yogurt

Yogurt is a very healthy food. It’s packed with protein and vitamin D as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that your digestive system needs to function. One cup of yogurt contains 400 milligrams of calcium, more than milk, and will provide more potassium than a banana.

Yogurt is healthy – however the small pots of yogurt that you purchase at the store contain much more than potassium, protein and probiotics.

Once again, grocery manufacturers have taken a health food and packed it with so much sugar, artificial flavors and preservatives that it almost could double as a candy bar. Yogurt served this way should not be considered a health food at all, but rather a treat.

Let’s look at Yoplait, one of the most popular yogurt brands, with dozens of flavors like Boston cream pie, raspberry cheesecake and triple berry torte.

The first tip-off to an unhealthy product is the lack of a list of ingredients on their website. However, a trip to the grocery store confirms that all is not healthy in those little jars of yogurt:

Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Strawberries, Modified Corn Starch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Pectin, Colored with Carmine, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

You will notice right away that the #2 ingredient is sugar, with some high fructose corn syrup to boot. Although some of the sugar content comes from the milk itself (lactose) and the strawberries, most is from the added sweeteners – table sugar and corn syrup. Each tiny jar of Yoplait Strawberry contains a whopping 29 grams of sugar – that’s over 5 teaspoons.

Dieters may want to beware of this “health food” as well, because every serving of Yoplait Strawberry contains 170 calories.

The bottom line is: Yogurt is healthy, but commercially produced yogurt is packed with so much sugar, it shifts into the “treat” category. Here’s what you do to move it back:

1. Buy natural, organic yogurt with no added sugar, color, artificial flavors or preservatives. My favorite is Stonyfield Farm.

2. Sweeten naturally, with honey or maple syrup. You will use much less than the 5 teaspoons in every serving of Yoplait.

3. Add some fresh or frozen fruit for color and variety. Try Cascadian Farms organic frozen blueberries, berries or sliced peaches.

4. For more texture, top off your yogurt with a sprinkle of homemade granola, or your favorite store-bought organic kind.

5. Enjoy your healthy yogurt!

Once you start eating a more natural, less sugary version of this popular “health” food, all the commercially produced varieties will taste artificially cloying.

While you may not be able (or want) to cut out sugar completely in your diet, you certainly don’t need it sneaking into your breakfast under the guise of being healthy. Sugar is a cheap, easy flavoring that has snuck into many common foods without most people even knowing it, from pizza dough to salad dressing and beyond. You may not know the sugar is there – but your body will feel it, and you certainly don’t need it. 

image: Pen Waggener