How to Choose a Healthy Yogurt

These days, you can’t miss the yogurt aisle. Markets now have 2, 3 or more cases designated to this creamy delight. But with so many choices, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused on which is healthiest.
177299434

177299434

Blueberry yogurt in a glass

Photo by: Nanisimova

Nanisimova

These days, you can't miss the yogurt aisle. Markets now have two, three or more cases designated to this creamy delight. But with so many choices, it's easy to become overwhelmed and confused on which is healthiest.

Added vs. Natural Sugar

Before eyeballing any label, understand that you'll find sugar in each any yogurt you pick up. Yogurt has natural sugar (called lactose) and unless it's a plain variety it will also have sugar added for sweetness.  The nutrition facts combine both the natural and added sugar under "sugars." The only way to know if any sugar was added is to look at the ingredients list.

To keep in line with the recommendations from The American Heart Association, women should limit their sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons per day (or 100 calories' worth) while men should  eat a max of 9 teaspoons of sugar per day (or 150 calories). This means capping sugar to no more than 20 grams per serving, which would be about 2 teaspoons of added sugar.

Some brands use sugar substitutes instead of added sugar. This will help lower the total sugar amount--remember, you will still be getting natural sugar from the yogurt. I tend to shy away from those varieties and rather purchase a plain yogurt and flavor it myself with a touch of natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Probiotics

These good bacteria are found in most yogurts help keep your digestive tract in working order. You can find the actual bacteria names under the ingredient list—look for words like L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum and B. Longum.

Calcium & Vitamin

Important for healthy bones, calcium and vitamin D are two important nutrients found in yogurt. Although calcium is naturally found in dairy foods, vitamin D is added. The amounts of these important nutrients vary depending on the brand and fat content (low fat, full fat or nonfat) so be sure to read the label.

Fat

The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines recommends choosing a low-fat or nonfat yogurt. Some nonfat yogurts contain artificial sweeteners, though nowadays you can find brands that use nonfat milk. Full-fat yogurts are also found on the market, but also contain more saturated fat and cholesterol. Choose low-fat or nonfat whenever possible.

Other Ingredients

Many yogurts contain fillers, stabilizers, and thickeners. The only way to tell is to carefully read through the ingredient list. If there are too many words you can't pronounce, just skip it.

Greek Yogurt

If you haven't noticed, half the yogurt aisle consists of Greek (or strained) yogurt. If you're looking for less sugar, Greek may be the way to go since some of the sugar is lost during the straining process. Greek yogurt also has less lactose per serving, making it a more lactose-intolerant friendly food. Just like traditional yogurt, choose low or nonfat Greek yogurt varieties with no more than 20 grams of sugar per serving.

TELL US: What do you look for in your yogurt?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

Keep Reading

Next Up

Healthy Debate: Should You Choose Organic?

Is it worth the extra cost to buy organic or does healthy conventionally grown food trump pesticide free?

How to Choose a Healthy Cereal

Cereal can be a healthy and quick breakfast, but the information on boxes can be deceiving. We’ll tell you what to look for, plus share a few favorite brands.

Aisle by Aisle: Choosing Healthy Cereals

Even some so-called “healthy” cereals seem good for you but are fall of sugar and few nutritional benefits. Whether you have a bowl for breakfast or munch on some for a snack, here are tips for picking the best cereals.

Frozen Yogurt: Is it Healthy?

Making healthy choices isn’t always easy. In this new series we’re diving into some seemingly better-for-you foods to explore – is it really healthy? To fire things up for the summer - is cool and creamy frozen yogurt a healthy pick?

The Healthiest Options at Frozen Yogurt Chains

While cold and creamy soft serve yogurt is a delicious concoction, it’s not automatically health food. We've rounded up the healthiest options at popular chains.

Katie's Healthy Bites: Loving Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt's texture tastes like a decadent dessert, but no need to stress, this dairy favorite is actually healthy for you.

Katie's Healthy Bites: New Ways to Use Yogurt

Yogurt is good for a yummy, low-fat snack or breakfast, but try adding some to your favorite dinner dishes. Here are low-fat chicken salad and roasted salmon recipes to inspire you.

Choose the Right Syrup

Don't be fooled by the label "grade A" on a bottle of maple syrup: It's no better than grade B.

Choosing the Right Meats

Grilling is one of the lightest ways to cook, but to keep it that way, pick leaner meats. Make healthy meal choices with these tips from Food Network.

How We Choose Our Recipes

To help you understand how we pick recipes to feature, we wanted to share the guidelines we follow, which are based on standards from a variety of trusted sources.

On TV

Food Network Apps

In the Kitchen

Get over 70,000 FN recipes on all your mobile devices.

Facebook Messenger

Ask our bot for recipes, meal ideas and daily food trivia.

Amazon Echo

Just say "Alexa, enable Food Network skill" to get started.