The key to including yogurt in your diet without worrying about weight gain is making sure that the calories from yogurt are calculated as part of your total daily intake. Choosing the best yogurt for your diet is a little trickier than just looking at the total calories, however. The amounts of fat, sugar and protein make a difference in its impact on your weight.
Fat From Milk
One cup of plain yogurt made from whole milk has 8 grams of fat. If it’s made from low-fat milk, the fat drops to 3.8 grams, and fat-free yogurt has less than 1 gram of total fat in 1 cup. Because each gram of fat contains 9 calories, it makes a difference to the total calories. Beyond calories, another important reason to choose fat-free yogurt is to avoid the high amount of saturated fat in whole milk. In addition to its potential to increase cholesterol, saturated fat may induce more weight gain than unsaturated fats, according to the December 2013 issue of the “European Journal of Nutrition.”
Carbohydrates Affect Calories
Check the nutrition label for the total carbohydrates in your yogurt. Some varieties of low-fat and fat-free yogurt have more calories per cup than whole-milk yogurt because the calories lost from reduced fat are added back in the form of carbs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database reports carbohydrates ranging from about 8.8 grams in a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt to 46.6 grams in 1 cup of fat-free fruit yogurt. For comparison, the generic Greek yogurt has 145 calories, 1 cup of plain yogurt made from whole milk provides 149 calories, and the nonfat fruit variety contains 233 calories.
The amount of protein in yogurt varies more than you may realize if you haven’t compared nutrition labels. Most types of American-style yogurt supply 8 to 14 grams of protein in a 1-cup serving. Greek yogurt contains about 24 grams per cup. Greek yogurt is strained to remove some of the liquids, which results in more concentrated protein, as well as its characteristic thick texture. Protein helps prevent weight gain by making you feel full longer and promoting balanced blood sugar. Your body also uses more calories to metabolize protein than carbs and fat, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Best Choice for the Calories
Greek-style yogurt is one of the best choices for adding yogurt to your diet while managing your weight. It has slightly more calories than plain yogurt made from skim milk -- 145 in 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt compared to 137 in fat-free plain yogurt -- but Greek yogurt has nearly double the protein and half the carbs. Yogurt doesn't contain fiber, which fills you up and helps you eat less, so try adding toppings that boost the fiber and provide nutrients, such as wheat germ, walnuts or sliced fruit. If you mix whole-grain granola with your yogurt, beware of the calories. One-quarter cup of granola will add another 107 to 149 calories.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Yogurt, Plain, Whole Milk, 8 Grams Protein per 8 Ounce
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Yogurt, Plain, Low-Fat, 12 Grams Protein per 8 Ounce
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Yogurt, Plain, Skim Milk, 13 Grams Protein per 8 Ounce
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Yogurt, Greek, Plain, Nonfat
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Yogurt, Fruit Variety, Nonfat
- European Journal of Nutrition: Effect of Dietary Fatty Acid Composition on Substrate Utilization and Body Weight Maintenance in Humans
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein: Moving Closer to Center Stage
- Clemson University: Greek Yogurt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cereals, Ready-to-Eat, Granola, Homemade
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cereals, Ready-to-Eat, Quaker, 100 Percent Natural Granola, Oats, Wheat and Honey