April 6, 2008

Perfect Pickings: Yogurt

I love yogurt but I hate the fat free varieties for three reasons: taste, texture, and gelatin (I’m a vegetarian and fat free yogurt almost always has gelatin).

What’s the calorie/fat gram count I should be looking for in a “regular” yogurt?

-- Anonymous
Via the blog

I'll address regular yogurt in a second, but allow me to first recommend nonfat Greek yogurt to you as an alternative.
Its texture is thick and creamy, it is gelatin-free, and it tastes much better than standard fat-free yogurt.

On its own, it can be a bit of an acquired taste -- it is rather tart -- but it is the perfect base for a homemade oat, fruit, and flaxseed parfait.

Let's focus on your actual question, though, which is how to spot healthy yogurts at the supermarket.

The first thing may sound odd, but I must say it -- buy yogurt.

In other words, forget about recent products that also include an additional small container of M&M's or crushed Oreos, contributing nothing but empty calories.

The overwhelming majority of yogurts -- unless they are specifically low-carb or low-sugar -- will fall between 120 and 200 calories, so finding a good yogurt has more to do with other values on the label.

First, look at saturated fat.

Aim for no more than 3 grams per serving.

Sugar is another important value to keep an eye on.
Since milk-based yogurts contain lactose -- a naturally-occurring sugar -- even plain, unsweetened varieties will contain 12 - 16 grams per serving.

When buying flavored yogurts, look for no more than 8 additional grams
(two teaspoons) of sugar .

Some yogurts contain an additional 16 grams of sugar -- that's equivalent to buying plain yogurt and pouring in slightly more than a tablespoon of sugar!

Don't be fooled by "fruit on the bottom" yogurts -- you are better off buying fruit and mixing it in yourself.

Ideally, yogurt should really just be fermented milk. This will include certain strains of bacteria known as probiotics.

Probiotics are living microbes that, research has shown, help stabilize gut flora and strengthen our immune system.

Despite some marketing claims, they do not prevent or revert any diseases!

In any case, healthy as they are, many probiotics are present prior to yogurt undergoing pasteurization, so although they are listed on the label, you aren't ingesting any.

One way to guarantee that you are getting probiotics added after heat treatment is to read the label.

Either look for the words "live active cultures" and/or make sure the bacteria names come after all the ingredients are listed.

Keep in mind, though, that labels do not tell us just how many of these bacteria are present.

In other words, live and active cultures are a great bonus in yogurt, but until more information is revealed on food labels, we don't know exactly how great of a deal -- or not -- that is.

Also, once you start seeing modified corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, and a crop of other add-ons that indicate heavy processing, you might as well eat chocolate pudding.

As for low-carb varieties, I find it discouraging that people would snub a healthy, wholesome food like yogurt for an artificial version injected with Splenda.

My pick? Low-fat (2%) Greek yogurt.

After you taste it, I highly doubt you'll ever consider buying another brand of yogurt again.


Anonymous said...

Thank you!

WifeMomChocoholic said...

Greek yogurt is fabulous -- but WOW!!!...hard on the pocketbook!