How Much Sugar Does Your Yogurt Have?

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We are a yogurt household. We drink it, eat it, slurp it and devour it…sometimes my kids will eat 2 bowls a day.  I never thought to consider its sugar content until recently.   Our tiny refrigerator is stocked with yogurt: Stonyfield Fat Free, Chobani, Ronnybrook drinkable yogurt, Trader Joe’s squishers and YoBaby too. We love the drinkable yogurts because they are especially fast, easy and portable. What we didn’t realize is that so many of these prepackaged yogurts are hopped up on sugar.

I started delving into the yogurt and sugar question while reading “What To Eat” by Marion Nestle. Nestle has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation (the food world’s highest honor) and she teaches nutrition at NYU.  Here is what she says on the subject:

A comparison between yogurts with sugar calories:

“Sugars constitute 55 percent of the 80 calories in Go-Gurt (Yoplait’s “kid-friendly slurpable yogurt in a tube”), 67 percent of the 90 calories in Danimals Drinkable (Danon’s version of kid yogurt) and 68 percent of the 170 calories in Danimals XL. Even in Stonyfield’s YoBaby organic yogurts, marketed for infants and toddlers, 53 percent of the 120 calories come from added sugars.  Some of Stonyfield’s yogurts for older kids appear berry-flavored, but they have no fruit at all; their sweetness comes from juice concentrate and sugars, of course, and their color comes from beet juice.  Stonyfield may be organic, but it is Big Yogurt: Group Danone (Danon Yogurt) owns 85 percent of the company.

My comparison:

I wanted to take a closer look at some of the yogurts in our refrigerator.
•••••(For calculations: 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar.) These are all measured in 6 oz servings for our purposes.

Popular Kids’ Yogurts:

YoBaby has 22 grams of sugar. 8 teaspoons of sugar. Not totally surprising, I thought it had a lot of sugar- have you tasted one of these delicious drinks?!
Ronnybrook : I just assumed that Ronnybrook, a smaller dairy farm, relied on the quality of their buttermilk for the great taste. Nope. Ronnybrook has 25 grams of sugar.  6 teaspoons of sugar. Their plain flavor just has 12 grams of sugar.
Trader Joes’ Organic Lowfat Yogurt Squishers: There is no high fructose corn syrup in these so I thought they would fare well. They turned out to be the worst! These have 36 grams of sugar. That’s a whopping 9 teaspoons of sugar!

The Greek yogurts:

Chobani 0% Greek Style Yogurt: Chobani has 19 grams of sugar. That’s just about 5 teaspoons of sugar.
Oikos 0% Greek Yogurt: Part of the Dannon Group that also sells Stonyfield yogurts. 16 grams of sugar. 4 teaspoons of sugar.
Trader Joe’s Greek Style Nonfat Plain Yogurt: 6 grams of sugar. 1.5 teaspoons of sugar. The clear winner in my fridge!

So, what to buy?

Registered dietician Keri Glassman, a Women’s Health magazine contributor, offers some advice. This is information taken from her appearance on CBS “The Early Show.”

  • Look for yogurt with as close to 12 grams per 6-oz. serving as possible. (Greek yogurt will have even less!) This is the amount of natural sugar found in yogurt from the lactose.
  • Note: if there is fruit added to the yogurt the sugar content will be higher. Look to see where the sugar grams are coming from. For example, real fruit versus refined sugar like high fructose corn syrup.
  • Non-fat plain yogurt (Stonyfield Farms)
  • Greek yogurt: (Oiko’s, Fage)
  • Strained yogurt with the whey removed. Thicker, richer than regular yogurt. Usually higher in protein and lower in sugar. Still look for low fat/fat free versions with little added sugar!
  • Skyr: Islandic cultured dairy product. Technically a soft cheese, but is similar to Greek yogurt. Today’s Skyr is made with pasteurized skim milk, rennet, and the same live, active cultures as yogurt, then strained similarly to Greek yogurt
  • Kefir:  Fermented milk drink that may contain many varied strains of bacteria and yeast. Look for the same label items that you would in yogurt (low fat/fat free, low sugar). If you do not like plain, flavor it up on your own to control amount and type of sugar.

What can you add to make plain yogurt taste better?

  • Fruit. I buy frozen organic fruit and then thaw it out in the fridge for the week. The melted juice tastes great in the yogurt too.
  • Whole grain cereal- museli is a personal favorite of mine.
  • Agave syrup.
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts.
  • Cinnamon.

Do you have suggestions for yogurts you like with less sugar or methods of reducing the sugar in your yogurt?

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  1. Agree with most of your advice in regard to reducing sugar content. However, you recommend agave syrup. Research suggests that agave syrup is just as bad if not worse than high fructose corn syrup due to the method of processing and its structure. It may not be absorbed like glucose, but does more to the liver and may contribute to fatty liver and elevated triglycerides. I would just question why you would suggest agave?? For an individual who is not insulin resistant or suffer with metabolic syndrome and would like to added a drizzle of sweetness, I would recommend either real fruit or honey as it may be a simple sugar, but does posses several nutritional components, even acts as an anti microbial! Please comment!

  2. after trying all the “normal” breakfast items and many on the eclectic side, DD announced that she “loved” those things, so i immediately — the next time i was at TJs — got the lowfat organic cherry & berry squishers. i haven’t tasted it myself, but she really went for it: one as a snack yesterday and one for breakfast today. i think we’ll get through this box and then maybe try some other, less-sugary TJ options. do you recommend anything similar from there? (i also prefer to go there for anything.)

    by the way, i realized that i was not considering a serving size as 6 ozs., and that TJs says there are 9g sugar in a TWO-oz. serving (one tube); that was my mistake. anyway we only give her one tube at a time; we’ll just have to stick to that i guess! breakfast is a real struggle in our household, so anything that helps in that department is good.

    thanks for all the info!

  3. So, what have you decided to do for brand? I have to admit I still give my kids the TJ Squishers- that’s where I shop and they love them. Otherwise, we go greek!

    is where i was looking (trader joe’s organic low fat squishers)…

    these have gotten the thumbs up, and now i know why! thanks.

  5. ugh. but i do have a question. according to the trader joe’s web site, a serving of the squishers has 9g of sugar. what am i missing here (i know how to read, but i don’t claim to understand these nutrition panels beyond that!)? we are desperately seeking breakfast options in our house! thank you!

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