What do you get when you add sugar to fruit? Jam
What do you get when you add sugar to cocoa? Chocolate
What do you get when you add sugar to yoghurt? Yoghurt.

When is a yoghurt not a yoghurt?  I would argue that when multiple other ingredients are added, most damagingly sugar, the end product may contain yoghurt as its main ingredient, but should we still call it yoghurt?  We don’t call cake ‘flour’ even though flour is the main ingredient.

Yoghurt has a bit of a health food status, and deservedly so if we’re talking about natural yoghurt or plain Greek yoghurts.  These contain naturally occurring milk sugars but no added sugars.  It’s the added sugars we need to look out for.

Public health bodies tell us that our diet contains too much sugar and that yoghurts are one of a group of 9 food categories that contribute most of the sugars in the UK diet.

My guess is that people eat yoghurts mainly because they like them, but also, I suspect, because they think they are ‘healthy’ and ‘good for you’.   But this depends on which type or brand is chosen.

Nutritionally, yoghurts should be, and can be, a good source of protein and calcium. But don’t be misled into assuming all yoghurts are virtuous.

Your yoghurt of choice will most likely be based on what you like the taste of.   But start having a look at the nutrition information too. Read on for guidance on how to choose a yoghurt of good nutritional quality, and hopefully a taste you’ll also enjoy.

Natural Yoghurts

Like them or loathe them, natural yoghurt is pure, unadulterated…..yoghurt!

Any natural yoghurt can be included in your food choices regularly…if you like them.  The main nutritional consideration may be deciding between the fat free and fat containing varieties.

If you don’t like them, you’re not going to eat them.  But if you choose your yoghurts for their health credentials, and decide to opt for a flavoured yoghurt, then stick to the nutritional profile of a natural yoghurt as far as is possible.

What does that mean?

The average sugar content of natural and Greek style yoghurt is approximately 6g per 100g (which is the natural milk sugar lactose), and the average protein content of natural yoghurt is approximately 6g per 100g. 

The sugar (lactose) is balanced with the protein content.

We are not going to get many flavoured yoghurts with this balance, but we can come to a reasonable compromise (see below).

Flavoured yoghurts

Flavoured yoghurts have widely varying amounts of added sugar, ranging from no added sugar (usually sweetened with artificial sweetener), to over 19g of sugar per 100g.  Since the average sugar content (lactose) of natural yoghurts is 6g per 100g, we can roughly assume that anything over 6g of sugar per 100g of flavoured yoghurt is added sugar (the type we need to keep to a minimum).

To make matters worse, the worst added sugar offenders often come in the biggest individual pot sizes.  For example, if a yoghurt contains 19g of sugar per 100g, but the pot size is 150g, then the amount of sugar in one pot is 28.5g (therefore approximately 22.5g, or 4-5 teaspoons of added sugar).

If you care about reducing your sugar intake, and enjoy flavoured yoghurts, I suggest using a general guide of aiming to keep sugar content at 10g per 100g or lower.

Remembering that natural yoghurts have a balance of sugar to protein, use a general guide of aiming for protein content of 5g per 100g or more.

Where this is not possible, my over-riding suggestion is for protein content to be at least ½ of sugar content.  For example, if sugar content is 12g / 100g, look for a protein content of at least 6g/100g.

Click here for a range of flavoured yoghurts that fit these criteria.  Of these, your choice will be furthered influenced by fat content or use of artificial sweeteners for example.  Find that brands and flavours you like, eat and enjoy.

And finally, click here for a range of yoghurts that are too high in sugar (and maybe even cream and butter – check the ingredients list) to be wholesome for everyday consumption.

So back to one of the original questions…

What do you get if you add sugar to yoghurt?  In some cases, dessert.