The 20 Best and Worst Greek Yogurts, According to Dietitians
Like many Americans, Greek yogurt is also an immigrant. It landed in the good old U.S. of A. around 20 years ago. Since then, the dairy product has rightfully earned itself a spot as a consistent healthy breakfast option—and it's easy to see why.
The Mediterranean yogurt's creamy, smooth, and slightly thick texture is comforting but indulgent. Its pleasantly sour and moderately sweet taste is intriguing yet familiar. And between the gut-friendly probiotics, healthy fats, and muscle-building protein, it boasts an impressive display of health benefits.
Before you add this product to your daily breakfast routine, you have to navigate the dairy aisle. And that's no easy task. With hundreds of companies offering "authentic" yogurt lined up on your grocery store shelves, you may need a little help weeding out the good from the bad.
That's why we consulted nutritional experts to come up with the best healthy Greek yogurts (and the worst)—so you don't have to stress or even read nutrition labels on your next grocery trip.
What is Greek yogurt and how is it different from traditional yogurt?
Everyone always talks about how great Greek yogurt is, but what actually is it?
"Greek yogurt is more strained than regular yogurt, making it thicker and creamier," says dietitian Rachel Fine, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition. Because manufacturers remove more of the whey, which is the liquid component of milk, you're left with a product that is denser in texture.
This makes Greek yogurt different from traditional yogurt in some notable ways.
- Greek yogurt has more protein. "Because of it's denser concentration, Greek yogurt generally has up to double the amount of protein when compared to regular yogurt. This makes it a bit more 'nutritionally-dense' per ounce serving, which means it will help to keep you fuller, longer," says Fine.
- It's lower in sugar. "Additionally, straining off the whey means there will be fewer carbs (and thus, sugar) in Greek yogurt," says Fine.
- It's also lower in lactose. Lactose is a type of sugar, so because Greek yogurt has less sugar, it also has less lactose than traditional yogurt. "Lactose-sensitive individuals may tolerate it even better than traditional yogurt," says dietitian Jenna Appel, MS, RD, LDN, CPT, and Owner of Appel Nutrition. Although, if you're lactose intolerant, you may want to opt for a lactose-free yogurt.
What are the health benefits of Greek yogurt?
Greek yogurt isn't just a great replacement for your sugary breakfast cereal. Its ratio of protein to carbs makes it an ideal post-workout snack for repairing muscles and replenishing spent energy stores. Plus, a full-fat carton is an appetite-stabilizing treat to quell those angry 3 p.m. hunger pangs.
Oh, and did we mention it can help you lose weight? Researchers have found that adding low-sugar, high-protein yogurt snacks to your daily diet can help fuel weight loss efforts by boosting metabolism and minimizing hunger pangs.
How we chose the best Greek yogurts.
The healthiest Greek yogurts all meet a strict set of nutritional criteria.
- There's no added sugar. Because Greek yogurt tends to be denser and more tart than traditional yogurts, manufacturers are quick to add sweeteners. Nutritional experts are also quick to urge caution with these sweetened containers. "It's important to get completely unsweetened yogurt—a lot of yogurts actually have as much added sugar as ice cream!" says Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN, owner of Frugal Nutrition.
- Opt for 2% or whole milk yogurts when you can. Fat is satiating, and it can help keep you full. Plus, it will help you absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D and E. "[Non-fat yogurts] may also have more added fillers or sweeteners to make up for the texture and flavor lost when you remove fat," says Self.
- You can also have non-fat on occasion. Nutritionists are typically fans of dairy fat. "Dairy fat contains "healthier" fats, such as conjugated linoleic acid (which is seen to prevent weight gain) and is low in omega 6 fatty acids (which increases inflammation)," says dietitian Bonnie Balk, RD, Health & Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics. But if you'd like to keep an eye on your daily fat intake, Balk recommends switching off between 0% and 2% fat yogurts. "By alternating between the 0 and 2% varieties, you are sure to keep your overall fat intake in check, while reaping some of the positive benefits of healthy fats," she says.
- You're always safe with plain. "I recommenced choosing plain over flavored Greek yogurt. Just because you buy plain yogurt doesn't actually mean you have to eat it plain. You can add your own fruit or flavors, such as berries, nuts, cinnamon and vanilla," says Appel.
The 15 healthiest Greek yogurt brands.
High in protein and made with the fewest, simplest ingredients (just milk and live active cultures), grab one of these containers and you'll soon see that the benefits of yogurt will help you reach your body goals in no time.
1. Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt
There's a reason Fage is one of the most popular Greek yogurts available. "While it's not organic, Fage is one of the—if not the—best-tasting Greek yogurt available," Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of NYC-based health and wellness practice Middleberg Nutrition says.
Fage yogurts are also impressively high in protein, packing in 20 grams per larger-than-industry-average 7-ounce container. (For comparison, that's equivalent to 15 grams per 5.3 ounces.) Just make sure you side-step flavors like honey, which can pack a massive 29 grams of sugar into your morning meal. Honey might be better than table sugar, but that doesn't mean you should eat it by the cup. We explain here in our exclusive report every added sweetener ranked by nutrition.
2. Chobani Non-Fat, Plain
We're about to tell you the many reasons this yogurt should be on your shopping list. "Many yogurts on the market today are packed with added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or fat and sometimes all of the above. The excess ingredients added to enhance the flavor and texture of yogurt can nearly eliminate the potential health benefits of these products. With Chobani's Greek Non-Fat Yogurt none of this is the case.", says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. " Unfortunately, Chobani only offers their non-fat yogurt in single-serve cups. You'll have to buy a 32-ounce tub to score their Low-Fat and Whole Milk versions. Fortunately, this pick is high in protein and very low in sugar. (In fact, there are zero added sugars or sweeteners in this container.)
It does miss the fat in this option, but Balk has a tip. "I advise my patients to select this fat-free, plain variety, and add a mixture of toppings to boost satiety and nutrients. I recommend adding a ¼ cup of plain nuts (walnuts, almonds or cashews) to increase the 'healthy fat' content, and ¼ cup of fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries or diced apple) to add natural sugars," she says.
3. Wallaby Organic Aussie Greek Low-Fat, Plain
We love this Wallaby offering and Middleburg: It's the perfect go-to Greek yogurt. Although Wallaby has both low-fat (2%) and non-fat Greek yogurt options, Middleberg recommends keeping some of that fat around. "Choose low-fat or full-fat versions over fat-free," she says. Not only does fuller-fat dairy contain more nutrients, but those healthy fats will play a key role in helping your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.
4. Maple Hill Creamery Greek Yogurt
Maple Hill Creamery's yogurts are made with just two ingredients: grass-fed milk and live cultures. That difference in milk might be reflected in the price, but it's well worth the extra cents if you can afford it. "Grass-fed yogurt contains more omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acids, both of which help prevent heart disease, inflammation, diabetes and various cancers," Middleberg explains. Bonus: Maple Hill Greek yogurts are rich, creamy and taste way more decadent than they are considering their high protein content will help you lose 10 pounds.
5. Stonyfield Organic Greek Whole Milk, Plain
We love that Stonyfield recently introduced a full-fat version to their Greek line. This carton is made with just live active cultures, and organic, non-GMO, pasture-raised milk—which is great because organically-raised cows aren't subject to the same hormone and antibiotic treatment that conventional cows are. And no antibiotics for them means no antibiotics for you! "Organic is really important for dairy products. Hormones, antibiotics, and other toxins such as pesticides, are transferred through the milk being produced," says Self. Choosing an organic yogurt can help reduce exposure to these hormone disrupters.
Plus, a review published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that organic milk has an average of 50 percent more anti-inflammatory omega-3s than its conventionally raised counterpart.
6. Dannon Oikos Greek Nonfat Yogurt, Plain
If you're choosing plain, Oikos gets the green light from us. Low sugar, high protein: that's the winning combo in any yogurt. Just steer clear of their fruit flavors: Blackberry has more sugar than actual blackberries and Pomegranate uses questionable additives potassium sorbate and calcium lactate. As Middleberg explains, "These additives most likely contain synthetic pesticides. Potassium sorbate has been known to cause skin allergies like eczema and calcium lactate can lead to digestive issues." Which doesn't sound like great news if you've been searching, how to get rid of bloating.
7. Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Greek Nonfat Yogurt, Plain
While we commend this triple-zero yogurt for being free of added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and fat, that same description could easily fit any other yogurt on this best list, so Dannon's is just a marketing ploy. We do commend them for adding chicory root fiber—6 grams—which acts as a prebiotic and can minimize spikes in insulin after a carb-heavy meal. "The concept of prebiotics is relatively new in the health scene, but significantly important to health. Prebiotics work in tandem with probiotics to feed the good gut bacteria which are responsible for our overall health and proper immune function," according to Best.
8. Straus Valley Creamery Organic Low-Fat Greek Yogurt, Plain
"My absolute favorite Greek yogurt is Straus Family Creamery. Their dairy products have the best flavor and really limited processing," says Self.
9. Voskos Greek Yogurt Nonfat, Plain
While Voskos only offers a nonfat option for single serve packages, they do provide an original plain with fat in their 16-ounce option (but we don't recommend it—an equal ounce serving contains a whopping 13 grams of fat!). Luckily, their nonfat option provides a blank canvas for you to add whichever healthy fat you'd like—nuts, avocado, flax seeds, or chia seeds. And for a double dose of probiotics on top of Voskos's five live and active cultures, add some chocolate! This fermented treat provides you with even more helpful bacteria which can help you get your gut health back on track.
10. Green Mountain Creamery 0% Greek Yogurt, Plain
Based in Vermont, this small creamery makes a big impact on the Greek yogurt scene. Their cows are raised without hormones, and they use five different strains of cultures to form the yogurt—whereas many just use three.
11. Clover Sonoma Organic Greek Yogurt, Whole Milk Plain
For an organic take on a whole milk Greek yogurt with no added sugars, look to Clover yogurts. Clover uses milk from cows raised on countless small family farms in northern California.
12. Maia Low-fat Greek Yogurt, Plain
While Maia used to have prebiotic oat fiber in their blend, they opted to ditch it for a cleaner label: now with just low-fat milk and 40 billion live and active cultures.
13. Dannon Light & Fit Greek Nonfat Yogurt, Zero Artificial Sweeteners, Plain
There are plenty of options that have the same number of calories, sugar, and protein, but if you're looking for a yogurt that's lower in calories than the Oikos Triple Zero option and has a bit more natural sweeteners (and less stevia), this is a solid option. Not to mention, Dannon Light & Fit Greek Nonfat Yogurt only contains two ingredients—cultured nonfat milk and gut-healthy active cultures including L. Bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus, which is one of the reasons Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, registered dietitian and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices, loves this one so much. "It's the perfect protein-packed ingredient to spoon over both sweet and savory dishes. Try prepping make ahead yogurt parfaits in mason jars filled with peanut butter, fresh fruit, and homemade granola for a healthy, grab-and-go breakfast," says Burgess.
14. Nancy's 100% Grass-Fed Greek Yogurt, Plain
Nancy's is yet another stand-up organic yogurt brand. They offer a low-fat version in larger tubs, but you'll have to settle for non-fat if you want a small serving. Self is a fan of the Nancy's brand and even recommends their excellent quality grass-fed yogurt. It isn't Greek, but it is made with grass-fed milk, which is "higher in omega-3 fatty acids (good) and lower in omega-6 fatty acids (not as good)."
RELATED VIDEO: How Yogurt Can Help You Lower Your Blood Pressure
The worst Greek yogurts for your health
These yogurts are low in what makes the Mediterranean dairy product so helpful for burning fat—protein—and high in ingredients that really don't deserve a place in these small containers.
1. Worst: Activia Greek, Vanilla
We've all seen the catchy commercials, but Activia is not your best bet when it comes to Greek yogurts, purely based on its sugar to protein ratio. In fact, this little pot packs more sugar than you'll find in a Double Chocolate Glazed Cake Donut from Dunkin'. To top it off, their ingredients list is less than appetizing, including: sugar, water, modified food starch, malic acid, and sodium citrate. So, while it does contain those active cultures we love, there are better options for your morning parfait.
2. Worst: Yoplait Greek 100
They might be lower in calories and sugar, but don't be fooled—these light yogurts don't deserve a place in your fridge. As you can probably guess from the name, Yoplait's Greek yogurt isn't exactly authentic. But more than that, the high-sugar/low-protein combination will not have you powering through the day as you'd hope—and sadly, won't help you stave off those mid-morning donut cravings. Plus, to keep sugar levels low, Yoplait adds artificial sweeteners acesulfame potassium and sucralose. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to altering our gut microbiome, which can result in worsened digestive issues.
3. Worst: Greek Gods Greek Yogurt Nonfat, Plain
The gods' muscles were not built on this yogurt. "This Greek-style yogurt not only has less protein than some others, but also less protein than sugar," explains Middleberg. Which is odd considering this 'gurt has no sugar added. That's a deal-breaker in the dairy aisle. We're happy to hear the company uses milk from cows that are not treated with rBST/rBGH growth hormones. However, that doesn't mean the resulting yogurt isn't free from additives. The yogurts do include pectin and inulin, which are "chemically engineered to improve taste, texture or nutrition profile but can lead to very uncomfortable digestive issues in some people," she details. That's a surefire way to undo the benefits of yogurt.
4. Worst: Zoi Greek Yogurt, Vanilla
For a Greek yogurt, this Zoi is unbelievably low in protein. What's worse, the company actually had to add a milk protein concentrate to even get it to 8 grams! While we're all for protein powders, they don't seem necessary in our Greek yogurt where there should be enough naturally occurring.
5. Worst: Dannon Light & Fit Greek Nonfat, Vanilla
Ingredients we don't like seeing in our yogurt: artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, modified corn starch, and fructose. And each is found in Dannon's Light & Fit Greek yogurt. You can find a better ingredient list with the same number of calories below on our best list.
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