There are many reasons to love yogurt. For starters, it's a natural source of probiotics, aka healthy gut bacteria, and the science on the importance of supporting our gut health continues to grow.
It's also nutrient-dense. Yogurt — especially dairy-based yogurt — is rich in calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin and vitamin B12.
Another reason to fangirl over yogurt? It can also support you in meeting your weight-loss goals.
How Yogurt Can Help You Lose Weight
When it comes to weight loss, yogurt is a standout because of its protein. A 6-ounce serving of regular yogurt has 9 grams of protein and Greek yogurt can have twice that much, according to the USDA.
Protein helps keep us feeling full. In fact, of the three macronutrients, it's the most satiating, according to a June 2015 article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It also requires more energy to digest compared to fat and carbohydrates (in other words, your body burns more calories breaking it down).
Dietary protein also helps maintain your muscle mass, even as you're losing weight, according to a March 2020 paper in The Journal of Nutrition. Holding onto as much of our muscle as possible is important for weight loss because it's more metabolically active than fat, meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn overall.
Enjoying yogurt for breakfast may further support your weight-loss goals. If you're like the average person, your protein intake is skewed. We tend to eat more of this macro at dinner (about 39 grams), while our breakfasts are on the lighter side — containing 13 grams of protein on average.
But research shows that spreading your protein intake throughout the day is more effective at stimulating muscle growth compared to just eating a larger amount later in the day, according to a June 2014 study in The Journal of Nutrition.
5 Common Yogurt Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some common mistakes you'll want to avoid when shopping for or enjoying yogurt.
Mistake 1: Choosing One High in Added Sugar
Navigating the yogurt section can be tricky. Flavor aside, there are so many options, from the style of yogurt — Greek, regular, Icelandic — to the source, whether it's cow's milk, goat milk, oat milk or soy-based, for example.
Another major factor is the added sugar content. This can range from 0 grams of added sugar to upwards of 20 grams per serving. For reference, women should consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, while the limit for men is 36 grams, per the American Heart Association.
Fix it: Always check for the amount of added sugar on the nutrition facts panel before buying. Look for yogurts with 7 grams of added sugar or less — the lower the better for weight loss and overall health. Your best bet is choosing a plain flavor, which is free of added sugars, and then adding chopped fruit for sweetness.
Mistake 2: Picking a ‘Light’ Option Made With Artificial Sweeteners
Some yogurts are marketed as "light," which may be an indication that they've been sweetened with artificial sweeteners. While keeping added sugar to a minimum is important, opting for yogurts that achieve this by using artificial sweeteners isn't the answer.
Sucralose, aspartame and saccharin are common artificial additives used to sweeten a product while keeping the calorie and sugar content low. This sounds ideal for weight loss, but the trouble is they may actually confuse our brains and leave us craving sugar even more, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Fix it: Always check the ingredients list for artificial sweeteners. Choose options that have been lightly sweetened with the real thing (again, aiming to keep the added sugar content as low as possible) or, better yet, go with the plain flavor, which will be free of added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Mistake 3: Adding It to Sugary Smoothies or Parfaits
Incorporating nutritious yogurt into your breakfast loses its health appeal when its paired with sugary cereals or added to overly sweetened smoothies. Yes, you're still getting all of the vitamins, minerals, probiotics and lean protein from yogurt, but you're getting it with a side of added sugars and, in some cases, refined grains.
Parfaits are commonly made with granola, which is typically high in calories and added sugars, while smoothies can be sweetened with juices, honey, or sweetened nondairy milk.
Fix it: If it's a parfait you're after, use a whole-grain, high-fiber cereal along with freshly chopped fruit. When making smoothies, keep the added sugar content to a minimum by skipping honey or maple syrup and sweeten with fresh fruit instead. Opt for whole fruit over juices (you'll get more fiber) and always use unsweetened nondairy milk or regular cow's milk.
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Mistake 4: Choosing Vegan or Dairy-Free Brands That Are Low in Protein
There's no shortage of plant-based yogurts, but you have to be choosy if you're looking for one with a decent dose of protein. Cow's milk is a natural source of protein, but almond, oat and other plant-based yogurt alternatives come up short in this category, much like their "milk" counterparts. Many dairy-free yogurts contain 2 grams of protein or less.
Fix it: All is not lost. There are a few dairy-free options that are also rich in protein. Soy-based yogurts contain protein, and other types, like oat or almond, may have added protein from peas or faba beans. Always read the nutrition facts panel and look for 6 grams of protein or more.
Mistake 5: Overdoing It on Portion Size
One of the inherent benefits of yogurt is that it's typically sold in small portions — perfect single-size containers made for one. But if you're looking to stretch your grocery dollar, the larger-size tubs of yogurt are a more economical option. The downside to these tubs is that you lose that built-in portion control.
Fix it: Portion your yogurt out before eating (about a three-fourths cup serving), until you get used to eyeballing it. Or, when you get home from the grocery store, portion out the tub into small individual containers so you don't have to think about it each time you want to enjoy your yogurt.
Brand We Love
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "High Compared with Moderate Protein Intake Reduces Adaptive Thermogenesis and Induces a Negative Energy Balance during Long-term Weight-Loss Maintenance in Participants with Prediabetes in the Postobese State: A PREVIEW Study"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost?"