How to Choose the Healthiest Yogurt

cup of yogurt with fresh strawberries

There are so many yogurts available in the grocery store that it can be hard to choose which one would be the best for you.  Read on for some tips on making a nutritious yogurt choice.

What to look for on the yogurt label

Packed with bone-building calcium, protein and other important nutrients like phosphorus, yogurt is a great food choice to add to your balanced diet. Some yogurts also have probiotics and vitamin D (another bone-building nutrient).

For the most nutrition, best value and less waste, choose plain yogurt in large tubs. Here are a few other things to look for on the Nutrition Facts Table and ingredient list when choosing yogurt:

  • Fat: Choose lower fat yogurts (2% M.F. or less) more often to help reduce your intake of saturated fat.

  • Calcium: Look for at least 15% of the Daily Value for calcium per serving.  To learn about the % Daily Value, read this article on label reading.

  • Sugar: Look for no added sugar.  Yogurt naturally contains sugar but some manufacturers will add even more to add to the sweetness.  Some yogurts with no added sugar might contain sweeteners instead. All sweeteners that are used and sold in Canada are safe and have been approved by Health Canada.

What is Greek yogurt? Is it a healthier choice?

Greek yogurt is a type of yogurt that has been strained to create a thicker and creamier texture. It is higher in protein than regular yogurt. Because of its creamier texture it is good for making dips, and using in place of sour cream. If you are looking to add more protein to your diet, it is a good choice. Just like regular yogurt, look for lower fat options and choose ones with no or less added sugar.

What are other types of yogurt?

  • Kefir – is a fermented milk drink containing live probiotics. It has a naturally tart taste but you can also get it in many flavours, just make sure to check the label for added sugars. 

  • Skyr – is a strained dairy product similar to Greek yogurt, but thicker. It is higher in protein compared to normal yogurt. Like regular yogurt, look for varieties lower in fat and added sugar.

  • Yogurt drinks – are yogurts that are thinner in texture and drinkable. They can be convenient on- the-go options but make sure to look for varieties with no or less sugar added.

Can people with lactose intolerance eat yogurt?

Yogurt usually has a lot less lactose than milk.  This is because the bacteria that helps turn milk into yogurt also break down lactose. Many people who cannot tolerate milk find that they can enjoy some yogurt without any digestive problems. 

Should I choose yogurt with probiotics?

The decision to buy yogurts with probiotics is a personal one.  Some yogurts have probiotics added to them by the manufacturer.  Probiotics may help keep your digestive system healthy, but more research is needed to know for sure how much and what type of probiotics are beneficial. Yogurts with probiotics are safe for most people to eat and fit into a balanced diet. Note: yogurts without probiotics are also nutritious food choices.

Five ways to eat yogurt

1. Layer plain yogurt with fruit, and sprinkle with nuts, seeds and high-fibre breakfast cereal to make a parfait.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweeten with a little maple syrup or honey if needed.

2. Top whole grain pancakes and waffles with yogurt and fruit.

3. Make a yogurt dip or spread.  Drain plain yogurt until it is thick or use plain Greek yogurt. Add lemon, garlic and grated cucumber and season to taste.  This dip is great for dipping vegetables or as a spread for wraps and pitas.

4. Whip up a smoothie with yogurt and frozen fruit (like berries or mango chunks). Or make a yogurt popsicle for the kids. Try this recipe: Layered Yogurt Pops.

5. Substitute yogurt for mayo or sour cream for a lighter salad dressing.

Try these yogurt recipes:

Blueberry Smoothie Bowl
Yogurt Banana Split
Avocado, Banana, Greek Yogurt Pancakes
Breakfast Muslei to Go
Carrot Potato Pancakes with Dill Yogurt Sauce
Creamy Lentil Turmeric Soup

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can help you plan a balanced and nutritious diet based on your personal preferences, medical history, lifestyle and culture. They will make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to be healthy and feel your best. A dietitian will also help you with reading food labels and give you more helpful tips on making nutritious food choices. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

Yogurt is a good source of calcium, protein and other nutrients. When choosing yogurt, look for lower fat varieties and ones with no or less added sugar.

You may also be interested in:

What You Need to Know About Calcium
7 Tips to Help Keep your Bones Strong
Managing Lactose Intolerance
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – April 10, 2023

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