Yogurt is definitely one of America’s most confusing, go-to “healthy” foods. In an effort to meet America’s demand for variety and flavor – and most often the demand for low-fat and low-calories foods – companies are working overtime to add more choices. More recently Greek style yogurt has become very popular, but Americans want to keep the calorie counts down.
In another column I’ll tell you why aiming for low-calorie options is sabotaging your attempts to lose weight. Until then, you’ll have to trust me that aiming for very low-calorie counts is not your goal.
Which yogurt choices help us burn fat and which choices cause us to store fat? Let’s take a very close look at three popular choices
Fat-Burning or Fat-Storing Food?
Yoplait Greek 100 Whips Strawberry Cheesecake” Fat-Free Yogurt Mousse. At 100 calories, it seems to be a good bargain. Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients.
Ingredients: (Listed in descending order by weight. The ingredient that weighs the most is listed first.)
Fat-Free Yogurt (Cultured Pasteurized Grade A non-fat milk, Kosher Gelatin, Lactic Acid Esters of Mono and Diglycerides, Natural Flavor, Yogurt Cultures [L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus], Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose), Fruit Blend (Fructose, Strawberry Puree, Water, Modified Corn Starch, Vegetable Juice and Beta Carotene [for Color], Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3), Nitrogen.
The reality: The second ingredient is gelatin. Do you need or want gelatin in your yogurt? The product not only contains one, but also two different artificial sweeteners: Acesulfame Potassium and Sucralose. Immediately following the fake sugars is fructose (sugar), the first ingredient of the fruit-filling blend. For some people, artificial sweeteners spike insulin and trigger more hunger. “Mousse” is simply air and gelatin whipped up that you pay for in exchange for the modest 100 calorie count.
Dannon Light & Fit Peach. Boasts that it has 50 percent fewer calories than regular low-fat yogurt. At 80 calories for 6 ounces, it seems to be a good calorie buy.
Cultured Grade A non-fat milk, water, peaches, fructose, contains less than 1 percent of modified corn starch, natural and artificial flavors, malic acid, sucralose, potassium sorbate (to maintain freshness), xanthan gum, acesulfame potassium, annatto extract (for color), sodium citrate.
The reality: Water and fructose are two of the first four ingredients. It’s not that water is bad for you – the question is, do you want to pay for added water? You can water down your own foods and then eat half of the quantity to keep calorie count low. (Just remember, low calories aren’t the whole story.)
Of the total calories, 35 percent of them come from natural and added sugars. If that isn’t sweet enough, there are the two common artificial sweeteners: sucralose and acesulfame potassium. There isn’t enough of a nutritional payoff or food satisfaction here to make this worth eating.
Fage Total Greek Plain Yogurt is going to make some many people very nervous because it whole milk and cream. That’s right, cream. It has 190 calories for 7 ounces.
Ingredients: Grade A Pasturized Milk and Cream, Live Active Yogurt Cultures, (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei).
The reality: Wow, this is a remarkably uncomplicated ingredient list, without a bunch of chemicals. In addition to very basic ingredients, 47 percent of its calories come from fat—the perfect fat burning reversal from the many products have no fat but are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners. The natural carbohydrates come from lactose and make up only 17 percent of the calories. Protein makes up the remaining 36 percent of the calories. Due to this macronutrient profile, this is a satisfying choice. You won’t be hungry 30 minutes later. If you want to add some variety flavor, you can add low sugar fruits or even spices.
Mountain High Fat-Free Yoghurt advertises 11 grams of protein for a 1-cup (8 ounces by volume) serving. It has 110 calories, 0 fat and 16 grams of carbohydrates (or 58 percent of calories are carbs, 52 percent of the calories are protein). I know I’ve got you nervous about non-fat yogurt. Let’s look.
Ingredients: Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk, Pectin, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D, Contains Live and Active Cultures (S. Thermophiles, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, B. Bifidus, and L. Casei).
The reality: This another uncomplicated ingredient list. You will notice the second ingredient is pectin, a thickening agent. I suspect it is used because with no fat, the product consistency would have been more like liquid. Eaten plain, most people would find this an unappetizing choice. However, add 1/8-cup of chopped walnuts and a dash of cinnamon, not only does it become more satisfying, it also becomes a good fat-burning choice at 41 percent of calories coming from fat, 25 percent from protein and 34 percent carbs.