Food for Thought
I’ve noticed an enormous amount of Greek yogurt options at my grocery store and have experimented by trying a few different brands of plain low-fat yogurt. Some taste dramatically different from others, while some are considerably cheaper. From a nutritional standpoint, are all Greek yogurts essentially the same?
Answer: Greek yogurt options have definitely exploded, and by all accounts, that trend seems to be growing. Chobani, the largest seller of Greek-style yogurt in the United States, first appeared on our shelves in 2007, when Greek yogurt made up only 1% of all yogurt options. According to the Wall Street Journal, Greek yogurt currently takes up one-third of the space in the dairy aisle, with sales expected to top $3.8 billion. Given those figures, we can be assured of many options; but keep in mind that not all Greek yogurt is created equal. Traditionally, Greek yogurt is made through a process in which much of the liquid is strained out. Because the liquid consists mostly of water and milk sugars, what remains is thick yogurt that is high in protein. Since it takes more milk to make yogurt this way, strained yogurt costs more than traditional yogurt. By the way, the U.S. is the only country that refers to this style of yogurt as Greek yogurt; around the world it is called “strained yogurt.”
A few manufacturers employ the traditional straining method when making their Greek yogurt. Others, however, use a thickening agent—such as cornstarch, pectin, gelatin or carob bean gum—to achieve the thick texture. Because less milk is used, the price, calories and protein are all lower for these varieties than they are for strained yogurt.
Most health-conscious consumers opt for Greek yogurt for the protein boost, which many say helps to keep them full between meals. If that is your aim, or if you simply want to reduce the additives in your diet, make sure you read the label and select a yogurt that contains just milk and active yogurt cultures. Luckily, you have several options!
Also, note that it’s best to select plain low-fat/nonfat Greek yogurt and sweeten with honey or fresh fruit.