Get ’em to the Greek

I think it’s safe to say that, thanks to the millions of dollars spent on marketing, most people know that yogurt has numerous health benefits.  Especially greek yogurt.  Real greek yogurt contains probiotics or “good” bacteria that promote healthy digestion and immune function.  Greek yogurt contains a good amount a protein 12-20g per 5-6oz serving. Yogurt has calcium for strong bones, too, of course. Yogurt makes a great, filling snack and can be used in so many ways.  You can make smoothies, dips, use it as a replacement for fat in baked goods or eat it as is with all sorts of good things mixed into it.

Personally, I love yogurt, it’s one of my favorite foods. I especially like plain greek yogurt mixed with anything ranging from peanut butter and banana to honey and cinnamon to pumpkin puree and granola (so good it’s like pumpkin pie for breakfast :)).  For convenience, however, the single serve cups come in very handy.  I’ve tried several brands and can tell you that not all greek yogurts are created equal. I thought that perhaps I would review all the brands, but as I started my research I discovered a lot more brands that I ever realized were out there. So instead of reviewing each individual brand I am going to outline important things to look out for on the labels and give you my opinion on the few I’ve tried.

Ingredients

As with most packaged food, the lesser number of ingredients the better. Greek yogurt has the thick creamy and consistency and high protein because of the way it is strained.  Authentic greek yogurt is just milk + cultures.  There shouldn’t be any extraneous ingredients that you don’t recognize.  When looking at the ingredients for plain greek yogurt you should see something similar to this:

CULTURED PASTEURIZED NONFAT MILK, LIVE AND ACTIVE CULTURES: S. THERMOPHILUS, L. BULGARICUS, L.
ACIDOPHILUS
, BIFIDUS, AND L. CASEI.

If you see milk protein concentrate, gelatin, and/or modified corn/food starch you should probably put the cup down and look for another brand. I have found that both Yoplait Greek “Style” Yogurt and Activia Selects Greek Yogurt contain those ingredients which means they are basically regular yogurt plus protein powder and thickener. Believe me, you will taste the difference.  I found the Yoplait version to have a jello-y consistency, ick.

Now, if you choose a flavored greek yogurt you will find additional ingredients, which again, you should be able to identify.

Example–Chobani 0% Blueberry:
Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk. Contains Five Live Active Cultures Including S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, and L. Casei.
FRUIT ON THE BOTTOM: Evaporated Cane Juice, Blueberries, Natural Flavor, Locust Bean Gum, Pectin.

Evaporate Cane Juice: Sweetener (sugar cane that is less refined than regular sugar, therefore containing more nutrients)
Blueberries: self explanatory
Natural flavor: ditto
Locust Bean Gum: a natural, sweet gelling agent that thickens the blueberry mixture (derived from seeds of the carob tree)
Pectin: natural gelling agent (derived mainly from citrus fruits)

These ingredients combine to create the sweet fruit flavoring, naturally.  Which brings me to my next topic…

Sugar

The flavored yogurts, even the natural ones, tend to be high in sugar. On average naturally flavored yogurts are going to have 16-20g of sugar. 7g comes from the naturally occurring lactose in milk (therefore the plain will still have 7g and that’s fine).  If you are trying to limit your sugar intake I recommend getting plain greek yogurt and mixing in your own fresh or frozen fruit that does not have added sugar.  You can also flavor yogurt with a mix of spices.  I like cinnamon and/or nutmeg.  I, personally, do not like artificially sweetened yogurts, but I also haven’t seen greek yogurts with the fake stuff.

When looking at the ingredients, if you see sugar, fructose, or any other -ose then I would probably skip that one.

Example–Activia Selects Greek Yogurt Vanilla:

Ingredients: Cultured Grade A nonfat milk, water, sugar, fructose, milk protein concentrate, modified corn starch, contains less than 1% of: maltodextrin, modified food starch, natural vanilla flavor, malic acid, potassium sorbate ( to maintain freshness) sodium citrate, Vitamin D3, natural flavors

This one checks in at a whopping 29g of sugar! That’s 7 teaspoons of sugar in a mere 60z.  You’ll also notice the milk protein concentrate and other thickening agents and unnecessary ingredients.  Sorry Jamie Lee Curtis, I’m not falling for this wanna-be greek yogurt.

Personal recommendations

Fage, Chobani, and Oikos are all reputable authentic greek yogurts.  They are all delicious, too.  I usually buy Chobani because I find it on sale or by the case at BJ’s.  I’ve also had the Trader Joe brand, which was good, and Cabot, which I found to have a more cheesy flavor (ironic I know). As I said earlier, there are lots of brands out there and more companies seem to be jumping on the bandwagon as greek yogurt gains popularity.

I hope that with my suggestions you are now armed with the information you need to find your own favorite brand of authentic greek yogurt and enjoy the taste, texture and health benefits 🙂

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One response

  1. That did help a lot! I always have chiobanni (mostly for the sales) but oikos has a totally different flavor that I also love!
    But one time I tried a different brand, which i forget the name, and although it did not say “greek style”…the taste was all off; and when i looked at the ingredients, the protein in it was all from protein concentrate and gelatin. I was confused as to why they could call it greek yogurt! But now from your help I know exactly what to look for 🙂

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