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When we polled our readers on which food they wanted us to review next, yogurt was the winner (olive oil was a close second, and we will be reviewing that in the fall).
Finally, after more than a month of researching and testing yogurts, we can tell you who is Good, who is Bad, and who is Sneaky. We were surprised by the results of our research, and I think you will be too!
I had no idea what a big job reviewing yogurt would be! There are dozens of brands of “healthy” yogurt on the market, and within each brand there are a range of varieties, from Greek to drinkable “smoothies” to squeezy tubes marketed to kids.
And I didn’t even get into reviewing goat or sheep milk yogurts (although I will make a recommendation for each, below).
Here’s the video where we look at a bunch of these brands, and taste-test the vegan ones. You’ll be shocked to see which yogurt has the most sugar (hint: it’s the most popular “healthy” yogurt in the store!)!
Can Vegan Yogurts Be Good Stuff?
Because I know we have a large number of vegans in our readership, I did look at five vegan yogurts, which you’ll find reviewed under the Good, Okay, Bad, and Sneaky tabs.
In general, I try to follow a semi-vegan diet, but I’m also committed to not eating food-like substances. I prefer to eat real food that is grown, gathered, and cooked and not made in a lab.
I find it especially difficult when the “food” in question is imitating products made from animals (be it dairy or meat).
Unfortunately, all plant-based yogurt options have processed additives to give them the right consistency, and they all contain processed sugar (lactose in dairy is naturally sweet).
Best Vegan Yogurt
In addition to its low sugar content (just 5 grams per serving), we also thought Kite Hill was the tastiest of the vegan yogurts we tried.
What Exactly IS Yogurt and Should We Eat It?
First things first: Do you know what makes yogurt, yogurt? Yogurt is a cultured or fermented milk product that is soured and thickened by adding specific lactic acid-producing cultures to milk. (Btw: Sour cream is soured cream with a different group of cultures added).
Yogurt has been touted as a health food for as long as I can remember. Pediatricians often recommend yogurt as a good source of calcium for babies and kids. And indeed, if done right, yogurt can be full of probiotics, calcium, protein, and other healthful nutrients.
But yogurt can also have lots of sugar and other questionable ingredients, so like with most products, you have to know how to read a label when perusing the yogurt aisle in your grocery store.
Best Healthy Yogurt Overall
Maple Hill’s plain Greek yogurt is full of nutrients, low in sugars, and comes from milk from organic grass fed-cows. If you like a little more flavor, add a bit of maple syrup or fresh fruit.
Probiotics: All Yogurt Has Them!
While doing the research for this guide, I came across tons of articles that claimed that if yogurt is pasteurized, it won’t contain any live/active cultures. This is technically true, but doesn’t apply to any yogurt you’ll find in the United States, because the cultures are always added AFTER the milk is pasteurized.
I couldn’t find a single brand of yogurt that didn’t contain at least two live cultures (although some contain as many as five or six, which is obviously even better!).
All yogurt will have Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles, and in higher quality yogurt you may also see Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidus, and others.
The big deal with probiotics is that they help maintain the balance of bacteria needed to boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive tract. Healthy bacteria, such as the probiotics found in healthy yogurt, are your gut’s first line of defense. (By the way, yogurt isn’t the only place—and definitely not the best way–to get probiotics, but that’s a topic for another day!)
Best Flavored Healthy Yogurt
Wallaby “Purely Unsweetened” yogurts This new line of whole milk yogurts contain no sweeteners at all. Choose from blueberry, mixed berries, strawberry, or peach.
Wallaby has discontinued this line.
Is Greek Yogurt Healthier?
Greek-style yogurt is everywhere these days, and some of you probably think it’s much tastier than regular yogurt. But is it healthier? In a word: yes.
To make yogurt “Greek,” the whey is strained off (whey is the milk’s watery component after the milk has curdled). This is why Greek yogurt is denser and richer.
Here are the key differences between Greek and regular yogurt:
- Protein: Greek yogurt has almost double the protein of regular yogurt.
- Fat: Unless you’re eating the nonfat varieties, Greek yogurt has about three times the saturated fat of regular yogurt.
- Sodium: Greek yogurt contains about half the sodium of regular yogurt.
- Carbohydrates/Sugars: Greek yogurt contains roughly half the carbohydrates (sugar) of regular yogurt (since much of the lactose is strained off, and lactose is where the sweetness comes from), but remember that adding sweeteners to either one will increase the carbohydrate count.
What About Kefir?
Kefir is more than just “drinkable” yogurt; it has as many as three times as many probiotics as yogurt does, and up to 20 different kinds of cultures added. Of course, flavored kefir is full of sugar, so stick to plain (adding your own sweetener if you wish).
One to try: Maple Hill Creamery Plain Kefir
Goat & Sheep Milk Yogurt
There is good evidence that goat and sheep milk are both healthier for humans than is cow milk: they each have more protein and calcium as well as certain vitamins.
Some experts argue that goat or sheep milk products (including yogurts) are easier to digest and less likely to cause inflammation than cow milk products. (If you’re curious about goat milk baby formula, Maia wrote about that here).
One goat milk healthy yogurt to try:
Kabrita Goat Milk Yogurt Pouches. Even the fruit (and veggie!) flavors don’t contain sugar.
(Kabrita offers my readers 10% off with code GIMMEKABRITA)
One sheep milk healthy yogurt to try:
Black Sheep Yogurt from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. Just make sure to choose plain.
How to Shop for Healthy Yogurt: Organic, Grass-Fed, and Plain
When eating dairy products in particular, I believe that it’s super important for the products to be organic. Of almost equal importance is how the cow that produced the milk was fed—ideally, this will be what it evolved to eat. Look for “grass-fed” or “pastured” on your dairy products.
“Grass-fed” refers to what an animal eats (grass) and “pasture-raised” or “pastured” refers to where the animal eats (on a pasture).
Pasture-raised cows may have their food supplemented with grains, but at least they are eating some grass, which cannot be said for conventionally raised dairy cattle. Grass-fed cows produce yogurt richer in omega-3 fats and CLA (a cancer-fighting fatty acid named conjugated linoleic acid).
Is Low-Fat Yogurt Healthier?
When buying yogurt, you also will have to choose between full-fat, whole milk yogurt, low-fat yogurt, or nonfat yogurt. This is a personal choice and also depends on your philosophy on eating dairy fat.
Personally, I try to limit how much dairy I eat, and I find that I’m able to eat much less if I go for the full-fat version. When it comes to yogurt in particular, the full-fat is tastier and richer, and sometimes as little as a couple of tablespoons can be a satisfying snack.
I also find that low-fat and nonfat yogurts need sweetness to be satisfying, whereas I can enjoy plain whole milk yogurt. That said, low-fat and nonfat yogurt can be a perfectly healthful part of your diet, too.
For kids, I do think whole milk yogurt is the best way to go, unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise.
Best Baby/Kid Healthy Yogurt
Siggi’s Tubes of Icelandic yogurt contain less sugar than any other flavored yogurt that’s marketed to kids.
Bottom line: What to Look for in Healthy Yogurt
- Organic (it’ll have a higher nutrient value and no pesticide residue).
- 100% grass-fed. (Here is a website that can help you find local grass-fed dairies in your area.)
- Unsweetened plain (and then add your own natural sweetener if you like). Maia bought these and sometimes we make our own squeeze tubes, using plain yogurt and unsweetened jam.
- Greek-style yogurt is even better than regular, although regular plain yogurt can still be Good Stuff.
- The more active strains of cultures, the better (look for at least three).
- Get yogurt from non-homogenized milk if you can. Homogenization is the process that breaks down the fat in milk so that it doesn’t separate—so homogenized dairy products aren’t in their natural state.
- Ideally, you’ll avoid additional additives like gellan gum, xantham gum, and “natural flavors.” The best healthy yogurt will just contain dairy and probiotic cultures.
A Note About Stonyfield
Stonyfield makes dozens of different yogurts, and unfortunately I can’t slap a label as either Good Stuff or Sneaky Stuff on this brand as a whole. Some of Stonyfield’s are definitely Good Stuff, but others are waaayyy Sneaky.
The best Stonyfield: Stonyfield’s grass-fed, organic Greek plain yogurt is among the best of The Good Stuff. With just 7 grams of (naturally occurring) sugars, tons of protein and calcium, and seven probiotic strains, yogurt doesn’t get much more healthful than this one.
And now finally, without further ado, here is what I uncovered for Good, Okay, Bad, and Sneaky Stuff brands of yogurt.
If you’re enjoying this guide, to be alerted when we publish or update our Safe Product Guides.
To your health,
P.S. Are you interested in making your own yogurt? We have made our own in past years with success, but as I’ve gotten busier with grandkids and this business, I find I just don’t have the time! If you are interested in making your own yogurt, here is the recipe we’ve used.
46 responses to “Healthy Yogurt Guide”
I find Culina to be one of the best tasting organic vegan yogurts. I think it might qualify as a good stuff, and it’s available on the east coast. .
What about a probiotic vitamin? Any thoughts on them?
Hello, thank you for the thorough yogurt review.
One suggestion: perhaps you could change the photo of Stonyfield Yogurt that proceeds the article. Especially since this is a not so good one! Thanks for listening. 🙂
How about Lifeway? Please I hope I can a response from Suzanne, Maia
I started giving my toddler the plain unsweetened forager yogurt and she loves it! When I saw this, I got nervous. However, I see that this was published in 2017. Thankfully it looks like they tweaked their ingredients. When I looked at their label I did not see vegan cultured dextrose. Here is the updated ingredient list: cashewmilk, filtered water, tapioca startch, pectin, coconut cream, locust bean gum, agar, live active cultures. (S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus, L. lactis, L. plantarum) . Do you feel that this is still okay stuff?
Thank you so much for what you do!
Have you looked at Co Yo Yogurt?
YoBaby has one flavor variety pack that has no added sugar!!! It’s the mango / banana. So that’s definitely going to be in our rotation. (I assume because banana and mango are so sweet, they didn’t think they needed to add sugar to make it taste what people thing is sweet enough for babies).
Unfortunately, because of reading the label on that flavor, I had thought they were ALL like that, so was buying the blueberry apple and am now annoyed to find out it has added cane sugar!
Would you consider doing an update? My daughter started refusing plain Greek yogurt. Would have loved the Wallaby purely unsweetened but it is discontinued!! Any other naturally flavored options you have found?
What are your thoughts on plastic packaging for yogurts? I’ve read that yogurt is put into plastic containers after its been heated to 100+ degrees F, which seems very worrisome to me. I’ve been eating Nounos, which comes in glass – but is not organic.
What about Happy Baby Organics?
Maia I’d like to hear your opinion on Happy Baby as well!
Hi! Where does the new Dannon light n fit with Zero artificial sweeteners rank?
Hi, How about the yogurt oui by Yoplait ? they have different flavors with fruit on the bottom and also plain.
Hello, Love all your posts. What about pectin in Stonyfield yobaby plain yogurt? Should I be concerned as I give this to my one year old almost daily. Thanks
I have recently gone vegan and appreciate the Kite Hill recommendation but also found Forager’s creamy Dairy-free Cashewgurts, it looks pretty good but would love your opinion. Thanks!
Hello!! Thank you for this post! I recently stumbled upon Silk’s dairy-free almond milk yogurt, more sodium than Kite hill but the ingredients look better to me, what do you think?!
For some reason I have been really into yogurt (and cream cheese!) for the past year so this guide was really appreciated. However I am trying to get away from dairy for personal reasons so I appreciate your sensitivity to your vegan viewers and that you included non dairy choices. I definitely understand where you are coming from about wanting to eat little processed food-I’m trying to do that too!- but vegan yogurt is something I’m open to as a ‘treat’ so thanks again for understanding everyone’s diet is different.
What about Greek Gods Yogurt it’s my fav and I buy it all the time at my local Sprouts.
Non of these yogurts are sold in Canada. I would love to know what yogurt is best to feed my 1 year old,Canadian brands sold.
Hi, thanks for the comprehensive write-up! One yogurt we recently found and really like is CoYo, here are the ingredients: Coconut Cream (Coconut Extract, Water), Tapioca, Pectin and Probiotic Cultures.
Worth checking out!
Organic Valley is a brand that was not mentioned.
I’ve recently found some delicious locally made infused honey, would that be a healthy sweetener to add to plain yogurt? Thanks 🙂
I love trimona, which is from jersey (brown) cows.
I lived on Greek yogurt when I had gestational diabetes, for all the nutritional reasons you outlined. However, I have recently learned of the negative environmental impact of the quantities of Greek yogurt byproduct made in the US right now. I’ve switched to regular yogurt since I don’t have those specific health concerns.
This is so great! But I’d love to see Straus products on here. We visited their organic dairy farm in Petaluma. Lovely people and super happy, friendly, grass-fed cows.
Hello. Witch yogurt is good for one year old ? Thaks.
Do Witch yogurt for one year old?
Hi, love your site! I was wondering about Annie’s Organic Summer Strawberry Whole Milk Yogurt Tubes? Thank you for all you all do!
The tubes are organic which is great if you are eating dairy. However, the second ingredient is sugar. That is a dessert with probiotics which is better than ice cream but not a meal replacement. Having said that, there are only 6 grams of sugar which is about a teaspoon and 1/2 of sugar. Personally, I try to not eat any sugar, it is so addicting! For children, fresh or dried fruit is sweet and much healthier and can be added to plain yogurt.
this wasn’t done correctly as noosa has a bigger serving size than all other yogurts so of course sugar content will be higher, and you didn’t factor in the naturally occurring sugar in yogurt and even that differs between greek, whole milk, and non fat yogurt. as well as what the sweetener of choice is, beet sugar, cane, honey, maple syrup, fruit, etc. yes they are all sugar, but that’s about the only thing in common between the sweeteners as some actually have nutritional value or are just better than others
What about Nancy’s yogurt? I buy the organic, plain whole milk one. That’s the only brand I have bought for years now, because I remember running across an article saying it was the best. I don’t remember the source now though!
Yes, Nancy’s plain is fine. It’s organic!
thank you so much for this important info. i spend way too much time trying to read all the “sneaky” ingredients in the store.
I LOVE Fage because it’s waaaay thicker than any other Greek yogurt out there but it’s not organic ? I also think the Wallaby whole milk vanilla is the best yogurt I have ever eaten ?