For Teens Only: Finding a Better Yogurt (Part 1)

Teens Best Cherry YogurtYogurt tops our list of delicious foods. It’s something about that perfect blend of sweet and tart delivered in a creamy texture that gets the taste buds singing. It’s also a nutrient powerhouse that delivers health benefits perfectly suited for teens.

Yogurt is a source of protein that fuels active muscles. It’s a source of calcium, which is so critical during the teenage bone-building years. And, if you choose a Greek-style yogurt, it’s an especially rich source of the amino acid leucine, which stimulates muscle protein synthesis … a terrific choice for teen athletes who want to build more muscle (see our post on weight training for teens for more details). Finally, yogurt can be a source of probiotics, and consuming probiotics is one of eight things you can do to boost your immune health. It’s easy to see why yogurt is a great choice, whether as a breakfast staple, a power snack or tasty dessert.

In search of (yogurt) excellence

What’s not so easy, however, is to sort through all the commercial brands available. Plain yogurt topped with fresh fruit is best, but we know it’s not always an option when you need it.

So what’s the better choice among the brands in school cafeterias, on pre-game snack tables or lining the grocery shelves? Many deliver on the nutrient essentials, but some are also packed with excess sugar. This is not a good thing, especially for a teen struggling with acne. After all, curtailing sugar intake is one teen habit linked with living in the acne-free zone, so the last thing a teen needs is to reach for yogurt with extra sugar.

To help you find the best choice, we took a look at several different brands of cherry yogurt. Why cherry? It’s a delicious summer fruit that is especially rich in anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants. But, if you’re not a fan of cherries, here’s a short list of fruits rich in anthocyanins, and many are found in yogurts.

Drum roll please

Here we’ve evaluated four popular brands of regular yogurt (we’ll review the Greek-style yogurts in another post). In addition, we chose to evaluate those without artificial sweeteners (natural is best).

All brands contain live probiotic cultures and the same amount of protein (6 grams per 6-ounce serving). The big difference between brands is the amount of sugar … as much as 6 grams difference or 1½ teaspoons per serving. (Remember, to determine the number of teaspoons of sugar in any food, divide the total grams of sugar by four. For example, 20 grams of sugar is the same as 5 teaspoons of sugar.)

Since the protein content is the same for all brands, here’s how they rank based on their sugar content – lowest to highest – per 6-ounce serving, and the source of the added sugar:

  • Yoplait® Original Cherry Orchard
    6 grams protein | 18 grams sugar (4½ teaspoons)
    Added sugars: sugar
  • Clover Organic Farms Organic Black Cherry
    6 grams protein | 20 grams sugar (5 teaspoons)
    Added sugars: organic cane sugar
  •  Dannon® Activia® Black Cherry
    6 grams protein | 22½ grams sugar (~5¾ teaspoons)
    Added sugars: sugar and fructose
  • Dannon® Fruit on the Bottom Cherry
    6 grams protein | 24 grams sugar (6 teaspoons)
    Added sugars: sugar

And the winner is…

When choosing a flavored yogurt, look for four things: low-fat or nonfat varieties to keep the calories in check; active probiotic cultures for immune health; fruit for natural sweetness; and low in total sugar with no added high fructose corn syrup or other highly processed sweeteners.

Our best pick of these regular cherry yogurts? We like the Clover Organic Farms brand. Yes, it has a bit more sugar (½ teaspoon) than the Yoplait® brand, but it’s also organic, which earns it an extra credit point, making it our winner.

Nutrition Nugget

Don’t forget, you can also make your own yogurt with organic milk, and it may be easier than you think. You’ll find all the details, including the recipe, in our blog post about homemade yogurt.

Here’s to yogurt (and sweet summer cherries)!

Kathleen & Lorna

Kathleen Dunn, MPH, RD
Lorna Williams, MPH, RD
Co-authors of Eating for A’s

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PS – Teens, we’re here to help you on your quest to be the best you. If you have any questions or need additional information, just join us on Facebook and drop us a note. Take it one day at a time. Soon you’ll reach your goal.  Work hard, play hard, study hard, and have fun! Good luck, the EatingFor Team is cheering you on!