The Background Story
A Surge in Sales
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably noticed the surge in greek yogurt. Sales of greek yogurt have grown from $60 million to $1 billion in the past five years, showing a 2500% increase in growth. These products now dominate the yogurt shelf, slowly pushing out its lower protein relative, regular yogurt. Large companies like Dannon have jumped on the trend by creating their own greek yogurt products, while more and more restaurants and cafes are selling greek yogurt.
What’s Different about Greek Yogurt?
Greek yogurt is different from regular in that it is strained so that excess moisture (in particular, the whey) is removed. This leads to a product that is substantially thicker (and also pricier, since it the raw product yields a smaller quantity of yogurt). The straining process dramatically affects the nutrition of greek yogurt–it has on average 2x the amount of protein than regular yogurt, making it a very popular product.
Watch out for Quality!
Not all greek yogurts are equal. Lawsuits and controversy have recently popped up about the authenticity of greek yogurt products, as companies have tried to find ways to mimic greek yogurt’s qualities without going through the traditional straining process (and instead using additives).
So what does this mean for you as a consumer? Greek yogurt is more accessible than ever, and there are a TON of products to choose from. Among these products, quality, taste, and nutrition vary dramatically, so it is not the best idea to just randomly choose a product off the shelf. Which is why I’ve created a quick guide to finding the best greek yogurt for you.
Choosing Greek Yogurt: What to Look For
Taste is very much a personal preference. Everyone has their favorite. Some call Fage chalky, while others say its the most traditional out there. I recommend trying a few different brands to see which one you like best.
This is the point I want to stress. In particular, I have two major recommendations:
1. Go authentic. As I briefly mentioned, some companies have resorted to a number of controversial ingredients like carrageenan to replicate greek yogurt’s texture (without actually being authentic). Spot these products by looking at the ingredients list.
2. Go plain. The reason is two-fold. First, you’ll avoid the problem above. Across different brands, plain greek yogurt usually has only two or three ingredients, and is free of added sugar and preservatives. Second, the amount of sugar in plain yogurt is substantially less (we’re talking about around 16-20g of sugar in flavored, versus 6g in plain, all of which is naturally derived sugar from milk).
Plain too plain for you? Cut down on sugar by adding your own sugar, fruit, or jam to the plain (it’ll still most likely be less sugar than what flavored has), or by mixing half of a plain container with half of a flavored container.
For more specifics, check out this convenient nutrition “grading” of your favorite brand here. And if you’re really particular about your sugar intake, beware that certain brands (even within plain greek yogurt) have less sugar than others. The lowest in sugar I’ve found is Whole Foods’ 365 brand. It has only 2g sugar, compared to most other plain brands, which have around 6g of sugar.
A Comparison in Products: The Graphic
Instead of just rambling on about how products vary dramatically, I thought a visual would best illustrate this point. So look below to see the ingredients and nutrition of a number of big brand greek yogurts. I’ve included both flavor and plain flavors to highlight the huge difference in nutrition (and hopefully convince you why it’s better to plain).
Skyr: The New Greek Yogurt?
Although it hasn’t hit the shelves like greek yogurt has, skyr, another type of yogurt, is starting to creep into grocery stores (like Whole Foods) too. This Icelandic yogurt is made with a similar straining process to greek yogurt, resulting in a very thick product. Think custard thick. In fact, it’s so thick that while it tastes and looks like a thick yogurt, it’s technically a cheese. Similarly, because of the straining process, skyr is very high in protein.
I’m personally a huge fan of skyr, particularly the brand Siggis, because its flavored yogurt is very low in sugar (around 9 grams, compared with 19 grams for most other flavored greek yogurts). The ingredient list is also short; take the raspberry flavor for example: skim milk, cane sugar, raspberries, fruit pectin, live and active cultures. It really doesn’t get cleaner than that. They also have some amazing flavors like orange ginger, pomegranate and passion fruit, pineapple, and acai & mixed berry (along with more typical flavors like strawberry and peach).
My personal favorite thing to do? Mix Siggis with a plain greek yogurt. This brings down the sugar just a tad (while 9 grams isn’t much to begin with, it’s still something if you’re watching sugar intake) and thins out the super thick texture of skyr. It’s also a perfect alternative to just plain greek yogurt because it gives it just enough flavor.