I grew up eating Dannon strawberry yogurt while my brother began hoarding the lemon flavor long before he could utter the words lemon or yogurt. My kids love yogurt, too, yet eating the creamy stuff is more confusing than it was in the 1970s and ‘80s. Now there is drinkable yogurt, squeezable yogurt, Greek yogurt, and yogurt made from coconuts, soy, almonds, cashews, hemp and flax seeds. Kefir and lassi are yogurt’s close relatives, and don’t forget the frozen kind (a favorite during my college years).
So which ones are actually yogurt, and which ones are actually healthy?
When evaluating yogurt for nutrition, start by peeking at the sugar content on the nutrition facts panel. Traditional yogurt has natural sugars from lactose and from any real fruit, both of which are of little concern, but you do want to avoid added sugars such as cane sugar or fake sugars such as aspartame or sucralose. Most “fruit-flavored” yogurts do not include much fruit, but have added sweeteners and flavors. Ideally, your choice would deliver less than 15 grams of sugar per serving, and more grams of protein than sugar.
After you investigate the sugar content, search the label for food colorings or other unnatural additives and avoid the brands with too many of these. Countless drinkable and squeezable yogurts have lots of additives and large amounts of sugar. Carrageenan is one of the most common additives in alternative milks and yogurts, and is suspected to be an allergen and digestive irritant.
So which type of yogurt to choose?
Nearly all of the yogurts made from alternative milks provide less naturally occurring protein and less calcium (in some cases almost none), yet on the flip side fewer saturated fats, more healthful fats and less sugar. So listen to your body, and whichever one of these yogurts tastes best to you and leaves you feeling good is your winner.