Wait, why can’t I just eat the pre-flavored yogurt varieties?
By definition, all Greek yogurt is healthy, right? Wrong. Let’s consider the ways in which FAGE plain Greek yogurt can become unhealthy…
The mysterious “fruit” cup
Each of the FAGE Total Split Cup yogurts contains at least 16g of added sugar. When pictured, they are always placed next to whole ingredients, but what’s really in that fruit compote mixture? The blueberry fruit cup contains the following: blueberries, cane sugar, water, corn starch, lemon juice concentrate, and natural flavor. You may have the best intentions of eating fruit with your yogurt, but now you’re also eating extra sugar and a whole host of other things, including some undefined “natural” flavor.
The honey cup
The ingredients in FAGE’s honey cup are less sneaky because the honey is just…honey! However, the sugar content of this “healthy” yogurt is a startling 29g. You know what contains less sugar than a FAGE Total Split Cup with Honey? A Butterfinger candy bar! Now, you may be thinking that pure honey is a healthier type of sugar than the Butterfinger’s combination of corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, and monoglycerides. And, according to some scientists and doctors, you’d be right. However, regardless of the quality of FAGE’s honey, the important note is this: Our bodies react to all types of sugar–even artificial sugar substitutes–in the same way, and too much of all types of sugar–even honey–can lead to serious health risks.
There are also debates about raw vs. processed honey; the honey on our grocery store shelves may be highly processed and less nutritious than raw honey. FAGE yogurt attaches the adjective “thick” to its honey, but it never claims that it’s raw.
So, a daily FAGE with honey is not a healthiest choice.
Other flavored yogurts
Aside from FAGE, there are obviously numerous yogurt brands on the market. When it comes to making a choice, my advice is this: Read the labels and make an informed decision. If the yogurt is either A) high in sugar or B) contains ingredients (likely preservatives) that you do not recognize and/or *cannot pronounce, it is not a healthy option. Unfortunately, every single pre-flavored yogurt I’ve ever inspected falls into the A, B, or A + B camp.
For example, Chobani Greek Key Lime yogurt is in the A + B camp; it contains 16g of sugar and ingredients like Locust Bean Gum and Fruit Pectin. However, it’s marketed on the Chobani website as having the following:
- Only natural ingredients that are not genetically modified (non-GMO)
- No artificial flavors or sweeteners
- No preservatives
- Made with milk from cows not treated with hormones like rBST
- Includes live & active cultures
- Three types of probiotics
- Gluten free
- Kosher certified
- Vegetarian friendly
- Less than 5% lactose
Do. Not. Be. Fooled. By. Marketing. Claims! Be a smart consumer; check the sugar content and the ingredient list of all yogurt products–and really, everything!–you eat.
*A note on the avoidance of “ingredients you cannot pronounce”: All of the healthy, plain, full-fat Greek yogurts contain live and active cultures like S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei. Even though we can’t pronounce these, they’re fine! Yogurt cultures are an exception to this rule.
The Solution: Buy Plain, Full-fat Greek Yogurt…and Flavor it Yourself!
Before we get to the flavoring part, let’s quickly tackle the “full-fat” piece because this idea goes directly against the low-fat craze that began in the 70s.
To summarize this US News & World Report article, you should buy full-fat yogurt (and other dairy products) for the following reasons:
- When food makers remove all–or even some–of the fat from a product, they add in more sugar to keep us hooked. When you buy full-fat dairy products, you’re automatically cutting back on your sugar consumption, which is truly the ultimate goal.
- Fat does not make us fat. Period.
- Full-fat dairy contains less lactose, so it can be easier for you to digest.
- Full-fat products are more satiating, so you’ll feel full for a longer amount of time.
Ideas for Flavoring Your Plain, Full-fat Greek Yogurt:
Trust me, I know…plain, full-fat Greek yogurt tastes like sour cream! Possibly, you enjoy that taste. If so, then knock yourself out and just eat it plain! However, if you’re like me and you’re not a huge fan of sour cream, the idea of eating plain yogurt gives you the heebie jeebies. I recommend that you jazz up your yogurt with one–or more than one!–of these healthful, flavorful suggestions:
- Sprinkle shredded coconut and/or almond shavings on top.
- Mix in a dollop of coconut and/or almond butter.
- Top it with a small handful of berries.
- Sprinkle some cinnamon on top.
- Finely chop up a piece of an 85%+ cacao dark chocolate bar and sprinkle the shavings on top.
- Make it savory by topping it with salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and some slices of avocado.
- Mix 2T of chia seeds and 1T of heavy cream into about 7oz of plain yogurt. Let the mixture sit at least 24 hours so that the chia seeds plump up a bit. Then, top it with any combination of the items listed above!
What’s your favorite sugar-free way to flavor your plain, full-fat Greek yogurt? Please share in the comments!
In each blog post, I aim to bring you food for thought (pun intended. Note: my day job is teaching English), but don’t take my word for it! Click on and read all of the links above to become your own expert on this topic; knowledge is power. The more you know and understand the “why” behind each biohack, the easier it will be to stick to it and realize you can’t live without it!
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