A cup of yogurt may seem like the perfect on-the-go breakfast, but if you’re hungry again by midmorning, you might be making some basic yogurt mistakes.
First, let’s be clear that we love — love! — yogurt, in all its many permutations, flavors and countries of origin. The experts we spoke to agree it’s a terrific, nutrition-packed food, and one reason for that is its protein content. “A high-protein breakfast is super important in keeping your sugar cravings at bay later in the day,” registered dietitian nutritionist Marissa Meshulam told HuffPost. “Research shows that eating a protein breakfast vs. a carb breakfast actually leads to less hunger later on, making it easy for you to continue to make choices that nourish your body, instead of being ravenous from a sugary breakfast.”
RDN Toby Smithson explained the science behind the satisfaction: “Protein foods slow down digestion, which will help keep you feeling fuller longer. Yogurt is a good choice for breakfast as it provides carbohydrate and protein, a combination that provides energy and helps you feel fuller longer.”
Another yogurt fan is RDN Jerlyn Jones. “It’s a quick way to get a nutritious, well-balanced breakfast with minimal fuss. It’s cool, creamy and delicious. Yogurt is a great part of a healthy diet for kids and adults because it’s rich in protein and calcium, vitamin D and it contains potassium. Some yogurts even contain live, active bacteria cultures, as indicated on the label. These cultures, or probiotics, are considered ‘good bacteria’ for the gut and can help maintain a healthy digestive system.”
But as great as yogurt can be, eating the wrong kind can give you pre-lunch hunger pangs. Nutrition experts have simple fixes that should help you stay satisfied until lunchtime.
Mistake #1: Your yogurt contains too much added sweetener
“The U.S. dietary guideline for added sugar is to limit your intake to less than 10% of your total daily calories,” Smithson said. Most Americans eat an average of 82 grams of sugar every day, but the goal, depending on body size, is to eat between 25 and 38 grams per day. With many yogurts containing a median of 10.8 to 13.1 grams of sugar per 100 grams, that’s up to half your recommended intake of sugar in one cup. The advice from nutritionists: the less sugar, the better. If your average calorie intake is 1,500 calories, for example, your yogurt shouldn’t have more than 15 grams of added sugar.
RDN Chelsey Amer advised that “an average cup of flavored yogurt contains 5 to 6 grams of protein and a whopping 20 grams or more of sugar.” Many experts identified a link between a too-sweet yogurt breakfast and a midday crash. “Sugary yogurts can increase your glucose immediately, with a more dramatic swing and then decline,” RDN Sharon Palmer told HuffPost. “It’s better to choose those that are lower in added sugars, and richer in protein.”
“I also would avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose,” Meshulam said. “They’re not great for our gut microbiomes, and they may leave us hungrier later on.”
Mistake #2: Your yogurt is too low in fat
“Thanks to the low-fat craze of the ’90s, many people still choose nonfat yogurt,” Amer said. “To stay full, look for a hefty dose of protein and fat, at least 20 grams of protein per cup, and a 2% fat or full-fat option, if possible.” What’s so great about fat? It’s the last thing to leave the digestive tract, so it can make you feel fuller for longer.
Mistake #3: You’re eating the yogurt and nothing but the yogurt
One reason you’re not satisfied is a lack of fiber. “Yogurt is not a source of fiber, so if you want to help boost satiety, you can add bran cereal, chia seeds, flaxseed or nuts,” Smithson said. Palmer suggested adding fruits, vegetables, granola or muesli.
“Yogurt is great as part of your breakfast, but not your entire breakfast,” RDN Amy Gorin told HuffPost. “I recommend combining it with satiating protein, fat and fiber.”
“My favorite combination is a plain 2% Greek yogurt with berries and a seedy granola with a swirl of SunButter on top,” Amer said.
“Most yogurts are 150 calories per serving or less,” RDN Sara Haas told HuffPost. “That’s definitely not enough energy to fuel your morning.”
More expert tips
If you’re hoping to reduce your plastic consumption, follow Palmer’s advice to purchase larger tubs of yogurt. “All of those single-serve plastics are not good for the environment, so find the brand you love and get the tub,” she said. Bonus: Your yogurt habit will be much cheaper, too.
And if you’re avoiding dairy but still love yogurt, there are plenty of options. “Plant-based yogurts are made from soy, almond, cashew, hemp, flax, oat milk, coconut milk or a blend of several plant-based ingredients,” Jones explained. “The protein content of soy yogurt is comparable to dairy yogurt, and some brands contain probiotics. Not all plant-based yogurts are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, so look for ones that contain these important nutrients.”
Want to stay full all morning? Here are experts’ top types and brands.
Greek yogurt was the most frequently recommended variety. Meshulam recommends Stonyfield Organic Greek Yogurt and Maple Hill Creamery 100% Grassfed Organic Greek Yogurt. “Most Greek yogurt has twice the protein of regular low-fat yogurt,” Jones explained. “Because it has less lactose than traditional yogurt, lactose-sensitive individuals may tolerate it better than traditional yogurt.”
Other frequently mentioned brands include Chobani and Fage, which is Smithson’s favorite. “It’s my top pick because it contains a great source of protein and a good source of calcium,” she said. “Because it’s lower in carbohydrates, you have more freedom to add high-fiber foods.”
Skyr was also mentioned frequently by nutrition experts. “It’s a strained yogurt that’s creamier and thicker than Greek yogurt, as it takes almost four cups of milk to make one cup, giving it more protein than regular yogurts,” Jones said.
“I often purchase Icelandic Provisions brand, as it does not contain as many added sugars as many other yogurts out there,” Gorin said. “Vanilla bean flavor is my fave.” For another flavored option, Meshulam recommends Siggi’s simple ingredient variety, many of which contain 6 grams of sugar or less.
Silk Soy Milk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative, with 6 grams of plant-powered protein per serving, is a nondairy option recommend by Palmer. It has live and active cultures, but is free of cholesterol, dairy, lactose, gluten, carrageenan, casein and artificial flavors.