Go Greek with Yogurt
The Greek yogurt industry is booming. According to the Wall Street Journal it has grown from 1 percent in 2007 to 35 percent in 2014. Greek yogurt now makes up one third of all yogurts in stores and continues to take up more shelf space. A huge part of its popularity is the allure of a higher protein content and less sugar than its regular yogurt counterparts; but this is not the case for all of Greek yogurts so be sure to read the food label to make the healthiest choice.
What is Greek yogurt?
Greek yogurt is made by straining off the liquid whey, which concentrates its protein content, making it two to three times higher in protein than traditional yogurt. It is also lower in lactose (the natural sugar found in milk), and therefore some of its calcium is lost in the straining process. One of reasons it can be more expensive than regular yogurt is because it requires three times the amount of milk. As for the taste, it is naturally creamy and tangy and comes in nonfat, low fat and full fat varieties.
What to look for on the labels:
There are certain nutrients that make some Greek yogurts nutritionally preferable over others; but there is something to please everyone’s taste buds. Look at:
- Calories: for a lower calorie yogurt, look for 150 calories or less.
- Total fat: nonfat is best, but if you select one that has less than 2-3 grams per serving, that’s okay, too. More importantly, find one that is low in saturated fat, with less than 1.5-2 grams per serving.
- Sugar: most flavored Greek yogurts contain more sugar that is added for taste. Look for less than 15-20 grams per serving; note that around 7 grams of the sugar listed comes from the natural sugar in milk.
- Protein: for a higher protein profile, find a yogurt with at least 10 grams of protein.
- Calcium: ideally select one that has at least 15 percent daily value (or 150 mg) of calcium per serving.
- Ingredients: plain nonfat Greek yogurt typically has a short list of ingredients that includes nonfat milk and live active yogurt cultures. For sweetness, flavored yogurt has either evaporated cane juice, sugar or fructose or it has added artificial low calorie sweeteners, such as sucralose or stevia. Some yogurts have fruit or pureed fruit folded into the yogurt or on the side. In some of the newer lower calorie yogurts, chicory root fiber is added.
How different popular brands stack up:
Plain unsweetened nonfat Greek yogurt:
- Fage® Total 0% (6 oz.): 100 calories; 0g fat; 18g protein; 7g sugar; 200mg calcium
- Chobani® 0% (6 oz.): 100 calories; 0g fat; 18g protein; 7g sugar; 200mg calcium
Flavored nonfat Greek yogurt with added sugar:
- Fage® (5.3 oz.): 120 calories; 0g fat; 13g protein; 16g sugar; 150mg calcium
- Chobani® (5.3 oz.): 120 calories; 0g fat; 12g protein; 16g sugar; 150mg calcium
- Dannon® Oikos (5.3 oz.): 130 calories; 0g fat; 12g protein; 19g sugar; 150mg calcium
Flavored nonfat Greek yogurt with artificial sweeteners:
- Dannon® Light & Fit Greek (5.3 oz.): 80 calories; 0g fat; 12g protein; 7g sugar; 150mg calcium (with added Sucralose)
- Yoplait® Greek 100 Calorie (5.3 oz.): 100 calories; 0g fat; 10g protein; 9g sugar; 100mg calcium (with added Sucralose)
- Chobani® Simply 100 (5.3 oz.); 100 calories; 0g fat; 12g protein; 6g sugar; 150mg calcium (with added Stevia)
Creative ways to incorporate Greek yogurt:
- Whip up a savory veggie dip or creamy dressing with all the rich texture and zero grams of fat. Mix plain nonfat yogurt with lemon juice, onion flakes, garlic powder and Italian herbs.
- Swap for high fat mayonnaise in creamy salads and side dishes such as potato, egg, pasta salads and coleslaw.
- Blend yogurt in smoothies as a high protein alternative to nonfat milk or protein powder.
- Substitute sugar-loaded syrup with yogurt as a topping for whole grain waffles or oatmeal pancakes.
- Create a yogurt parfait for a sweet dessert or satisfying protein and carb snack with layers of yogurt, fruit and a high fiber granola cereal.