Most people think of yogurt as a slimming food, and rightfully so. It's rich, creamy, satisfying, and three of its key components - protein, calcium and probiotic bacteria - have been linked to weight control. But when you're standing in the store staring at an entire wall of options, it can be a little intimidating. Which one should you pick? Here's my advice for how to zero in on the healthiest container:
First, look for nonfat or 0% yogurt, which is made with skim milk. That means all of the saturated fat and most of the cholesterol has been skimmed off, but all the protein and calcium are still there.
Don't be afraid of sugar - when a cow is milked, each cup naturally contains about 13 grams of sugar. When milk is made into yogurt, some of that is removed, but even when no sugar has been added in, a 6 oz container will still contain between 6 - 9 grams. It's natural sugar, combined with protein, so it won't wreck havoc with your blood sugar.
Go for plain. It's so much more versatile. You can sweeten it yourself with a small amount honey or maple syrup - which means you can control the amount - or skip the sweetener and add your own fruit. You can also add garlic and herbs or mix in salsa and use a dip or healthy topping.
Look for live active cultures. These good bacteria have been shown to help keep your digestive system healthy, boost your immune system and some research shows they may help control your weight.
And finally, go organic if you can. Organic yogurt is made from hormone and antibiotic free cows fed a pesticide free diet and organic dairy has been shown to contain significant amounts of antioxidants. I think it's worth the extra money. If you love Greek yogurt (which is thicker and packs more protein than conventional due to the straining method), Stonyfield Farm makes one called Oikos. The Organic Greek Plain 0% Fat variety has 80 calories, no fat and 15 grams of protein per single serving container. Other brands that make non-fat organic plain varieties include Nancy's and Wallaby.
If you don't do dairy, choose yogurt made from organic soy milk, coconut milk (like Turtle Mountain So Delicious plain coconut milk yogurt) or another non-dairy alternative. Just be sure to check the ingredient list. Like conventional yogurt, some are loaded with sugars and additives and others are pure and natural. (Please note: I have no affiliation with any of the brands mentioned.)
Are you a yogurt fan? How do you choose which one goes in your cart? How do you feel about plain? Please share!