Originally Published: January 9, 2018. Last updated: May 15, 2019.
Picking out a yogurt is overwhelming. So I’m here to help. I scoured four different grocery stores and took pictures of what was actually on the shelves so I could review relevant brands. First, I’ll let in you in on what I’m looking for when I pick up a yogurt. Then I’ll give you my reviews for 15 commonly found yogurts.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to choose a healthy yogurt in 3 easy steps:
- 2 Category 1: You Could Do Better
- 3 Category 2: Good Yogurt Choices
- 4 Category 3: Best Yogurt Choices
- 4.1 1. Best Traditional Yogurt: Stonyfield Organic 100% Grassfed
- 4.2 2. Best Greek/Skyr Nonfat Plain Yogurt: Siggi’s 0% Milkfat Plain
- 4.3 3. Best Greek/Skyr Full-fat Plain Yogurt: Siggi’s 4% Milkfat Plain
- 4.4 4. Best Flavored Yogurt: Siggi’s No Added Sugar
- 4.5 5. Best Sweetened Yogurt: Siggi’s 4% Milkfat Touch of Honey
- 4.6 6. Best Flavored and Sweetened Greek/Skyr Yogurt: Siggi’s 0%, 2% or 4%
- 4.7 Success!
How to choose a healthy yogurt in 3 easy steps:
1. Find the list of probiotics (optimally 3+ strains)
2. Look for a short ingredient list
3. Check the protein content (optimally >10g)
I Let’s dive into each of these a little deeper.
When you first pick a yogurt up off the shelf, turn it around. If it doesn’t say “Contains live active cultures” consider putting it back. If it does have that statement, look a little closer for the actual strains of probiotics in there. All yogurts are made with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus because those are the standardized strains used to ferment milk into yogurt.
Some brands add even more cultures, which I like. I don’t take a probiotic supplement; instead, I try to eat a variety of fermented foods on the reg. So I always try to choose a yogurt with a few different strains, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis as these have been shown to provide several health benefits, such as strengthening the immune system, decreasing inflammation, improving cholesterol, helping you digest lactose, and you know it…keeping you regular. 🙂
Note: If a yogurt product has been heat-treated after culturing, those good little bugs are probably dead. So your yogurt-covered raisins and pretzels are a fun sweet treat…but they do not give you the same probiotic benefits as refrigerated yogurt.
Many yogurts are chock full of thickeners, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and sometimes food dye. On the ingredient list, I look for milk, the active cultures, and then I’m pretty careful about what else I let slide in there.
My preference is getting a big container of plain unsweetened, unflavored yogurt and jazzing it up with whole foods at home. That way I can use it as a substitute for sour cream and mayo as well!
This one is fairly easy to navigate. If you stick to Greek yogurt or Icelandic skyr you are going to get much more protein. These yogurts are more concentrated because they have been strained more times than the typical yogurt. If you’re not a huge fan of the thicker yogurts, maybe give it another go with one of the brands I recommend below and a yummy topping. If you just can’t tolerate it, then a regular yogurt will do just fine.
Alright…on to the investigation!
I divided the yogurts into three categories:
I’m only listing ~5 per category in this post, but I reviewed several more yogurts than that in my yogurt comparison chart, so be sure to enter your email at the bottom of the post to get it for free!
Category 1: You Could Do Better
1. Kroger Carbmaster
Where do I begin? First off, please note this product calls itself a “cultured dairy blend,” not yogurt. It is lactose free, but not dairy free because it contains milk proteins. So, this means it’s fine for those with lactose intolerance but NOT for those with a dairy allergy.
It also says it is blackberry flavor, with “other natural flavors.” Did you know the word “natural” on food packaging is not defined or regulated by the FDA? It means diddly squat.
Next, it’s got all kinds of thickeners and fillers in there…modified corn starch, pectin, agar. There are several yogurt brands without these ingredients, so you might as well avoid them if you can!
We can also see it’s artificially sweetened with sucralose (same thing as Splenda) and acesulfame potassium (same thing as Sunett and Sweet One). Artificial sweeteners will have to be a topic for another post, but I recommend keeping a wide berth.
Next up, food coloring! Due to the fact that most foods in the European Union that contain dye come with warning labels and some research studies have findings that suggest negative effects on health, I personally try to avoid these.
The one thing this cultured dairy blend has going for it is that while it doesn’t say LIVE cultures, it does have the seal of approval from the National Yogurt Association. So the cultures are in fact live.
I would also recommend putting Kroger brand regular and Greek yogurt back on the shelf, as you will see in my Yogurt Comparison download.
2. Yoplait Light
This is a normal lactose-containing yogurt made from milk, but it still has added thickeners and stabilizers (modified corn starch, gelatin). It is sweetened with real sugar as well as artificial sweeteners (sucralose, acesulfame potassium). It does have one extra probiotic in there than the required two. However, you can do better.
3. Dannon Oikos Triple Zero
I can’t tell you how many people have been misled by the name of this diet yogurt. The name makes people think it’s a “free” food. It still has calories. It still has sugar (naturally from the lactose). And though it says it has zero artificial sweeteners, it has stevia, a nonnutritive (noncaloric) sweetener. There is a lot of conflicting evidence out there regarding all nonnutritive sweeteners, including the “non-artificial” ones. At this time, I recommend avoiding them if possible.
In addition, this yogurt has added chicory root fiber for 6g fiber (psst…yogurt doesn’t normally contain fiber). Just beware…this might have the same effect on your *ahem* bowel regimen as a FiberOne bar.
4. Chobani Flip
Yeah yeah I know you probably can’t read the ingredients…because there are so dang many of them!! The pros here are that it doesn’t have any artificial sweeteners and contains a whopping 5 strains of probiotics. The con is that it also has 19g sugar. This is a great probiotic dessert, but probably not the best choice for your everyday yogurt.
Yes, I know this will shock many of you. I would put Activia back on the shelf. Its claim to fame is that it contains Bifidobacterium lactis, which is a very beneficial probiotic. Well, so do the yogurts in my Best Yogurt Choices category…but they don’t come with several processed thickeners and mysterious “natural flavors.” Not to mention the protein content in this yogurt is abysmal at 4g.
Category 2: Good Yogurt Choices
These next yogurts are just fine, but each has at least one category in which they don’t excel. Some are high in sugar, some are low in protein, many contain added thickeners. Choose them if they fit your taste or budget better than those in the Best Yogurt Choices category.
1. Simple Truth Greek Nonfat
I think it’s time for me to discuss full-fat vs. low-fat vs. nonfat dairy. Ideally, we would consume full-fat dairy as one of our few saturated fat sources. The rest would come from other saturated-fat-containing whole foods, such as red meat, butter, avocados, nuts and seeds, etc. A full-fat dairy will not only keep you full longer, but also be more satisfying, won’t have need of added thickeners, and probably taste better. However, the typical American diet is extremely high in saturated fat. So if you’re honest with yourself about how much saturated fat you are currently eating and find that you probably already get a substantial amount, I would recommend choosing a nonfat or low-fat yogurt for now. The exception to this would be if you are a woman who is trying to conceive, pregnant, or nursing, as full-fat dairy can be very restorative for the reproductive system.
Anyhow, this yogurt is nonfat and thus has need for corn starch. It also has ambiguous “natural flavors” and I don’t love that it doesn’t list the cultures it contains.
2. 365 Fat-free
This nonfat yogurt contains SIX probiotic cultures! It is not a Greek or skyr yogurt, so it only has 6g protein. It is presweetened, flavored, and thickened, but I would definitely recommend it if you like the taste and rely on yogurt primarily for the probiotics rather than its protein content.
3. Chobani Nonfat
Just look at it…one ingredient! With 5 probiotics, this yogurt is a good nonfat choice. The only reason it is not in the Best Yogurt Choices category is that I found another yogurt with a higher protein content per ounce. The flavored and sweetened yogurts that Chobani offers are also very respectable choices.
4. Brown Cow
For those of you who are looking for a full-fat dairy, but don’t care for the thicker Greek yogurts and don’t want to sweeten/flavor your yogurt yourself, this is a good choice.
Category 3: Best Yogurt Choices
1. Best Traditional Yogurt: Stonyfield Organic 100% Grassfed
The only other ingredient in this yogurt besides milk is pectin, which in my opinion is the best thickener out there. AND it has 6 probiotics…including bifidus. Their flavored and sweetened grassfed yogurts are also winners in my book. Not to mention it is organic and from grassfed cows!
2. Best Greek/Skyr Nonfat Plain Yogurt: Siggi’s 0% Milkfat Plain
Milk + 5 probiotics. Winning! If you’ve been looking for a good nonfat high protein yogurt, search no more!
3. Best Greek/Skyr Full-fat Plain Yogurt: Siggi’s 4% Milkfat Plain
If you were wondering, this is what I get. Best choice for full-fat, high protein yogurt. And look at the label! Remember how I told you Activia’s Bifidobacterium lactis could be found elsewhere? There it is under its codename: B. lactis.
4. Best Flavored Yogurt: Siggi’s No Added Sugar
I’m usually wary of products that say “no added sugar,” because that usually means it is artificially sweetened. However, this is sweetened only with bananas! I loved it, as well as the Peach & Mango flavor.
5. Best Sweetened Yogurt: Siggi’s 4% Milkfat Touch of Honey
I love these big tubs because they make better yogurts so much much affordable! Siggi’s is also one of my favorite brands, so I was delighted to find this version called “Touch of Honey.” They lightly sweeten it with organic honey, bringing the sugar content to 16g per 8 oz, which is still lower than most other sweetened yogurts. I find it to be quite sweet enough! If you often sweeten your yogurt yourself with honey or maple syrup and wonder if you’re adding more sugar than would be in the packaged sweetened yogurts, this yogurt is for you! The only reason I don’t buy this yogurt all the time is that I often use plain yogurt for sour cream and mayo.
6. Best Flavored and Sweetened Greek/Skyr Yogurt: Siggi’s 0%, 2% or 4%
These yogurts are sweetened with real sugar, thickened with fruit pectin, contain 5 probiotics, and come in all kinds of flavors from real food. If you want the convenience of a pre-flavored/sweetened yogurt that is high in protein and Siggi’s No Added Sugar isn’t sweet enough for you, then this is the yogurt for you! It comes in three levels of fat content, so if you aren’t quite ready to hop on the full-fat dairy train, you can choose the 2%.
I hope you learned something and will feel more confident approaching the yogurt section at your next grocery trip. Remember, I’m not trying to demonize certain brands or companies or saying you’re a “bad person” if you enjoy one of the yogurts I gave a low rating. I’m simply trying to help you decipher nutrition labels and be better able to make a fully informed decision about what you eat and what you feed your family!
If there’s a food you’d like me to review in a future blog post (protein bars, canned soup, frozen meals, etc), leave a comment below!
(Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.)