Have you gone Greek? {Yogurt 101}

With most of the dairy aisle filled with multiple types of yogurts, it can be overwhelming to know which to buy and which to avoid. There are a few standard rules to follow to ensure you are getting the most nutrition out of the yogurt you eat.


Yogurt is made from the bacterial fermentation of milk by active cultures (probiotics) and is regulated by the FDA. In fact, in order for a company to claim their product as yogurt, it must contain probiotics. The nutritional benefits of yogurt are not limited to just the “good” bacteria that build up the flora in the gut, but yogurt is also a source of animal protein and nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, potassium and magnesium. How do we know the products we are purchasing are the most nutrient dense options out there? Here are a few key nutrients to consider when purchasing yogurt:

  • Calories: For a lower fat/ sugar option, look for yogurts that have about 90-120 calories per 6 oz (or 15-20 calories per oz).
  • Fat: Choose nonfat – the less fat the better! In fact, aim for 0 grams fat (less than 0.5% milk fat) per serving. The important nutrients listed above will not differ between nonfat yogurt and full fat, so the only difference between the two is truly the fat content. {Did you know that some full fat yogurts have the same saturated fat content as a Snickers bar?!}
  • Sugar: All yogurts are going to have naturally occurring sugars (lactose), so you will never see a yogurt with 0 grams sugar. In fact, one 6-oz serving of regular yogurt will have about 12 grams naturally occurring sugar. If you see more than 12 grams sugar, chances are there is added sugar in the product (whether it’s fruit or extra sugar), so check your ingredient list for specifics. Also, be weary of artificial sweeteners in some ‘light’ yogurts. You are better off purchasing a plain yogurt and adding your own flavoring with fresh fruit, nuts, granola or spices like cinnamon. Greek yogurt (which we will talk more about below) will have less than 12 grams natural sugar (lactose) per 6 oz serving because of the straining process it goes through. So, it tends to be a better option!
  • Calcium: The yogurt you consume should meet about 20% of the daily recommendation for Calcium.

And, the golden rule for all yogurts: choose a yogurt with MORE protein than sugar!

Besides regular yogurt, there are other types of yogurts available on the market to choose from:

  • Greek Yogurt (Oikos, Chobani, Fage, etc): Greek yogurt is strained extensively to remove liquid whey, lactose and sugar to create an all around thicker product with more protein and less sugar. But, just like with regular yogurt, it’s important to choose a low fat or nonfat product that has no added sugar. If you do want flavored yogurt, make sure the first few ingredients are milk, active cultures and fruit (with added sugar at the end of the list).  Greek yogurt is also a great replacement for sour cream in recipes.
  • Skyr (Siggi’s): This traditional yogurt of Iceland has become one of my favorite yogurts (in addition to Greek yogurt). It has a thick and creamy texture similar to Greek yogurt and is created by extra straining of whey. The need for additional milk results in a higher protein amount. All of Siggi’s products have more protein than sugar.
  • Kefir is a fermented milk drink with various strains of bacteria and yeast.

So, whether you are deciding between regular yogurt, Greek yogurt, Skyr or Kefir, it’s crucial to take into account the fat, sugar, and protein content to find a healthier product.  And, if you haven’t “gone Greek” or tried Skyr, we would definitely recommend it. The plain versions are naturally lower in sugar and higher in protein, following our golden rule for yogurts.

Talk to us! Do you regularly eat yogurt? What are some of your favorite brands?

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