With literally hundreds of different yoghurts in supermarkets, you could be forgiven for feeling a little confused when it comes to seeking out a yoghurt that both ticks the box nutritionally and that tastes good.
While there are many different varieties of yoghurt, the good news is that they generally fall into a handful of core categories, which makes it a lot easier to decipher the different types. So as a dietitian, here are the key things I look for when choosing a healthy yoghurt.
Look for no added sugar
The less added sugar we consume in the diet, the better and while some yoghurts may contain ‘No Added Sugar’, at times they may still be sweetened with rice starch, fruit purees or honey, which still increases their sugar content compared to natural and plain Greek yoghurts.
Seek out probiotics
One of the key nutritional benefits that we get from including yoghurt in our diet is the live cultures, or the probiotics it contains. Many different yoghurts contain live cultures, and there are also specific varieties that have been formulated for their gut health benefits, and may also include prebiotic fibres, which feed the good bacteria in the digestive tract. Plain natural and Greek yoghurts are generally the best options, and varieties with several different varieties of probiotics are an extra bonus.
Check the ingredient list
The shorter the ingredient list of a processed food, the better the food is likely to be nutritionally. For example, plain Greek or natural yoghurt will contain little other than milk and live cultures. On the other hand, more processed yoghurts including Greek style flavoured yoghurt will contain a relatively long list of additives such as gums, sweeteners and thickeners to give it a longer shelf life.
While sweeteners, both natural and artificial can be a way to reduce the number of added sugars in foods, as sweeteners tend to be significantly sweeter than sugar itself, consuming more and more of these in foods may prime us to seek out more sweet food over time. For this reason, using plain, unsweetened yoghurts and then sweetening them with fresh fruit is a better option.
Know the protein content
While milk and soy-based yoghurts naturally contain protein, there is also a growing range of protein-rich yoghurts that are either strained in a way that concentrates the protein, or have protein added. If one of your goals is weight loss or muscle mass gain, opting for a higher protein yoghurt may complement your dietary goals. Or if you prefer plant-based yoghurts, seek out varieties that have at least 3-5g of protein per serve, if you can find one.
Be careful with plant-based yoghurt
While called ‘yoghurt’, nutritionally plant-based yoghurts such as almond, oat and coconut are significantly different to milk-based yoghurts, with little protein or calcium and at times extra sugars and/or saturated fat. For this reason, if you think that you are buying a nutrient-rich yoghurt it is best to read your labels and check your protein and calcium content to seek out options that offer at least some of the nutritional benefits of milk-based yoghurt.
Susie Burrell’s top three yoghurt recommendations:
Greek-style yoghurt: Farmer’s Union Greek Style Natural Yoghurt. It contains no additives and is naturally rich in protein and calcium.
Natural low fat yoghurt: Vaalia Low Fat Natural yoghurt comes with a range of probiotics, no added sugars and it’s low in fat.
Greek protein yoghurt: Evia Greek Strained Yoghurt Skim Natural, with no added sugar it’s rich in protein and a good source of probiotic cultures.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, co-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.