yogurt manufacturer.
Fat may seem like a big concern–it’s written right there on the front of the container–but it’s not actually as big a deal as you might think. Research in the past few years has shown that fat isn’t really as bad for you as we thought (it’s sugar that’s really causing obesity) and if you’re feeding young kids, they need a certain amount of fat to grow. Plus, yogurts that have a higher fat content leave less room for starches and sugars (the stuff that’s actually bad for you), so really, you don’t need to go super low fat to be healthy here.
Probiotics, probiotics, probiotics. All we ever hear is probiotics. Turns out, they’re not as important as Activia would have you believe. Sure, active cultures are good for gut health, but they aren’t all they’re hyped up to be. First of all, they don’t occur in your yogurt naturally, they need to be added in (gasp!). That means that yogurts with them are more likely to have other additives too, like sugar and artificial flavouring. Also, the longer your yogurt sits on the shelf, the more of those active cultures die, making them less and less effective over time. Really, you’re not missing out on much if you don’t buy probiotic yogurt. Fibre is much more effective in keeping your digestive tract healthy anyway. Throw some All Bran in your regular old yogurt instead.
We all know that additives will eventually kill us, but we need to be particularly careful because a lot of the yogurts marketed to kids are chocked full of them. Kids love sweet tastes and fun colours but those are exactly the things that are harmful. Those tube yogurts may be fun and easy to pack in a school lunch but they use any number of additives and preservatives to bind together and squirt out of the tube like that. Not good for sensitive young tummies.
Is Greek yogurt better?
Short answer: yes.
Longer answer: Greek yogurt is basically regular yogurt that has been strained over a period of time to remove a lot of the liquid, which contains of whey, lactose, and sugar. What you’re left with is thicker and creamier than normal yogurt and also has twice the protein and half the sodium and carbs. So yes, Greek yogurt is more bang for your buck (it just also costs way more buck).
And the winner is…
Drum roll, please! When all is said and done, the best yogurt out there is probably a plain two per cent. That sounds a little boring when there are so many flashy brands and additives out there, but it’s really the best for you, all things considered. Don’t forget that you can totally dress it up at home though with maple syrup, fruit, granola, nuts or anything else really. Yogurt might just be the most versatile healthy snack out there.