How to choose a healthy yoghurt

Are you eating a health food or a "dairy dessert"? We show you how to pick the healthiest yoghurts from the nutrition traps.
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01.Healthy yoghurt or nutrition trap?

Yoghurt (also spelled "yogurt") is often marketed as a healthy, calcium-rich product. Yet some of the products in the supermarket fridge are closer to a “dairy-based dessert” than a health food. CHOICE decided to look behind the hype and find out how to pick the nutritious yoghurts from the products that should ring alarm bells.yoghurt-filler-single-pot

At its simplest, yoghurt contains milk and live cultures (bacteria) that cause the milk to ferment, creating the distinctive sour taste. But modern commercial yoghurts tend to have extra ingredients such as sugar, cream, thickeners, gums, starches and flavours.

Low- or no-fat natural yoghurt: your healthiest option

“The healthiest yoghurt choice is low- or no-fat plain yoghurt,” says Kate Gudorf an accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia. “But if you need to sweeten it yourself, add a teaspoon of honey or chopped fresh fruit.”

If you’re buying flavoured yoghurt, Gudorf recommends trying to find one with less than 12g of sugars per 100g. Natural or plain yoghurt has around 6mg of sugars per 100g due to the naturally occurring carbohydrate lactose. Anything above 6mg will be added sugar, generally in the form of fruit pieces, fruit puree, honey and sugar.

And if you’re in the mood for a treat, sweetened low-fat yoghurts will generally be a better choice than a chocolate bar as they have lower saturated fat (0.2g vs 18.8g/100g) and far less sugar (12.6g vs 56.4g/100g).

Beware breakfast yoghurts

Packaged breakfast yoghurt pots with muesli are an easy option, but the convenience can come at the cost of huge sugar levels. Bulla Yoghurt Crunch Summer Berry contains yoghurt and muesli, and comes with a little spoon so it can be eaten on the go. The pack only lists the nutritional information per 100g serve – a deceptively low 594kJ – but the small print shows there are actually 2.25 serves in the pot.yoghurt-bulla-yoghurt-crunch-summer-berry

If you can be bothered doing the numbers in the supermarket, you’d find that the 225g pot actually has a hefty 1339kJ and 42g of sugars (more than eight teaspoons). And really, who’s going to divide a pot smaller than a metric cup into 2.25 serves?

The whole Bulla pot has about the same number of kilojoules as an Almond Magnum ice-cream, but three more teaspoons of sugar. However, it does at least come with 455mg calcium. That said, two cups of skim milk will give you 605mg calcium for only 735kJ and 25g sugars.

Slightly less sugar laden is the  Ski Double Up Yoghurt, with 983kJ and 25.6g sugar per pot. Vaalia Breakfast To Go is a marginally better choice with 825kJ and 20g sugar per pot. Both sensibly treat one pot as one serve.

Going coconuts

alpineThe passion for all things coconut has spread to the yoghurt aisle with Alpine Coconut Yoghurt. Just like coconut oil, coconut milk yoghurt is a high-kilojoule, high-fat, low-calcium choice. Compared to full-fat milk-based yoghurts it has double the kilojoules, with 785kJ per 100g and a whopping 11.5g of saturated fat – three times more than the full-fat yoghurt we looked at.

Coconut milk has about 4mg calcium per 100g (compared with 193mg for regular yoghurt), and there’s no calcium listed on the package so we assume no extra calcium has been added.

Serving sizegippsland

The  Australian Guide to Healthy Eating says a serve of yoghurt is ¾ cup or 200g. If you want a yoghurt to eat on the go, look for a pot that is 200g or less. Buying an individual serve pot as big as the 300g Gippsland Blueberry Twist will mean you’ll be scoffing down 50.7g sugars (10 teaspoons) and 1833kJ. Look for a between-meals snack with no more than 600kJ.

Calcium content

bornhoffen natural yoghurtCalcium is a major health drawcard, but we found wide variations in calcium levels – from about 98mg per 100g (Chobani) to 206mg (Bornhoffen). “This comes down to the difference in processing methods,” says Gudorf, “as some manufacturers add extra milk solids, which add calcium. Others, such as strained Greek yoghurt, remove liquid whey, which reduces calcium levels.”

Although yoghurts can be a good source of calcium, it’s unlikely to meet your total daily requirement. It’s recommended that adults consume 1000-1300mg daily.

For children, the recommendations are:

1-3 years 500mg calcium;
4-8 years 700mg;
9-11 years 1000mg.

Although the “squeezy” yoghurt pouches for babies and kids are all the rage and look very similar in size and design with similar sugar levels, there is a big difference in calcium levels.

Mini MacroOrganic yoghurts don’t even list calcium content on their pack. Other products range from 132mg per 100g (Gippsland Mini Organics), 168mg (Paul’s Dora) and 220mg (Coles) to a healthy 350mg for the Yoplait Petit Miam pouch.

Pester-power desserts

Watch for the words dairy dessert on kids yoghurtsBe aware when choosing kids' yoghurt that sugary dessert products can appear on the shelves alongside healthier offerings. We found YoGo Mix Choc Chips, which doesn’t contain any yoghurt but has 1090kJ and 29.9g sugar per 150g pot, in the same section as the 140g Vaalia Kids Strawberry Yoghurt (515kJ/15.5g sugars).

As most products aimed at kids have classic pester-power characteristics – bright packaging splashed with recognisable cartoon characters or cutesy images – it’s very easy for any harried parent to grab a package your child likes the look of without checking the ingredients and sugar levels. A product that has the word “dessert” on the packaging should ring alarm bells.



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