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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Sugar in Yogurt: Navigating the Yogurt Aisle

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A complete guide to sugar in yogurt to help you find the best, healthy yogurt option for you. Which brands are the best, and which to avoid!

grocery aisle filled with yogurt

Greek. Icelandic. Swiss. Fruit flavored. Fruit at the bottom. Nonfat. Lowfat. Full-fat. Soy yogurt. Almond yogurt. Sheep’s milk. Goat’s milk. Organic. All-Natural.

Have you ever stood in front of the yogurt aisle just completely overwhelmed by all of the choices?

I definitely have!

Once upon a time, yogurt was probably limited to plain or vanilla, with maybe a couple of brands to choose from. Today, the yogurt aisle is staggeringly long, with what seems like hundreds of different choices, brands, flavors, and textures — all of which claim to be “healthy.”

And of course, yogurt is a healthier choice for a snack than, say, a can of soda (although some yogurts, with the amount of sugar in them, come pretty close to that can of soda!)

But because it can be SO confusing, I thought I’d create this guide to help you navigate the yogurt aisle – with my tips and tricks for figuring out which yogurt is right for you, and a list of my favorite brands!

Why Is Yogurt Good For You? 

  • It’s a decent source of vegetarian protein that’s low in calories. 
  • It is a good source of calcium.
  • It contains good-for-you bacteria – known as “probiotics” or “live and active cultures” that can help improve digestion and regulate your immune system.
  • It contains Vitamin D (which helps boost calcium absorption).
  • And it tastes good!
pink strawberry yogurt in plastic yogurt cup with spoon on pink background

Why Are Some Yogurts Bad For You?

Not all yogurt is good for you! I know that may come as a shock. But most of the yogurts that are on grocery store shelves, are not a health food, even though their packaging claim otherwise.

  • Most yogurts are high in sugar. All yogurt has some natural occurring sugars, but most have added sugars in the form of fruit on the bottom, fruit mixed in, added ingredients such as chocolate chips, or cookies (flip yogurts), etc. While the natural occurring sugars are okay for you, the added sugars are enough for your daily recommended 24 grams or less. For example, Dannon Fruit on the Bottom yogurts can have as many as 24 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Artificial sweeteners are also commonly found in yogurt. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can raise blood sugar levels, insulin levels, and may cause type 2 diabetes. They are 200 to 600 times sweeter than regular sugar. They can effect your hormone levels, and slow your metabolism.
  • Both sugar and artificial sugars are addictive. The more you have them the more you desire to have more. Eating sweetened yogurts can cause you to crave more sweets throughout the day.

Why Should You Care About Sugar In Yogurt?

I know there are so many things to think about when it comes to eating healthy, that one more thing, like the sugar in your favorite yogurt, might seem like something that’s really not all that important. However, you can easily go over your total amount of recommended added sugars in a day, by just eating your one favorite yogurt. Women are recommended to consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar, and men are recommended to consume no more than 33 grams of sugar. Excessive sugar intake is associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic health conditions.

How Can You Tell How Much Added Sugar is in Your Yogurt?

When you take a look at the nutrition label of your favorite yogurt you’ll see “total sugars” and below that there should be a label that tells you how much is added sugar.

For example a 4 oz raspberry yogurt has 16 grams of total sugar with 12 grams of added sugars. Therefore, 4 grams of sugar is naturally occurring from the milk, but 12 grams is added in the form of cane sugar.

If you want to know how many teaspoons of sugar is in your yogurt, divide the grams my 4. So, in the example above there are 3 teaspoons of added sugar, and 1 teaspoon of natural sugar.

parfait topped with blueberries and granola

6 Rules For Buying Healthy Yogurt

1. Protein Content: Keeps you fuller longer. For a true protein punch, try Greek Yogurt. Since it is strained, it requires three to four times more milk to produce than regular yogurt, which adds up to 15g to 20g more protein per 6 ounces – equivalent to 3 ounces of meat! (Regular yogurt has about 9g protein for 6 oz.)

2. Live Active Yogurt Cultures (i.e. healthy bacteria): The FDA requires at least two strains of bacteria in all yogurt, L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus. Yogurt makers can add more. Look for the National Yogurt Association seal: It ensures 100 million cultures per gram (i.e., lots) – (source: CookingLight.com)

3. Limited added sugar in yogurt! This one is incredibly important. 6 oz of plain, unsweetened yogurt have about 6-10 oz of naturally occurring sugars from the milk. Fruit, honey, and sugars add more. Some yogurts (especially those made for kids) can have as much as 20-30g of sugar! That’s more than one can of Coke. Stick to unsweetened flavors, and add your own natural sweeteners (like fresh fruit or 1 tsp of honey) if needed.

4. Fat content: Low-fat yogurts are the best because they have a tiny bit of fat to help absorb the protein and vitamins in the yogurt, but they also have more calcium. When fat is removed, calcium gets concentrated. Lower fat yogurts have about 30% of your recommended daily intake. Greek yogurts have 20% (because some calcium is removed through the straining process). Choose low fat over non fat.

5. Organic / no rBGH (growth hormone): Dairy cows are routinely fed hormones, antibiotics, and pesticide-covered grains, all of which can end up with trace amounts in your milk and your yogurt! Buy organic with no hormones and you’ll be good to go.

6. No fillers or thickeners (i.e. cornstarch, gelatin, pectin or carrageenan): Fillers and thickeners are often added to non-dairy yogurts to give them stability and a good consistency, but they are also highly processed ingredients that may trigger digestive issues and inflammatory reactions in the body.

parfait topped with honey and nuts

What Are The Healthiest Yogurt Brands? (How to Avoid Sugar in Yogurt)

Wallaby Organic Low Fat Greek Yogurt and Stonyfield Farms: Organic, Plain, Low Fat Greek Yogurt are my two favorites! I add fresh blueberries, 1/2 tsp honey, and a handful of walnuts to it.

Other Favorite Low Sugar Yogurts:

  • StonyField Farms Organic Plain Regular or Greek Yogurt
  • Wallaby Organic Plain Regular or Greek Yogurt
  • Trader Joe’s Organic Low Fat Plain Regular Yogurt
  • Chobani Plain 0% Greek Yogurt
  • Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt
  • Dannon Oikos Plain 0% Greek Yogurt
  • Siggi’s Icelandic Plain Yogurt
oats, yogurt, honey, berries, and nuts on table

How To Make Your Own Healthy Yogurt?

If you love fruity yogurt, but want to stay away from all that added sugar, here is a quick recipe for making a sweet yogurt that has almost no added sugar:

  1. Buy plain low-fat yogurt.
  2. Add two handfuls of fresh berries or fruit. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.
  3. Add 1-2 tablespoons of chopped nuts on top for added crunch and healthy fats.
  4. If you need a bit of sweetener, add 1 tsp of honey.
  5. Optional: Add 1 handful of your favorite low sugar cereal
  6. Mix together and enjoy!

What if you’re on the go and can’t add your favorite fruit to your yogurt?

If you want a flavored yogurt (e.g. you’re on the go and can’t add fresh fruit, a dash of honey or vanilla), choose one flavored with vanilla or honey – but watch out for the sugar content! Siggi’s Icelandic yogurt has one of the lower sugar contents for flavored yogurt – so that can be a good choice as well – but the texture of Icelandic yogurt is not for everyone so try it out and see how you like it before buying a ton of it!

Sugar in Yogurt: What Are The Worst Yogurts To Buy?

The absolute words yogurts you can buy based on the grams of sugar, include yogurts with fruit on the bottom, ones that have flips, where you add extra sweetened ingredients into the yogurt.

The words yogurts based on added sugars.

  • Fage Split Cup Honey, 29 grams
  • Wallaby Aussie Greek Honey, 28 grams
  • Noosa Caramel Chocolate Pecan, 27 grams
  • Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Yogurts (Blueberry, strawberry, peach, cherry, raspberry, and strawberry banana), 24 grams
  • Fage Crossovers Coconut with Dark Chocolate, 23 grams
  • Dannon Lowfat Yogurt Coffee Flavor, 22 grams
  • Chobani Flip Peanut Butter Dream, 22 grams
  • Yoplait Whips Peanut Butter Chocolate Girl Scouts, 22 grams
  • Yoplait, Mix-Ins Coconut Chocolate Almond, 22 grams
  • Dannon Oikos Blueberry Greek Yogurt, 19 grams
  • Yoplait Greek Blueberry Yogurt, 18 grams
  • Yoplait Original Strawberry Yogurt, 18 grams
  • Chobaini Fruit on the Bottom Blueberry Greek Yogurt, 15 grams

I hope this post has been helpful for your next trip to the grocery store!

Check Out These Other Helpful Healthy Eating Guides!

sugar in yogurt, berries, honey, and nuts
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