Say yogurt, and most people think healthy. Yet many flavored yogurts are loaded with sugar. Learn how to enjoy yougurt without all the empty calories.
Refined and added sugars are bad for you. No surprise here, right? But did you realize that your favorite flavored yogurt may have as much as 25-30 grams of simple sugars per serving. That’s the equivalent of 7 tsp of table sugar. Now let’s put that into perspective. According to the nutritional calculator found on DairyQueen’s official site, a small, soft-serve vanilla cone has 26 grams of sugar. No wonder flavored yogurt tastes so good.
So what’s a yogurt lover to do?
Luckily, you don’t have to give up yogurt. Yet, if you are trying to eliminate excess sugar in your diet, you will need to make better choices when deciding what to purchase at the store. This requires learning how to read nutritional labels. A breakdown of nutrient content by serving size can be found on the product label.
To find the grams of sugar per serving, look under the “Total Carbohydrates” section. When buying yogurt, choose the products with the least amount of sugar. Keep in mind that a teaspoon of table sugar is about 4 grams. This will give you some perspective when analyzing these numbers. And since breakdowns reflect a “serving size”, don’t forget to factor that into your calculations.
In general, plain yogurt has significantly less sugar than its flavored counterparts, though like milk, even plain yogurt has some natural sugars. Just be sure to check the ingredients listed on the container to verify that no sugar has been added. Also remember that sugar is often disguised under fancy names like high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose and dextrose.
Now, if you are already puckering at the idea of eating tart, plain yogurt, consider making the switch slowly. Try mixing flavored varieties with plain at first then gradually decrease the amount of the flavored kind added. Chances are, after a few weeks, you will wonder how you ate the super sweet varieties.
For a dash of natural sweetness, you can add some fresh fruit. The natural, wholesome sweetness of a fruit’s juices will help to balance the plain yogurt’s tartness, while its nutrient dense flesh will boost your nutrient intake. On the other hand, be wary of adding other natural alternatives like honey, molasses and agave nectar.
Though these other options may have some health advantages over refined sugar, they are still relatively empty calories and should be used sparingly. Of course, if you do choose to use a sugar alternative, at least you will control how much is added. Also beware of sugar substitutes like aspartame and sorbitol. While it is true that these products don’t add significant calories to your diet, they also don’t help to recalibrate your taste buds, which is a benefit of going sugar-free.
Finally, consider adding spices and extracts like vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice to enhance the yogurt’s flavor. Research is showing that many spices and extracts are packed with things that are good us. In fact, according to a recent study reported in the J Diabetes Sci Tech 2010 May 1 issue, a spice like cinnamon “may be important in the alleviation and prevention of signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular and related diseases.”
So take heart, if you are a yogurt lover, there are lots of ways to enjoy the benefits of yogurt without getting a ton of unwanted sugar.