Yogurt: Fat Versus Sugar


Being an informed, label-reading consumer can be tough work, especially with a restless babe in tow. Today, Sara Cabot comments on fat and sugar content in plain and fruit yogurts after sleuthing it up at Whole Foods:

“I was standing in Whole Foods the other day with another local vendor who makes frozen yogurt. He was touting his wares by promoting the ‘low fat’ property of his yogurt. I asked him about sugar content and after reading the label we realized that his product had less sugar than other ice creams and especially sorbets on the shelf. I told him that this was an important fact that he should talk about too.
It strikes me that a problematic nutritional trend in the US is that people think they are eating healthier by eating ‘low fat’ but all that happens is that the sugar and salt content in such foods goes up. When you take the fat out, you take a lot of the taste out, which then has to be replaced by sugar, salt, and taste additives.

Why Kids Need Fat*

Dietary fats provide the concentrated calories that are essential for normal infant growth during infancy and up to age 3. They also provide fatty acids, the building blocks needed for critical metabolic programming of brain growth and development.

It really matters where the fat comes from. Apart from breast milk as a fat source, the only good sources of good fatty acids come from formula, vegetable oils (have a few different kinds at hand as they provide different valuable fatty acids), nuts, seeds (though not recommended for children under 2 as they are a choking hazard), and foods made with these ingredients.

After 8 months, whole milk products such as yogurt and cheese can be introduced but not whole milk itself, which can be introduced at 1 year. This should be reduced to 2% milk when your child is 2 years old.

* Taken from Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health: Birth Through Age Six by Susan Roberts


Yogurt is a wonderful thing for children. They can start eating it after 8 months and it provides, along with cheese, a good source of fatty acid for your growing child. Often children who are intolerant of cow’s milk can have yogurt, as the lactose has been broken down and milk proteins removed or limited.

What Kind of Yogurt to Buy?

I would always recommend buying plain yogurt and mixing it with a fruit sauce such as apple, pear, or stewed dried fruits such as figs, apricots, or prunes in the winter; peaches plums and berries in the summer. Mashed banana is always a winner.

If the fruit is a bit tart, drizzle some honey (only if your child is over 1 year for the honey) or maple syrup, over top.

It’s cheaper to buy a big pot of yogurt rather than lots of single serving sizes. Kids will always want the colorful packaging though, which might lead to one of those supermarket battles that we all dread! After a few of these fights, my kids now know that we will mostly buy the big pots and sometimes single serve sizes for a treat.

Recommended Plain Yogurts (available at Whole Foods)

Brand: Seven Seas
Type: whole milk & reduced fat
Organic?: organic
Comments: Nothing added.

Brand: Fage Total
Type: whole milk & reduced fat
Organic?: all natural
Comments: Nothing added. My kids love the full fat version but now that they are over 2 years I tend to buy the reduced fat version. They particularly like the single serving with strawberry compote on the side, pronouncing it “not too sweet.”

Brand: Stonyfield
Type: whole milk
Organic?: organic
Comments: Added pectin gives the yogurt a slightly gelatinous texture.

Fruit Yogurts

Be mindful of the sugar! A quick look at fruit yogurts in the supermarket yielded the following:

Per serving:
Yo Baby – 12-16g sugar (includes about 3g sugar from lactose)
Yo Kids – 18 g sugar
Stonyfield Farm low fat 22-24 g sugar

*Wallaby and Liberte brands have as much if not more sugar.

*Now that Brown Cow is owned by Dannon, it has more sugar and pectin added to it. For me it has lost its homemade, natural taste.

For me it comes down to this:

As parents debate endlessly about the causes of hyperactivity in kids: is it sugar? Is it additives in processed food? Is it simply calories? And…

Question: What is the old-fashioned recipe for a good night’s sleep?
Answer: A cup of warm milk.”