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Beware Of The Hidden Sugars Lurking In Your Family’s Yogurt

Posted Feb 24 2009 11:36pm
I can’t tell you how let down I am to have to write this post today given the fact that I’ ve been a huge fan of Stonyfield Farms products for quite sometime. In fact my loyalty runs so deep that long ago I stopped checking the nutritional labels because I was confident their yogurt products were made with the best possible ingredients, are certified organic and do not contain high fructose corn syrup or other unhealthy additives. However, one thing I never stopped to consider and due to my blinding loyalty to the company neglected to follow more closely is that some of the Stonyfield Farms flavored yogurts I have been feeding my family contain as much sugar as a candy bar!

The other day I was preparing after dinner yogurt parfaits for my kids when the nutritional label on the Stonyfield Farms Underground Chocolate I was using caught my eye. While I of course realize that chocolate yogurt is a bit more decadent then say, plain yogurt, I’ ve always believed a couple of spoonfuls of this stuff, especially when accompanied by berries or other fruits was a much healthier alternative than giving my kids candy for dessert -- not to mention my kids love the taste. Of course, now I see why!

What I did not realize until this sad day was that I was in fact giving my kids as much, if not more, grams of sugar per serving than many chocolate bars on the market today, including Snickers. Did you know that a serving of Stonyfield Farms Underground Chocolate has 35 grams of sugar compared to the 30 grams of sugar found in a Snickers bar and the 22 grams of sugar in a Hershey’s 1.55 oz bar!

Unfortunately, Underground Chocolate is not the only Stonyfield Farms flavored yogurt with a ton of added sugar. Their Carmel flavor also has 35 grams of sugar in a single serving and the majority of the other flavored yogurts in their line contain anywhere between 25-20 grams of added sugar – albeit it “organic milled sugar.” While some of this sugar is lactose, which is the kind of sugar that naturally occurs in dairy products, given the fact that “organic milled sugar” is the second ingredient listed on most of their flavored yogurts, clearly many of the sugar found here is of the “added” variety. (Note: A serving of low-fat plain yogurt as about 12 grams of sugar.)

After uncovering the sugar-buzz Stonyfield Farms delivers, I was curious to see how the other popular brands of flavored yogurts compared. Unfortunately the news here is not much better:

  • Dannon ’s All Natural and Fruit Blends varieties contain between 25-20 grams of sugar per serving and while their Light & Fit variety contains only 11 grams of sugar per serving it was the result of artificial sweeteners, not to mention Light & Fit has other artificial ingredients.

  • Yoglait Original flavors contain even more grams of sugar per serving than Dannon, with the majority of their flavors weighing in at 27 grams of sugar per serving.

  • Columbo Classic has 27 grams of sugar per serving in most of their flavored varieties while their Light variety has 12 grams of sugar in addition to high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and coloring.

  • Obviously, I’m not suggesting that we all stop feeding our children yogurt and start giving them chocolate bars. Clearly with the protein, calcium and probiotic benefits associated with yogurt it is an important part of everyone’s diet. However, what I am cautioning is that we all need to more closely scrutinize not only the calories, fat and ingredients of the foods we are feeding our kids, but also the amount of sugar found in these products. It is important to note that the FDA suggests that adults eat 8 teaspoons or less of sugar daily (for children I would suspect the goal would be for even less) – that equals 32 grams of added sugar a day, which is less than what is found in Stonyfield Farms Underground Chocolate.

    So, what should we do to decrease the amount of added sugar, but continue to reap of health benefits of yogurt – here are several ideas:

  • You can begin by slowly incorporating plain yogurt into your family’s diet. If you know they will wince at the idea, start slowly by cutting their favorite flavored yogurt in half with low-fat plain. Another way to go is to use plain yogurt but sweeten it with natural apple sauce, pureed berries, all-fruit jam or even honey. I mostly use frozen berries for this because than they are always on hand and are a bit less expensive during the off season. We also like to top our yogurt with a sprinkle of low-fat granola.

  • Instead of eating chocolate flavored yogurt or other high-sugar varieties, use fun mix-ins like a sprinkle of mini-chocolate chips (8 grams of sugar per tablespoon), a squirt of chocolate syrup (less than 8 grams of sugar) or a crushed up cookie into their yogurt. While you might be adding a bit of sugar, I’m sure it will be much less than that of flavored yogurt.

  • Replace traditional yogurt with low-fat Greek yogurt. Low-fat Greek yogurt has a very thick and creamy texture and not only does it have less sugar per serving (5-8 grams), but it also has more protein than the traditional yogurt we have grown accustomed to eating. Greek yogurt is growing in popularity so it can now be easily found in the dairy case of your local grocery store.

  • If you must feed your kids flavored yogurt, aim for the smaller 4 oz cups specifically designed for children. Danimals, Yoplait Kids and YoKids by Stonyfield Farms all have 13 grams of sugar per 4 oz. serving and these brands do not contain HFCS or artificial flavorings, unlike Trix and Go- Gurt (also made by Yoplait ) -- come on, neon-green yogurt?!
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