The 9 Best Low-Sugar Yogurts, Approved by Nutritionists
After decades of being one of the healthy foods that are surprisingly high in sugar, manufacturers gave yogurt a facelift. Now, if you take a walk down the dairy aisle at your local supermarket, you'll see several yogurt brands that proudly boast no added sugar and artificial sweeteners for the perfect low-sugar yogurt.
While it's impossible to have a dairy yogurt with zero sugar because the sweet stuff naturally occurs in milk, the added sugars are what you should be looking out for. And that's especially the case if you veer away from the plain and vanilla flavors and start looking at their fruit-packed counterparts.
Like milk, fruit has naturally occurring sugars, but it can be tricky to differentiate which yogurts contain only the sugar that's already found in milk and fruit and which varieties have had loads of sweet stuff pumped into them.
"Luckily, manufacturers need to specify if their product is sweetened on the packaging, and you can also look at the ingredients to see what it is you're consuming," notes Sofia Norton, RD. "Look for things like sugar, fruit juice, jam, starch, and so on. You can also check a product's Nutrition Facts label for 'added sugar.'"
With that in mind, we asked nutritionists and dietitians for their expert advice on how to choose the best low-sugar yogurt brands.
Why choose low-sugar yogurt?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar for women, and no more than about 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) for men. Though a few extra grams of sugar here and there might not seem like much, it adds up quickly. Furthermore, if you have a diet that's too heavy in sugar it can have an adverse effect on your overall health.
"Overall, low-sugar yogurts are important because we don't want to be consuming too much added sugar on a daily basis. Too much added sugar is not only empty calories, but it also impacts blood glucose and inflammation," explains Amanda Baker Lemein, MS, RD, LDN. "Flavored yogurts are notorious culprits for added sugar, so it's best to get used to unflavored or low added sugar varieties instead."
As ACSM certified exercise physiologist and ISSN certified nutritionist Melissa Morris notes, low-sugar yogurts have all the health benefits the food has to offer without any of the sugar-induced drawbacks. "Lower sugar yogurts are great because you are getting the benefits of eating yogurt without the unnecessary added sugar that most of them have," she says. "Yogurt is a great source of probiotics, which are good bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract and keep us healthy. Yogurt is also a source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and other nutrients."
How much sugar is allowed in "low-sugar" yogurts?
"There is no industry standard for claiming a food to be 'low sugar,' says Diana Gariglio-Clelland, RD, CDE with Balance One Supplements. "However, 'reduced sugar' does have a preset standard: it must contain 25 percent less sugar compared to a similar product of the same serving size." In other words, if a Chiobani strawberry yogurt contains 15 g of sugar (which it does) a low-sugar version of that yogurt must have 11.25 grams of sugar or less.
Scroll down for a list of the 9 best low-sugar yogurts that are nutritionist-approved.
"Personally, I love Siggi's No Added Sugar. It relies on the natural sweetness from fruit to flavor the yogurt, which is exactly what I would recommend clients do at home," says Lemein. "The flavor is subtle, but still palatable for those who are not used to plain yogurts. Plus, like all of Siggi's yogurts, it is a strained yogurt, so the protein is higher than traditional yogurts. The no added sugar varieties also have full fat milk, which means it will keep you fuller for longer. While some may be avoiding full fat yogurts, the pre-portioned cup is the perfect size to keep serving sizes in check."
"Chobani's Less Sugar variety contains 5 grams of added sugar. The sugar from milk isn't counted as added and isn't detrimental to health like added sugars are," says Gariglio-Clelland. "This is a decent option for those wanting to cut back on sugar without eating artificial sweeteners. The protein content is impressive because it's a Greek yogurt, so it's more filling. Plus it's made with 2 percent milk to be more filling than nonfat."
This yogurt gets its name from the fact that every fruit-flavored variety contains just two grams of sugar. Its low sugar content is a result of the unusual slow-straining process (using reduced-fat milk) employed to create it. "The result is a product with 80 percent less sugar than most yogurts — 2 grams per 5.3-ounce container to be specific," says Norton. "It comes in a variety of flavors to suit everyone's tastes and is sweetened with stevia, a natural zero-carb sweetener."
As the name states, there's no added sugar here. "The sweet taste of this product comes from natural fruit sugars (fructose and glucose), i.e. it's naturally sweet," says Norton. "It also contains live and active cultures — another praiseworthy feature that can help with gut health."
As Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living, points out, this yogurt does contain 7 grams of added sugar. That sweet stuff is in addition to some naturally occurring sugars in the food itself, but it nabbed a spot on this list because it also packs a hefty dose of satiating protein, which can help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
To cut out all added sugars completely, opt for YQ's plain flavor, which has just 1 gram of sugar!
Though Noosa Hīlö does come in fruity flavors, the plain variety has much less sugar. In fact, the "Hīlö" part of this yogurt's moniker is meant to call attention to the fact that it is high in protein while being low in sugar. "[These] low-sugar yogurts are healthier than their original line but taste just as good," explains Norton. "They're made from growth-hormone-free milk using a proprietary straining process that results in a high-protein yogurt. It's also a bit lower in carbs than the original."
"This yogurt is sweetened with stevia, which is not an artificial sweetener and does not yield calories. This low-sugar yogurt contains 15 grams of protein per serving to keep you full for a long time!" says Miller. "Also, I have personally loved their wide variety of flavors. This can be a great healthier substitute for dessert as well."
According to Amanda Blechman, RD, CDN, and senior manager of scientific affairs at Danone North America, "Oikos Triple Zero is designed to provide an excellent source of high-quality protein to help people build and maintain strong muscles as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle."
Icelandic-style yogurt tends to be higher in protein because of the way it's made, and this option has an impressive 15 grams of the satiating stuff per serving. While the sugar content for the fruit-filled varieties is a tad high, some flavors have as little as 4 grams of sugar per serving.
This plant-based yogurt is a good option for those sticking to a vegan diet. Many of the fruity flavors contain around 7 grams of naturally occurring sugar, some of which comes from coconut water and coconut cream. However, there are no artificial or added sugars to speak of.