From European brands to Greek style and everything in between, finding a good yogurt can be a challenge, if not a confusing prospect!
I’ve broken the task down to four simple rules:
1. Keep it short on sugar
In general, yogurt can be a healthy addition to your child’s diet, showcasing calcium, protein, probiotics, and more. However, many yogurts fall under a “health halo,” or the perception of a food as healthy, but when you take a closer look at the ingredients, they are far from angelic. This belief in the health quality of a product may result in eating more of it under the assumption that it is good for you. In the case of yogurt, day-glow colors and candy mix-ins often signify additional (and unhealthy) sugar.
For a yogurt to be an added benefit to your diet, you want to find one that is short on added sugar. Yogurt is naturally made from milk, which contains lactose — the natural milk sugar. You can’t get away from this (nor do you need to), but you can watch how much added sugar there is. Look at the ingredients label for words like sucrose, dextrose, glucose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as indicators of added sugar.
For the most part, a healthy yogurt for your child will be a plain yogurt or a flavored yogurt (without fruit), such as vanilla flavored yogurt. When choosing fruited yogurt, look for the lowest sugar content per serving, recognizing that natural milk sugar (lactose) will be lumped in together with refined (added) sugar.
2. Less is more
I’m referring to ingredients, because you want to know what’s in your yogurt. For instance, you may be choosing a low sugar yogurt, but when you read the ingredients, you find added artificial sweeteners or a host of ingredients you can’t pronounce. The fewer ingredients there are, the more natural and wholesome the yogurt will be.
3. Are there active cultures?
An added benefit of eating yogurt is the potential effect on your child’s digestive health. This is due to the inclusion of live, active cultures, which increase the presence of good bacteria in the gut and help regulate elimination, in addition to other health benefits. Look for the seal on the package indicating the presence of live, active cultures in your yogurt.
4. Must taste great!
With all the health benefits of yogurt including calcium for bone health, probiotics for digestive health, and protein for appetite regulation and growth, none of these matter if your child won’t eat yogurt! While you want to find a healthy yogurt you can serve and feel good about, you also want to find a type that your child willingly eats. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of yogurt!
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, September 2020
- Plain and flavored yogurts tend to have the lowest amounts of sugar.
- Select yogurt for its health benefits, such as the presence of live, active probiotic cultures.
- Make sure your child will actually eat yogurt, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different types.