Well it seems that the smoke has finally lifted here in and around Winnipeg, MB, and I for one am glad to finally see some sun! I just hope this means that the wildfire epidemic we seem to be having is finally getting under control. I know that teams across the country have been working tirelessly to fight the fires and minimize damage and I have certainly been thinking about those much more affected than I. Although the hazy, dreary skies aren't exactly ideal, I am grateful that our homes are safe and there is no immediate threat to us as there has been for so many others across the country.
It sure makes us appreciate clear summer skies and I hope everyone is getting out to enjoy this short time while it lasts! I have definitely been waiting to get my hands on some farmer's markets goods and have been watching my flower pots explode with foliage! I definitely do not have a green thumb but this year my flowers really seem to be growing out of control!
So let's get right to it then - today's post is a reader request about yogurt! I often get asked questions about which yogurt to buy including the question, "Is greek yogurt really worth the extra coin?"
There are a few things you may want to take into consideration when purchasing yogurt - check out the list below for all the information you need to sift through the yogurt aisle at your local grocery store!
The biggest difference between regular and greek yogurt (besides price) is the protein content. While regular yogurt contains around 6 - 8 grams of protein per serving, greek yogurt generally has more than twice that amount with around 18 - 20 grams of protein per serving.1 Keep in mind this can vary greatly between brands but as a rule, greek yogurt = higher protein.
Traditionally, greek yogurt is made by straining regular yogurt to remove much of the liquid resulting in a creamy, much thicker product. Beware though! Check your labels for ingredients like milk protein concentrate, gelatin, or corn starch since these are added thickeners that are used in place of the traditional straining methods (since they are more expensive and time consuming) and means the product isn't 'true' greek yogurt.2
As a dietitian, I generally recommend my clients to choose greek yogurt over regular yogurt for a couple of different reasons. First off, yes a higher protein content is a bonus but not because more is always better. Most Western diets have more than enough protein in them, but the problem is that we consume almost all of our daily protein needs at lunch and supper and very little in our breakfasts and snacks. New research is suggesting that we don't really have to worry about not getting enough protein, but rather should shift our focus to the quality and timing of our protein intake. Many people struggle to get protein in at breakfast, particularly during the week when they may not have time to make an omelette and can't stomach the thought of meat or many types of meat alternatives in the morning.3
Enter greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt, which is made from milk, is a complete protein that makes an excellent breakfast or snack! A target for protein in your meals in snacks would be at least 5 - 10 grams of protein/snack and at least 15 grams of protein/meal. Greek yogurt has got you covered! Great served as a yogurt parfait, added to a smoothie, or to top off a bowl of fresh fruit!
The second reason that keeping greek yogurt around the house is a good idea is because unsweetened, nothing added, no frills, plain ol' greek yogurt is an excellent substitute for sour cream and even cream cheese in some recipes. Sour cream and cream cheese, although both made from milk, have very little nutritional benefit compared with greek yogurt. It's important to consider sour cream and cream cheese as fats and NOT as protein sources. This is a common misconception, but if you look at the label of a package of cream cheese for example, you may notice that for a 28 g (1 oz) serving you get 100 calories and 9 grams of fat. Now pay close attention to this part .... although the % DV (Daily Value) indicates that this is 14% of your estimated fat for the day. The product itself is about 81% fat.
Huh? Say that again.
OK. Really quick math lesson to help explain this.
Fat is very energy dense and packs a lot of calories in a very small amount. In fact, fat contains 9 calories per gram.
If you have 9 grams of fat per serving that means that those fat grams provide 9 g X 9 calories/g = 81 calories
If the total number of calories in this serving = 100 that means 81 calories / 100 calories x 100 = 81% fat
So ya, major tangent, but cream cheese is not a protein .... it's a fat.
How much fat does it have?
Although we are learning new things all the time about the effects of saturated fat on our health, particularly the saturated fat originating from dairy products, it is still important to limit the amount that we consume. In addition to some unhealthy side-effects, to much fat also packs a calorie punch that can lead to weight gain and other health related issues.
Look for yogurt with 2 % M.F. (milk fat) or less.4
What's the sugar content?
Yogurt on it's own and in it's 'natural' form is a healthy and nutritious food that many people can benefit from including in their diet. Many types of yogurt however are packed with sugar and make them more of a dessert than a breakfast food or regular snack choice. I snapped the picture below on a recent grocery shopping trip to Superstore and found this in the yogurt section.
The best choice is yogurt with no added sugar (you can add your own fruit or a bit of honey to sweeten plain yogurt). If you find you haven't adjusted to the taste of that just yet, choose yogurt that has less than 10 grams of sugar per serving and stick to one serving at a time. Some yogurts may have no added sugar but may be sweetened with an artificial sweetener. These can be a safe and nutritious choice as well but is personal preference for each individual.
What about the 'extras'?
Just like milk, it's important to look for yogurt that is fortified with vitamin D. This can be a little harder to find but there are some brands (often Danone and Astro) that add this important nutrient into their products. If you are unable to find a greek yogurt with added vitamin D, make sure you are still drinking cow's milk, a fortified milk alternative, or taking a vitamin D supplement if one has been recommended for you.
Finally, what about added probiotics? You may have seen some of these fancy names on the side of your yogurt container before L. Acidophilus, S. Thermophilus, Bifidobacterium or L. Bulgaricus. They all represent a different type of probiotic that works in a slightly different way in your gut. Although there is some evidence to suggest that probiotics have a positive health impact, we need more research to understand the amount required and when it should be consumed.2,5 Also, the amount of probiotic contained in yogurt is often very small and may not produce any of the beneficial effects associated with probiotic supplementation.2 Take a look at THIS article about a lawsuit against a popular yogurt brand that claimed it's probiotic-containing yogurt helps keep your digestive system healthy and helps keep you 'regular.' Too bad too... they had cute commercials and I really do like Jaime-Lee Curtis ;)
Well there you have it folks! A few reasons to Go Greek! and some information on the yogurt debate. Hopefully this will make choosing the right yogurt for you a little bit easier! Please post any questions or comments down below. I would love to hear from you!
Happy a happy, healthy week everyone!
2) Pojednic, R. (2012, Aug 15). Yogurt . . . All greek for me! Strong Process. Retrieved July 6th, 2015 from http://www.strong-process.com/yogurt-all-greek-for-me/
3) Mohr, C., Paddon-Jones, D. (2014, Nov 12) Development's in protein's role in promoting lean body mass. Today's Dietitian. Retrieved July 6th, 2015 from
4) Eat Right Ontario (2015). How to choose the best yogurt. Home>Articles>Grocery Shopping. Retrieved July 6th, 2015 from http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Grocery-Shopping/How-to-choose-the-best-yogurt.aspx#.VZqSTvlViko