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Fat-Free Vs. Full-Fat Greek Yogurt: Which Is Better?

Q: "Is Greek yogurt good for you? I'm confused because some experts recommend non-fat Greek yogurt and others suggest the full-fat variety. Is one really better than the other?"

A: The major difference between full-fat Greek yogurt and fat-free Greek yogurt is the milk used during production: The full-fat version is made with whole milk, while nonfat Greek yogurt is made with skim milk. Nutritionally their fat content makes them very different, and while neither nonfat nor full-fat Greek yogurt is bad for you, there are situations when one is going to be a better choice than the other.

First, let’s look at the breakdown of Greek yogurt nutrition. Here's a nutritional comparison of 1 cup of Fage Total Classic, which is full-fat, and Fage 0%, which is nonfat.

 Total Classic0%
Calories220130
Total Fat110
Saturated Fat80
Total Carbohydrates99
Sugars99
Protein2023

As you can see, the 11 grams of total fat difference plays a significant role in the calories in Greek yogurt. If your diet consists of about 1,800 calories a day, then one cup of fat-free Greek yogurt is going to be an appropriate snack, but if you eat more calories (about  2,200 to 2,400 calories a day), full-fat Greek yogurt is better for you. 

So which is the best Greek yogurt? I like full-fat Greek yogurt as a standalone snack. It's well rounded nutritionally, with a hefty dose of protein and fat that will help you feel satiated, plus its creaminess makes it seems more indulgent than the nonfat Greek yogurt. You aren't limited to eating this healthy food for breakfast or as a mid-afternoon snack. Try these 10 Greek yogurt recipes you've probably never seen before, as well as unique, savory Greek yogurt recipes for something a little different. 

On the other hand, fat-free Greek yogurt allows you to be more versatile with toppings and still have a low-calorie snack. You can add some flaxseeds or chia seeds to your Greek yogurt, as well as fresh raspberries and your pick-me-up will still have less than 300 calories. (Here are even more ideas for some tasty low-calorie snacks for weight loss.)

You may be asking, 'but isn't saturated fat in Greek yogurt bad for you?' Since full-fat Greek yogurt is made with whole milk, it is going to have a higher saturated fat content. In the example above, 8 grams in one cup shouldn’t send your diet into a tailspin, as that figure will only make up approximately 3 to 4 percent of your total calories for the day. So even if you're following a low-saturated fat diet, you'll still have plenty of room (about another 4 to 5 percent) for additional calories from saturated fat from foods you eat through the rest of the day. 

The bottom line: Greek yogurt is an easy way to add more protein to your diet, so when it comes to fat-free vs. full-fat Greek yogurt, just choose the variety that fits your diet and satisfies your taste buds. 

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