Australians love their yoghurt: for breakfast, as a quick snack, or added into dressings and sauces -- with the average person eating around seven kilograms each year.
And there’s a good reason for its popularity.
"Yoghurt is a dairy food and is a really nutritious food -- providing us with calcium for strong bones and teeth, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, riboflavin, Vitamin B12 and zinc," accredited practising dietitian Sanchia Parker told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Ideally we should be having between 2.5-4 serves of dairy food a day (depending on age, gender and activity level), and yoghurt is a convenient and healthy food to reach these guidelines," Parker said.
"Even better if you are able to find yoghurt that contains probiotics."
“Probiotics contain live bacteria that have a beneficial effect on the healthy bacteria living in the digestive system, helping to maintain a healthy gut,” Parker said.
But with so many varieties, it’s easy to get confused about what’s what and, importantly, if some yogurts are better for us than others -- and why.
“Greek yoghurt is a thicker, creamier type of yoghurt, made by removing the liquid (whey) part of the yoghurt,” Parker said.
“This can result in higher amounts of protein, but also higher amounts of fat, so opt for a low-fat one where possible.”
“Natural yoghurt is simply yoghurt with no sweeteners or flavourings added,” Parker said.
“This is yoghurt that has been flavoured with sugar, flavourings, fruit etc,” Parker said.
“The ingredients used to make the yoghurt (i.e milk and cultures) are added directly to the pot where it sets,” Parker said.
“This negates the need to add thickeners or stabilisers to the yoghurt.”
It's a point to note there is not really a difference nutritionally between pot set and regular yoghurt.
"It's just a different method of making it," Parker said. "The makers of pot set yoghurt claim it's healthier as it's made without flavourings, thickeners, stabilisers and so on, but then plenty of other yoghurt brands are made without these things, too."
"Frozen yoghurt is not as good an option because it's generally higher in sugar (and fat, depending on the brand), plus the frozen yoghurts are more likely to contain flavouring and colouring that generally don't appear in yoghurt," Parker said.
"While yoghurt is a healthy choice, frozen yoghurt is considered more of a treat food."
“This is made by mixing coconut cream or milk, with thickeners and some sweeteners to mimic the texture of yoghurt,” Parker said.
“However, the nutrition is vastly different from a typical yoghurt as it contains no calcium, is low in protein and very high in fat.”
When we pick a yoghurt there a few things we need to watch out for:
1. The fat content
“Ideally we want less than three grams of fat per 100 grams,” Parker told HuffPost Australia.
“The main type of fat in dairy is saturated fat, which is something we want to have less of as it can lead to increased cholesterol. So opting for low-fat dairy is a good way to minimise saturated fat and excess kilojoules in our diet,” Parker said.
2. The sugar content
When shopping for yogurt, Parker advises to aim for less than 15 grams per 100 grams.
“Some people are concerned about the sugar content in low fat yoghurts -- in which case, they can opt for low-fat natural or Greek yoghurt which don't have any sugar added to them,” Parker said.
“Then they can add berries or honey to sweeten if they wish -- and control how much sugar they are having.”
3. The dairy alternatives
“While coconut and almond yoghurt might work for those who are vegan or lactose-free -- they need to be aware that just because the products are called 'yoghurt', nutritionally they are not the same,” Parker said.
“Yoghurts are a good source of calcium and dairy, but coconut and almond yoghurt do not contain calcium naturally (unless it's added, and only some products will add it), and both are low in protein -- an average of less than two grams per 100 grams of protein, while dairy yoghurt averages five grams per 100 grams."
Parker’s top ticks:
1. Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt Plain
“It has the highest protein content of all the yoghurts I compared, making it a great option to help with satiety (that is, feeling full),” Parker said. “Higher protein foods are good for turning off the hunger switch.”
“Plus, it's low in fat, low in saturated fat, low in sugar and contains calcium -- it's a fantastic option.”
2. Chobani 2% Greek Yogurt Plain
“For those who can’t quite face a zero percent fat yoghurt, this might be a better alternative,” Parker said.
“It still has a fantastic nutritional profile boasting 9.2 grams of protein per 100 grams, while still being low in fat, saturated and sugar.”
3. Nestle Ski Soleil range (vanilla/peach and mango/berry and passionfruit)
“Again, they are very low in fat and saturated fat, plus they are lower in sugar than other flavoured low fat yoghurts,” Parker said.
“They also contain probiotics.”
Parker's worst picks:
1. Alpine Coconut Milk Yoghurt
“It’s very high in fat and saturated fat (16.2 grams per 100 grams of fat, and 11.5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams),” Parker said.
“Also the yoghurt is sold in tubs of 200 grams, so might be hard to just limit yourself to half -- meaning the potential to eat the whole tub in one go could double those numbers."
"This yoghurt also contains no calcium and is very low in protein (1.9 grams per 100 grams)," Parker said.
“Same as above -- anything over 10 grams fat per 100 grams is considered high -- this yoghurt contains 22 grams per 100 grams -- most of which is saturated fat!” Parker said.
“It’s also low in protein (two grams per 100 grams) and contains no calcium -- although it does have probiotics.
3. Jalna Greek Yogurt Natural
“While this is low in sugar, unfortunately it contains 10 grams of fat per 100 grams, of which a huge 7.1 grams is saturated,” Parker said.
“It also had one of the lowest amounts of protein of all the yoghurts I compared, and while it does contain calcium, it’s not as much as some of the other brands.”
If you are vegan or lactose intolerant, Parker recommends choosing soy yoghurt over coconut yoghurt.
“If people are after a dairy-free yoghurt, a better option is Soy Life range as it’s lower in fat,” Parker said.
“Or if sugar content is a concern, then Kingland Plain Soy Yoghurt is a great choice as it’s low in saturated fat and low in sugar.”
If you usually have yoghurt with your muesli or just plain, your mind is about to be blown by these delicious ideas.
“I freeze a lemon Chobani for a couple of hours before eating it and it has the taste and consistency of a lemon cheesecake,” Parker said.
HEALTHY LEMON CHEESECAKE, people.
“I also mix up low fat Greek yoghurt with honey and cocoa powder and freeze for a couple of hours -- it’s the most delicious, chocolatey, creamy dessert,” Parker said. “I normally sprinkle over some nuts for crunch as well.”
Aside from mouthwatering desserts, yoghurt is also a great addition to breakfast oats.
“My go-to breakfast option is mixing up a batch of bircher muesli on Sunday night with a mix of milk, oats, nuts, seeds, chia, fruit (basically anything that’s in the pantry) and dolloping on some low-fat yoghurt before eating,” Parker said.
For savoury options try swapping sour cream for low fat yoghurt in Mexican dishes, or low-fat yoghurt with a squeeze of lemon, grated garlic and pinch of salt as a quick dip.
Five yoghurts with the lowest sugar content per 100 grams
- Alpine Coconut Milk Yoghurt -- 2.9 grams
- Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt Plain -- 3.8 grams
- Nestle Ski Soleil Vanilla Yoghurt -- 3.8 grams
- Nestle Ski Soleil Mixed Berry Yoghurt -- 4.2 grams
- Nestle Ski Soleil Passionfruit Yoghurt -- 4.3 grams
Five yoghurts with the lowest total fat content per 100 grams
- Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt Plain -- zero grams
- Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt Blueberry -- zero grams
- Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt Raspberry -- zero grams
- Nestle Ski Soleil Vanilla Yoghurt -- 0.1 grams
- Nestle Ski Soleil Peach And Mango Yoghurt -- 0.1 grams
Five yoghurts with the high protein content per 100 grams
- Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt Plain -- 10.2 grams
- Chobani 2% Greek Yogurt Coconut -- 8.3 grams
- Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt Blueberry -- 8.3 grams
- Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt Raspberry -- 8.3 grams
- Chobani 2% Greek Yogurt Passionfruit -- 8.1 grams