A Guide to Yogurt

Between alluring flavors (Coconut Cream Pie!) and new textures, it's hard to determine if that calcium-rich snack is actually nutritious. Real Simple peeled, scooped, and got to the bottom of it.

  • Maureen Callahan

The Yo' Lowdown

The higher the amount of protein and the lower the sugar content, the more actual yogurt is in the carton and the healthier it's going to be. The smartest choice, of course, is the plain stuff. It contains fewer calories than the flavored varieties, with no added sugar. But what if you're inclined to go with the more exciting options on the shelves? In other words, what if you're human? Here's what you should know.


Whipped: Simultaneously rich and airy, this tastes more like a mousse than a healthy snack. As you probably guessed, the nutrition has been sacrificed to make way for the texture. With all the extra air that's pumped in, there's less room for yogurt in the container, which is obvious when you look at the net weight. Some whipped yogurts barely hold 3 ounces in a container, rather than the usual 6 or 8 ounces in traditional products. Less yogurt in the container means less protein and less calcium per bite. These varieties are also more likely to carry a high percentage of sugar and fat. Dannon's whipped vanilla yogurt, for instance, is made with whole milk and has a hefty dose of fat―5 grams in a tiny 2.6 ounces―rivaling that found in containers four times its size. Lower-calorie sounds like a bargain, yet most baby and kid yogurts deliver fewer calories and a smaller package with a lot less air and a lot more nutritious yogurt.

Low-carb: Some of the new low-carbohydrate "yogurts" aren't really yogurt at all. If the label reads "cultured dairy snack," that means the product is probably more water than milk. Sure, you'll be consuming fewer carbohydrates, but you'll also be consuming less calcium and protein. For comparable calories but greater nutritional value, choose light versions of the real thing.

Drinks: No spoon, no blender, no hassle. These are the benefits of the liquefied yogurts that have piggybacked on the popularity of smoothies. They're made by thinning down regular yogurt with water, milk, small amounts of fruit juice, or a combination of the three. You can expect convenience but also extra calories and carbohydrates without much more protein. Calcium levels tend to remain respectable, however: Most yogurt drinks provide 25 to 30 percent of the recommended daily value, about as much as a regular container of yogurt.

Kid tubes: They're portable, they don't require a spoon, and they come in small, kid-friendly portions. So how do they rate nutritionally? Ounce for ounce, most tube yogurts carry a bit more sugar and a bit less calcium than ordinary yogurts. Still, they're significantly ahead of soda and candy if you're looking for a nutritious on-the-go snack. Another positive feature: Tubes can be put in the freezer and disguised as ice pops.