As a nutrition coach, I take note of what my clients are eating, so that we can work together to improve their health through better food choices. I’m not exaggerating when I say nearly everyone with whom I work proudly states that they start their day off with a Greek yogurt and granola. Greek yogurt is all the rage right now. People don’t even mispronounce Fage (fa-yeh) as “Fag-ey” anymore. It just rolls off the average Joe’s tongue like his birth name is Iosif . Anyone who hasn’t been under a rock for the last five years has probably hopped aboard the Greek yogurt train.
Greek yogurt has earned its street-cred fair and square. It is far superior to regular yogurt in that it has a pretty righteous protein content. Half a cup of Greek yogurt packs in about 12 grams of protein, whereas your standard yogurt only has a couple grams.
In addition to its high protein content, it is packed with calcium, loaded with probiotics for healthy digestion, and makes for a quick breakfast on the go.
Don’t worry though. This is ‘Merica. We can take that health food and make it junk. Sure enough, as the Greek yogurt market began to take off, big food companies, in an attempt to still be the popular girl, did just that.
Nowadays, you better know what to look for in that dairy aisle, or you could find yourself knee-deep in a Yoplait cherry chemical whip.
Let’s start with the lowest-hanging fruit, shall we? Sugar…you dirty bastard. Packaged yogurts now come in like 2-bazillion flavors (I’m pretty sure that’s a real statistic). You can have anything from mixed berry to caramel apple. Unless you are buying plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt, chances are you are eating upwards of 20 grams of sugar in your tiny serving of yogurt. Here is a breakdown of nutrition information for some of the most common Greek yogurts you will find on the shelf.
Let’s take a look at vanilla flavored Activia Greek Yogurt…sounds healthy enough, doesn’t it? It isn’t fancy. Just your simple vanilla Greek yogurt option. But this measly 5.3 oz cup has 21 grams of sugar in it. Let me put that in perspective for you. Half a cup, or 4 ounces, of Breyers vanilla ice cream has 14 grams of sugar. There are 19 grams of sugar in a glazed donut from Dunkin Donuts. A McDonalds McGriddle sandwich (gross!) has 15 grams of sugar.
“Um, but it has probiotics,” you say defensively. Probiotics don’t ward off diabetes, people. I’m just keeping it real.
I’ll give you this, Greek yogurt has protein and is low in fat, whereas a donut has nearly no protein and tons of fat, but still, with a sugar content like that, your breakfast is setting you up for a day of sugar crashes. Even the Greek-only yogurt names like Fage and Chobani have sugar-filled yogurts, with their new fancy branding like the Fage Crossover or the Chobani Flip. I mean, really…why?
Next up. Chemicals. Many of the bigger-box companies, like Yoplait and Dannon, leached on the backs of the Greek yogurt movement and obliterated the health benefits of this uniquely strained yogurt by adding a variety of unnatural ingredients.
I swear I can see their new products meeting—a group of company big-wigs sitting at the table.
“Greek is where we need to be, sir. Market shares have risen 2500% in the last four years.”
“How do you propose we do that, Brian?”
“We make it Greek strained, but add sugar, and fake sugar, and naturally unnatural flavors. We mustn’t forget the chemicals. It will be irresistible. Consumers will love it. Shelf life will outlive the human race.”
They laughed with evil delight as they discussed how to make it with lower quality milk and an expedited fermentation process.
But seriously, take Dannon’s Light & Fit Greek vanilla yogurt. Side note: anything that brands itself as “Light and Fit” will make you “Fat and Frumpy”. This Greek yogurt variety is packed with artificial coloring, fake sugar, modified corn starch, fructose, and a bunch of other words I can’t pronounce. I do have to give credit where credit is due, and Dannon, overall, is seemingly making a push for more natural ingredients and less sugar in their Greek yogurt brand, Oikos. The company is pushing the slogan: Bring Natural Back. I’m wondering where natural went in the first place. Perhaps this shift in product is because the market is demanding more healthful ingredients and whole foods! Go us.
It is Yoplait with the real balls though. They took Greek yogurt and turned it into a whip. A freaking whip. The whole point of Greek yogurt is to enjoy its thick, protein-rich texture. Check out the ingredients in this monstrosity. With more ingredients than I can list and mostly words that I can’t pronounce, I think it is pretty safe to say the only whip you should enjoy is the one that goes
with the nae-nae.
Here’s my two cents: Eating plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt can be super beneficial to your health. Skip all the foofy crap in obnoxious packaging, and chose plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt. My favorite brand is the Organic Wallaby Greek Yogurt. This yogurt is organic, which can be hard to find, has 23 grams of protein in one cup and 6 grams of sugar, and doesn’t have any sneaky ingredients. Make your yogurt sexier by adding a few drops of stevia, cinnamon, honey (sparingly), or real fruit (yes, fruit that you, yourself chopped). Get creative. You can use it in place of sour cream. Add it to your muffins for a moistness. Make it the base of a smoothie. I used it the other day to make a delicious alfredo sauce. It is so versatile and wonderful. Don’t let big food companies try to sell you the processed crap in fancy packaging. Greek yogurt is already sexy all on her own. She always has been.
Just for fun, check out this article from the Huffington post: Yogurts with More Sugar Than A Twinkie.