Squeezy yoghurts: 5 things you should know
Squeezy pouches of yoghurt are ubiquitous in lunchboxes, a favourite of parents needing a convenient snack to feed their children when they're out and about, and extremely popular with kids who love the relative novelty of sucking on the spout and the ease of not having to bother with a spoon.
But are they healthy?
We bought 38 different yoghurt products, reviewed their ingredients and calculated their Health Star Ratings. The details are shown in the table.
You could certainly do worse than a yoghurt pouch when it comes to a nutritious snack for your child. But before you stock the fridge with enough to give out on a daily basis, here are five things about them you might want to keep in mind.
1. They all contain added sugar
All of the squeezy yoghurts we looked at contain added sugar, but the positive spin on the product labels might lead you to think otherwise.
- Taking the Rafferty's Garden product names at face value, you'd reasonably assume they contain just that: "yoghurt, fruit + nothing else". But the ingredients list reveals the yoghurt component is sweetened with sugar.
- The Calci Yum products carry the claim "25% less sugar", and they are all lower in sugar than other brands. But the "25% less" refers to an average fruit yoghurt, not other squeezy yoghurts. The Calci Yum Banana Yoghurt has only 4% less sugar than a pouch of Rafferty's Garden Yoghurt Apple, Pear & Cinnamon, for example.
- Just Organic yoghurts (from Aldi) and Gippsland Dairy Mini Organics yoghurts top the list when it comes to sugars, containing 75-97% more sugars than natural yoghurt. The sugar they contain may be organic, but that doesn't make it healthy.
2. Some aren't a good source of calcium
Calcium is a major health drawcard for yoghurts, but we found wide variations in the amount the squeezy products contain – from 93mg up to 300mg per 100g.
A product is a 'good source of calcium' if a serving of it contains no less than 25% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for that mineral, according to the Food Standards Code.
For babies up to 12 months, for whom the RDI is 270mg per day, all the products we looked at are a good source of calcium. But older kids need more. For 4- to 8-year-olds with an RDI of 700mg per day, only the Calci Yum, Yoplait Petit Miam and Vaalia Kids products, with more than 175mg calcium in each pouch, would be considered a 'good source', according to this definition.
3. Fruit and veg content may not meet expectations
Don't necessarily expect the fruit, veg and flavouring in your yoghurt to be much like the pictures on the label.
- Some yoghurts appear to be flavoured with minimally processed real fruit. But the fruit content in others is more like a kind of jam made from fruit purée, water and sugar with thickeners, colours and food acids. You can only tell by looking closely at the ingredients list: if it's not real fruit you'll see something like 'fruit' followed by sugar and other ingredients, all enclosed within brackets.
- The new veggie squeezy range from Yoplait Petit Miam seems like a great way to sneak extra veggies into your child's diet, but don't get too excited. A standard serve of veg is 75g (or 20g for a baby aged 7-12 months), and the recommended daily intake is 1.5-2 serves (7-12 months), 2-3 serves (1-2 years), 2.5 serves (2-3 years) or 4.5 serves (4-8 years). So the measly 2.8g of veg in each pouch barely scratches the surface.
- Vaalia Kids Vanilla Yoghurt shows a picture of a vanilla bean on the pack, but there's no vanilla bean in the ingredients list, just "natural flavours". In fact Five:am and Just Organic from Aldi are the only vanilla yoghurts to contain actual vanilla bean (0.2% and 1% respectively) – the rest just use 'flavour'.
4. Most contain additives
For the most part a container of natural yoghurt from the supermarket will essentially contain two ingredients: milk and live yoghurt cultures. But many other yoghurt products contain additives, and squeezy yoghurts - for the most part - are no exception. You'll see them listed (usually as a number) in the ingredients list, and examples include:
- Thickeners to make them taste creamy and prevent separation: pectin (440), vegetable gums (406, 410, 415) and starch (1442).
- Acidity regulators which prevent the acidity of the yoghurt from changing and becoming too acidic (300, 330, 331, 296).
- Colours and flavours – all "natural" according to the squeezy yoghurts in our review.
5. The benefits of 'live culture' ingredients may be negligible
Some brands make a claim about their yoghurt containing live cultures — usually lactobacilli and bifidobacteria — that are good for your health. While live 'friendly' bacteria can be beneficial for gut health in principle, there's no guarantee that these squeezy yoghurts contain enough of the right bacteria to survive in the yoghurt to colonise the gut.
There's no arguing that squeezy yoghurts are convenient. Many also contain a worthwhile amount of calcium and minimal added sugars, so are a good choice when it comes to packaged snacks
But if you're after great nutrition, and want to avoid unnecessary added sugars, additives and excessive packaging, it's hard to beat regular natural yoghurt. And because you can buy it in 500g or 1kg containers, a comparable serving works out at a fraction of the cost. Topping it with chopped fruit will not only add sweetness, but also the nutritional benefits of whole fruits.