Product Snapshot: Plain sweetened yoghurts - are they a healthier choice?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 30 November 2016.
Tagged: dairy, health, healthy eating, nutrition, review, yoghurt

Poppin Pods are always on hand when you want just a couple of sprigs of one particular herb.

Have you ever come home with the wrong yoghurt? In other words, did you think you were buying plain, natural and unsweetened yoghurt only to find you had plain, sweetened yoghurt when you opened the tub? It’s a common mistake and easy to do when you’re shopping in a hurry and aren’t familiar with the labels. Here’s a review of 3 three plain, sweetened yoghurts with our verdict on whether or not they’re a healthy choice.

The yoghurts we compared

We purchased:

1. Danone Ultimate Yoghurt
2. Gippsland Dairy Smooth and Creamy Yoghurt
3. Harris Farm plain sweetened Yoghurt

All are full-fat, thick yoghurts that look creamy-white in appearance. They have the firmish texture of sour cream. Think dollops of yoghurt in your bowl, not a thin runny stream.

Taste-wise, we really like the Gippsland yoghurt which we found thick and rich with a smooth rounded flavour.

Danone has the runniest consistency of the three and has a slight vanilla aftertaste – but still nice.

Harris Farms reveals a sour after-note compared to the others but it’s not offensive and you wouldn’t spot it if you weren’t eating them one after the after.

Pros

  • An easy transition to yoghurt for men or children who would otherwise turn up their nose at it on cereal or as a dessert.
  • All are suitable for gluten-free and wheat-free diets, having no starches as thickeners.
  • Have simple ingredients without additives - such as milk, cream, sugar, milk solids and yoghurt cultures such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilis.
  • Can substitute for thickened cream say on top of a pavlova.
  • Easy way to boost calcium and protein.

Cons

  • Most have added cream which increases the fat content.
  • They have added sugar (we guesstimate that you eat about one heaped teaspoon or around 8g added sugar per 50g serving, which is not a lot but this may detract people from buying).
  • Easy to keep eating once you’ve started! With a big tub, there’s no set portions.

Nutrition figures compared

Compared to an unsweetened full-fat yoghurt, these three are

  • About the same in total and saturated fat. However this gives them ‘filling power’ so you stop eating after a bowl.
  • Higher in sugars, thanks to the addition of sugar to make them sweetened. Note that about half the sugars (6 per cent) are natural lactose from the original milk used to create the yoghurt.
  • Similar in calcium, needed for healthy bones and teeth.
  • Similar in protein, needed for growth, enzymes and muscles as well as providing satiety during weight loss regimes.

Nutrition from the three yoghurts compared to an unsweetened yoghurt per 100g

Nutrient Danone Gippsland Harris Farm

Unsweetened
full-fat

Total fat, g 7.8 6.4 7.6 6
Sat fat, g 5.2 4.2 5.5 3
Sugars, g 12.0 16.2 17.3 6
Calcium, mg 120 170 NR 120
Protein, g 3.0 5.8 5.5 6

    NR = Not Reported

Our verdict?

If you’re after the ideal yoghurt for cereal and to create a nutritious dessert, then buy a 100% natural unsweetened yoghurt and add your own fruit or honey.

Yes, these sweetened yoghurts are not ‘perfect’ but are comparatively better than ice-cream and dairy desserts (think crème caramel or tiramisu) when you are craving something sweet. We could eat these in a bowl on their own, unlike some other yoghurts.

Despite their added sugar, these yoghurts make an important nutritional contribution in terms of their dairy content, calcium, protein and B vitamins such as riboflavin. They are worth buying for families and anyone who dislikes natural yoghurt.

Thank you to student dietitian Caitlin Delaney for help in taste-testing and fact finding.