Low-fat yoghurt

Some low-fat yoghurts have so much sugar they can be more fattening than full-fat.
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  • Updated:15 May 2007

01.Introduction yoghurt


Less fat (just) but more kilojoules

Trying to lose weight? Yoghurt’s got a healthy image, so combined with a lower-fat claim you might think it’s a good way to help you keep off the kilos. Think again!

Some healthy-sounding yoghurts can be more fattening than regular full-fat brands. Why?

  • ‘Low fat’ doesn’t always mean as much as you might think. According to our food regulator’s code of practice, the term can only be used if the food contains no more than 3% fat. And on average, regular full-fat yoghurt contains about 3.4% fat. That’s only marginally more fat to start with — hardly worth worrying about as long as you check the nutrition panel to avoid the ‘Greek’ and ‘European-style’ yoghurts that often have a lot more.
  • Quite a lot of the flavoured yoghurts we bought from major supermarkets make healthy-sounding claims of one sort or another, including ‘low fat’, ‘lite’ and so on. Most of these yoghurts in fact give you more kilojoules per serve than plain full-fat yoghurt, and some of them evenn more than YOPLAIT Original Strawberry, the top-selling full-fat flavoured yoghurt. These unexpected and unwanted kilojoules come from sugar.

Even a serve of unsweetened plain full-fat yoghurt has about two teaspoons of sugar (lactose) from the milk, but many of the flavoured yoghurts have another five or more teaspoons of table sugar (sucrose) added by the manufacturer.

Gram for gram, sugar gives you less than half the kilojoules you’d get from fat. But whether they’re from sugar or fat, if your food gives you more kilojoules than your body uses you’ll put on weight. And packing in the sugar packs in the kilojoules.

Please note: this information was current as of May 2007 but is still a useful guide today.

High sugar brands

Brands with healthy-sounding claims or names but so much sugar (more than 28 g or seven teaspoons, the equivalent of 476 kJ per 200 g serve) as to push them way up for kilojoules are:

  • BROOKLEA Lite Strawberry.
  • HOME BRAND Low Fat Strawberry.
  • YOPLAIT Lite Strawberry.
  • NESTLÉ All Natural 99% Fat Free Strawberry.
  • SKI D’LITE Wild Strawberry.
  • ALIVE Soygurt Strawberry.
  • BULLA Greek Gourmet Tropical.
  • TAMAR VALLEY Greek Style with Strawberry.

Cut through the spin

Manufacturers have no trouble with creative labelling spin despite the minor difference between low-fat and many full-fat yoghurts, the amount of sugar/kilojoules some of the yoghurts claiming ‘lite’ or ‘low fat’ contain and, it seems, the code of practice. The two highest-kilojoule yoghurts we found make fat claims:

  • ATTIKI ATTITUDE Wild Strawberry (1722 kJ/serve) boasts that it’s ‘96% fat free’
  • GIPPSLAND DAIRY Berry Twist (1346 kJ/serve) even thinks it’s worth claiming ‘94% fat free’.

So much for the code of practice, which says claims of ‘x% fat-free’ shouldn’t be used for products with more than 3% fat.

Check the nutrition information panel to see how much fat and kilojoules your yoghurt really contains. It’s not hard to find brands with less than 20 kJ of fat per 200 g serve, and with comparatively few kilojoules. The ones in our What to buy list manage it and there are others in the results table.

woman with yoghurtA hearty serve?

YOPLAIT Heart Active claims it “lowers cholesterol by up to 15%”.

We’re not convinced.

There’s good evidence that the plant sterols in this product can lower your blood cholesterol levels, but only by about 10% and only if you eat 2–3 g of sterols daily. One serve of YOPLAIT Heart Active contains only 0.8 g of plant sterols, so to get 2–3 g you’d have to eat at least three 200 g tubs of yoghurt. And three tubs would give you 1930 kJ — that’s nearly a quarter of a day’s energy needs for an adult.

YOPLAIT’s manufacturer, National Foods, told us it has evidence for the claim but refused to let us see it.



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