Look! There’s Yogurt In My Sugar

3 brands of yogurt

Yogurt is healthy, right?

I think that most people just assume that yogurt is a healthy food.  I used to.  That is, until I learned that every 4 grams of sugar added to foods equals 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Yep – you read that right.  Go check out the yogurt in your fridge.  If it has 24 grams of added sugar, there are 6 teaspoons of sugar in that baby!

Of course, milk naturally contains lactose, a milk sugar, that contributes to the overall carbohydrates in yogurts.  But the nutrition label on most yogurts will tell you what the total carbohydrates are, and then they will separate out the “sugars.”  Those are the ones that are added, beyond the milk sugar already present.

How about a little perspective…

sugar in Stonyfield strawberry yogurt

5 1/4 teaspoons of added sugar

sugar in yoplait yogurt

6 1/2 teaspoons of added sugar

sugar in Lucerne yogurt

8 teaspoons of added sugar

Of course, I hate to leave you depressed.  So I’ll share how our family avoids sugar laden yogurts.  We prefer to buy plain organic yogurt or Greek yogurt and then add the sweetener of our choice.  My kids enjoy adding a spoonful of jam, but I prefer a drizzle of honey, maple syrup or agave nectar.

What’s your favorite yogurt?  If you sweeten your own, what’s your favorite technique?

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57 Responses to Look! There’s Yogurt In My Sugar

  1. Great visual, Michelle! We love to make our own yogurt just for this very reason.

  2. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to yogurt are those Yoplait “Light” yogurts. The first ingredient after milk is High Fructose Corn Syrup! Ugh.

    I tend to stick to Chobani greek yogurts. I know their sugar content is a little up there, but I need the high amounts of protein in my diet.

  3. Such a great post! I think a lot of people (myself included sometimes) have a hard time realizing how much sugar really is in foods… The visuals are a great teaching tool. This makes me really glad that I buy plain Greek yogurt and just add a small drizzle of agave!

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Thanks Jen. I brought these to a Let’s Move event at the SF Federal Building yesterday and people were shocked. Holding the sugar bags in your hands is quite something. It’s gross when you imagine eating it like that, right out of the bag!

  4. Amanda says:

    I should be shocked!! Mostly I am just annoyed with the foods that are passed off as “healthy”!! Thanks for this info!

  5. Alana says:

    Wow, this really opens your eyes. Thanks for the visual!

  6. Kristen says:

    Wow – great visual! We do the light yogurt… I wonder how much difference there is between the original and light? Probably not enough!

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Kristen – the “light” yogurts usually have other stuff in them to give back the flavor that leaves with the fat. I try to avoid the chemically sounding ingredients, which are usually added in… It might be worth a look. I’ll do that the next time I am at the store :-)

  7. Maria C says:

    I buy plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt. I have frozen, fresh or canned fruit (no sugar added) on hand to make smoothies. Sometimes I add raisins & almond slivers after I pour the smoothie. Since I am gluten-free, it’s almost like eating cereal again. It’s sweet enough that I don’t have to add a sugar alternative. On a side note, I know there’s gluten-free cereals like Chex but one of the first five ingredients is sugar. :(

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Maria – I just fell in love with Udi’s gluten free granola. It’s delicious!

      • Emma Dumas says:

        the muesli is proudly – 97% Sugar Free. There’s so little out there that is and it’s time we gave the Sugar Free message some weight! All good raw fats and protein from 5 Nuts, 4 Seeds, Oats and Coconut – delicious. And the muesli gluten free is in production and ready to be released in the next month. 96% Sugar Free the 3.1g/100g sugar occurring naturally in the nuts, seeds, coconut and gluten free puffed rice & amaranth! Only 0.2g of that is Fructose!

  8. Dawn P says:

    That is one of the reasons I purchased a yogurt maker and started making my own. My kids (2 & 4) love it, we add a little Jam or honey for flavor. Making another batch today.

  9. Tracy says:

    Great post! I can’t believe the sugar in these. Definitely eye-opening.

  10. Brooke Anna @ Mommy Does... says:
  11. I cut the sugar in half by buying one big plain yogurt and the little Stonyfield cups of flavored yogurt. Then when I serve it, I put half the flavored cup in my bowl and two or three heaping tablespoons of plain. For me, that’s the right amount of sweetness. I can’t really eat it “straight” anymore!

    My youngest loves plain yogurt with just honey (it’s super sweet of course!)

  12. One of your absolute best posts.

    Oh, and guess what I got in the mail this morning?….Yeah! So excited!!

    xoxo

  13. Jessi Blues says:

    BRILLIANT!!! BRILLIANT!!! BRILLIANT!!! Thank You for this post!

  14. Kim says:

    My son prefers vanilla yogurt to fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. I’ve chosen Mountain Light whole-milk vanilla for its consistent texture and short ingredient list. I believe there is a little sugar in it but I will check the label myself. For myself, I like Mountain Light plain fat-free. I don’t think there is added sugar in that.

  15. Kim says:

    Oops, I meant Mountain High.

  16. Kim says:

    I compared plain Mountain High whole milk yogurt to vanilla – plain has no added sugar (according to the ingredient list) and has 15g “sugars”, while vanilla has 27g “sugars” – leaving 12g of added sugar (crystalline fructose) – so only 3 tsp sugar per serving. A lot more than I’d add, but a lot better than some of those others you mentioned.

  17. Great way to visualize the added sugar, though for some brands it would be an improvement if that was the type of sugar used! I buy local whole milk, no sugar added yogurt at the farmers market — the kids love it plain, I add honey or maple syrup.

  18. It is amazing how much sugar can be in yogurt! My favorite yogurt is Kroger CarbSmart. It has 8-12 g of protein and 3 g of sugar. They do use an artificial sweetener though.

  19. So, I normally buy the Greek yogurt and add bittersweet chocolate chips. ;) Not sure that is better, but it tastes good!

    So looking forward to getting your books.
    *stares out the window looking for FedEx guy*

  20. Mel Kettle says:

    It’s appalling isn’t it? We recently were asked to do some taste testing for a new 98% fat free yogurt on the market here (in Australia) and I was HORRIFIED by the sugar content. I had one spoon and that was it – it was so revoltingly sweet! Thank goodness we don’t have the level of HFCS in our food here, but let’s face it, sugar is pretty much sugar!

    I’m reading an excellent book called Sweet Poison (and The Sweet Poison Quit Plan, both written by David Gillespie) which is a real eye-opener in terms of what has sugar. Try and get a copy if you can – it’s pretty scary.

  21. Tickled Red says:

    I have always looked for the lowest sugar content with boys yogurt but the visual just brought it home even more. Wow…great post!

  22. Seeing the sugar by itself like that really does put it into perspective. That’s why I buy unsweetened Greek yogurt and add my own sweeteners and fruit to it.

  23. AKA says:

    Just FYI, you said, “But the nutrition label on most yogurts will tell you what the total carbohydrates are, and then they will separate out the “sugars.” Those are the ones that are added, beyond the milk sugar already present.” Actually that’s not true. You can see it on a plain, unsweetened yogurt cup (depending on the brand) that it has anywhere from 7 to 15 grams of “sugars” listed, naturally occurring milk sugars, to start with. So your visual is probably skewed by two teaspoons or more, depending on the yogurt. My son is Type 1 diabetic, so I tend to be a bit obsessive on the topic.

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Thank you for the clarification! Some of the yogurts I looked at did actually have the sugars separated out… But I really appreciate your observation! Thanks.

      • AKA says:

        Yes, you’re right, the sugars are all seperated out, but what I meant was that they’re not all “added”, some are just natural. Just clarifying, not trying to be a nitpicker! :-)

  24. bwsf says:

    Great visuals, I think it always helps to actually see it right in front of you. I used to eat Yoplait like it was going out of style. I stopped when I was cutting out corn syrup (they used to use it, maybe still do?) but I also gave up on a lot of other brands for the amount of sugar. Ridiculous! We eat greek yogurt now, with some homemade granola or some honey.

    • Michelle Stern says:

      It’s amazing what happens when we discover information like the amount of sugar in our food. It’s crazy! I love to be empowered like that and especially adore when the fix is easy.

  25. Wow. I had no idea. Thanks for opening my eyes!!!!

  26. That’s ridiculous! You are the healthy foods sleuth, Michele.

  27. Janis says:

    I like to buy Fage Greek Yogurt…plain. I add fruit to mine or homemade granola. My kids like honey or a teaspoon of preserves in theirs.

  28. Wow, Michelle! This is a real eye opener!

  29. Niki says:

    Thanks for those visuals! I buy Trader Joe’s Greek Mango & Apricot yogurt, which has no added sugar (apparently the mango and apricot are sweet enough on their own?). My husband and stepson both insist on sugary yogurts but maybe if I show them the bags of sugar they’ll compromise a bit. I like the idea of diluting sugary yogurts with plain.

    When my baby’s a bit older I’ll start adding honey to plain yogurt, but for now she’s too young for honey.

  30. Thank you for highlighting this issue, I’ve been waiting for the media (which includes blogging imo) to pick up on this as I’ve been complaining about sugar content in yogurt for years.

    I am now seeing coverage in magazines too.

    The kicker for me? Yoplait has as much sugar as a can of Coke or Pepsi and I don’t feed that to my kid!

    We do Greek yogurt, organic. I will buy flavored ones as they aren’t too bad, but we also sweeten with reduced sugar Smucker’s jam (which isn’t too bad, no HFCS!).

    M

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  32. Courtney says:

    I too love making my own toppings, just did a post about this! I like to add apples that I cook in a little spices and sugar. My favorite is a drizzle of good maple syrup! :-)

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  34. Matt says:

    There’s definitely added sugar, but perhaps not as much as you think, especially in higher-quality yogurts, like Stoneybrook and Brown Cow. In a 170g cup (the little ones), there’s 12g of sugar just from the milk. That counts in the sugar calculation. Then, if the yogurt has fruit in it, you know that there’s naturally occurring sugar in the fruit, too, though you don’t know how much. So, you have to subtract the 12g of sugar from the milk, along with the sugar from the fruit, to get the “real” number of grams of added sugar.

  35. Mary says:

    Love your comments and posts. It really raises one’s eyebrow to all of that sugar. My question is how do I flavor plain yogurt to taste like vanilla yogurt. My daughter will only eat vanilla. Thank you so much.

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  39. Laurie says:

    I love the post and am amazed that people think of flavored yogurts as so healthy. One thing has been bugging me, though. I think the sugars actually include the natural ones from the milk because plain yogurt usually has 7 or more grams of sugar. I’d love to see them really separate out those added sugars.

  40. geo says:

    I know it’s an old post, but did you use regular teaspoons that most of us have in the kitchen? Those teaspoons can have as much as 16 grams of sugar, so the sugar amount you measured may actually be a lot larger than what’s in those yogurts. The measuring teaspoons are usually a lot smaller.

  41. Robin says:

    You almost always see higher sugar content in the low/no-fat foods, very annoying. But as for Greek yogurt, beware the fat: Fat. Be wary of Greek yogurt’s fat content. In just 7 ounces, Fage’s full-fat Greek yogurt packs 16 grams of saturated fat—or 80 percent of your total daily allowance if you’re on a 2,000-calorie diet. (That’s more than in three Snickers bars.) Dannon’s regular full-fat yogurt has 5 grams of saturated fat in an 8-ounce serving. Saturated fat raises total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease. Read nutrition labels carefully. If you’re going Greek, stick to low-fat and fat-free versions.

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  43. Davey says:

    Ironically all this low fat labeling is misleading on yogurt – lets make something very clear – the fat in milk is what makes milk healthy! These fats are a source of dense energy, unlike sugar, they WONT spike our insulin and will provide a longer lasting energy source that our bodies can metabolize very well. FAT IS GOOD FOR YOU, YOU NEED IT! There are some Yoplait’s that have over 32g sugar, that is almost as much as a COKE/PEPSI!

  44. Elle says:

    This is a ridiculous article. The sugar that is shown on the nutrition label is not all ADDED sugar! Plain greek yogurt has 7-12g of sugar naturally, so you need to subtract that before you calculate how many teaspoons of added sugar there are!

    • Michelle Stern says:

      I am sorry you feel it’s ridiculous. It is still important for people to realize that dairy contains sugar – some people’s health depends on that information. Learning to read labels is a major life skill – and it is important to get people to pay attention. (Have you seen the size of Americans these days?)

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  46. mikden says:

    I hate to add something else to worry about… but a friend of mine works for a large local milk and dairy processor and distributer in our area whose milk is on the shelves of all of our grocery store shelves. He passed on the knowledge that because they have to double pasteurize the milk before packaging they add sacks of sugar to the milk while processing to make it taste like “normal milk”, also you wouldn’t want to know the amounts added to low fat, 2%, and skim milk just to make it taste like real milk…really wish we could buy raw milk from the dairies direct here.

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