Plain yogurt vs. flavored yogurt
In college, I spent a summer teaching in China. My students would grill me for hours about American culture, while I was just as fascinated to learn about theirs. I’ll never forget one conversation talking about the different sights and smells in China: the meat and smoke and oil and noodles. Everything, including the people, carried these smells. I asked the kids what Americans smelled like to them. The answer? SOUR MILK. Ha! At this point in the conversation, I had the opportunity to teach my students the new phrase: conversation killer.
I guess it shouldn’t really surprise us. You are what you eat, and Americans love the dairy section. Seriously, pay attention to it the next time you are in the grocery store. We have 101 different choices when it comes to milk or cheese or ice cream.
Check out the yogurt case! Would you like nonfat, lowfat, or full fat? Soy milk, cow milk, goat milk, almond milk, or coconut milk? Whipped, Farmstyle, Greek… squeezable tube? Key Lime Pie, Blueberry Acai, Coffeehouse Blend, Pineapple Upside Down Cake? Before you know it, you’ll be able to buy Apple Turnover or Cinnamon Roll yogurt flavors. Oh wait, too late. Already available!
However, with all of these different options on the front of the yogurt cartons, we rarely spin them around to read the Nutritional Facts and Ingredient Lists on the back. I am currently on a mission to drastically cut my family’s sugar consumption (more on that soon!), and yogurt seemed like a good place to start. I’m obviously not a dietitian or doctor, but here are some interesting things I learned while reading the backs of yogurt cartons.
Flavored Yogurt Ingredients & Nutritional Facts
While most 6-oz. containers of flavored yogurt contain around 26 grams of sugar, some brands have up to 34 grams of sugar per serving! That’s more than some 8-oz. energy drinks and slightly less than a 12-oz. can of Coca Cola. Light yogurts typically add low-calorie sweeteners to cut the calories and sugar (12-15 grams per 6 oz. serving). These can include Stevia, Aspartame, or Erythritol. Greek yogurt has significantly less sugar, but it’s still around 15 grams per 5.3 oz. serving.
Calories & Protein
Most flavored yogurts are around 170 calories and only 5-7 grams of protein. Thicker Greek yogurt contains around 120 calories and 12 grams of protein per 5.3 oz. serving. While light or nonfat yogurt varieties have significantly reduced calorie counts (around 90), many contain artificial thickeners and sweeteners.
- Corn starch, pectin, locust bean gum, or gelatin are often added as thickeners. By the way, these additives are a clue that your Greek yogurt is not the real deal, as authentic Greek yogurt is strained, not thickened.
- Carmine or cochineal extract is now clearly listed as a red food coloring on many brands of yogurt. It comes from dried, crushed cochineal beetles. Yes, bugs. About 70,000 bugs produce a pound of dye. I’ll never understand why we are so obsessed with colored food, that we’ll eat bugs or coal/petroleum byproducts (Hello, Red No. 2 & 40.) just so our yogurt is pink.
- Citric acid is often listed and functions as a flavor enhancer and preservative.
Plain yogurt, on the other hand has fewer calories (around 11o), fewer ingredients (milk & active cultures), and no added sugar (my favorite brand contains 7 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein per 8 oz. serving*).
So for many of these reasons, our family has made the switch entirely to plain yogurt. At first, I felt like I was eating bowls of sour cream. Ugh. Where are my 34 grams of sugar? Now I find that I prefer the tangy taste of plain yogurt. It satisfies my hunger instead of my sweet tooth. Flavored yogurt actually tastes overpoweringly sweet to me now.
Start spinning those cartons around and look for yogurt that is low in sugar, high in protein, and short on ingredients. Take the plunge into plain yogurt! You really can train your body to crave and enjoy less sugar. Ease into it by adding things like chopped fruit, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, or a scoop of Maple Cluster Granola.
* Doesn’t it drive you crazy how packaging sizes keep shrinking? The often more expensive yogurt varieties come packaged in smaller 5-6 oz. containers, while the more economical 32 oz. containers list serving sizes as 8 oz. Hm.
Now that you know what’s in store-bought yogurt why not make your own? Follow our step-by-step guide to making your own yogurt here.
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