Low-carb yogurt is a super healthy snack option that's easy to grab and take on the go. It's usually an excellent source of protein that leaves you feeling full and can be a good base for a healthy breakfast topped with fresh fruit or chia seeds.
Note that some yogurts contain a lot of added sugar, considerably upping their carb count, so look for yogurts with the lowest carbs and sugars.
Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt is the lowest in carbs and sugars.
Carbs and Sugars in Yogurt
You can easily tell how many carbs or sugars are in a store-bought yogurt by reading the nutrition label. If you look for the listing of "total carbohydrate" under serving size, you'll see how many grams of carbs are in one serving of the yogurt.
Beneath "total carbohydrate" you'll see a listing for "dietary fiber" and "sugars." Both counts are already included in the total carbohydrates, but the additional information allows you to see how much of the carbs in a product are due to fiber or sugar.
One issue is that the sugar labeling doesn't specify whether the sugars are natural, such as lactose, the sugar that naturally occurs in milk, or added sugars that are used as sweeteners.
The FDA recommends that a maximum of 10 percent of daily calories should come from added sugars, but it's hard to calculate how much added sugar you're eating when there's no differentiation between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar.
Read more: Why Do Certain Yogurts Cause Bloating?
How Many Carbs in Yogurt?
According to the USDA, 100 grams of plain, low-fat yogurt typically contains 7 grams of carbs (7 of those are sugars). Plain, low-fat Greek yogurt has 3.9 grams of carbs, of which 3.6 grams are sugars. In both cases, these carbs from lactose, the sugar that occurs naturally in yogurt, because they're unsweetened – and therefore have no added sugars.
Yogurts with added fruit can be surprisingly high in carbs and sugars because they contain both the lactose that naturally occurs in yogurt, as well as added sugar for sweetener. For example, 100 grams of Dannon's lemon-flavored Fruit on the Bottom Low Fat yogurt contains 17 grams of carbs — 14 grams of which are sugars. Yoplait Original Strawberry Yogurt has 15 grams of carbs, of which 12 grams are sugars.
If you're looking for a low-carb yogurt, avoid yogurts that contain sweetener or added sugars. A 100-gram serving of Fage Honey 0% Fat Free Greek Yogurt has 20 grams of carbs in it, and 19 grams of those come from sugar.
Choose a Healthy Yogurt
The type of yogurt that's best for you will depend on your health goals, daily calorie intake and any health conditions that limit your diet such as diabetes or high cholesterol. Harvard Health Publishing says you should opt for a high-protein yogurt with as little sweetener as possible. Common yogurt sweeteners include sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and honey.
Another thing to look for in low-carb yogurt is added ingredients that can make you feel bloated or cause other digestive issues like diarrhea. Some brands add thickening agents (like guar gum, starch or gelatin) to improve the texture of the yogurt, but these can upset your stomach. If you get a stomachache after eating yogurt, check the ingredients to identify any thickeners that might not agree with you.
Read more: The 6 Best Yogurts and 4 to Avoid
Make Some Low-Carb Yogurt
If you make your own sugar-free yogurt, you may not know the exact calorie count or carb content, but you can be sure there's no added sugar. According to the Institute of Culinary Education, making your own yogurt is simple All you need to make your own yogurt is a small amount of yogurt, any type of milk, a jar and a place to keep the jar warm.
You can start this process using any yogurt that contains live or active cultures, specifically Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Use yogurt that has a low-carb or low-sugar content if that's your goal for the yogurt you're making.
The Institute of Culinary Education recipe recommends mixing 2 tablespoons of yogurt with 32 ounces of whole milk. After heating the milk to 185 F to kill any bacteria, cool it to 120 F. Stir in the yogurt and transfer the mixture to a glass jar. Then place the jar in a cooler filled with water heated to 120 to 125 F, close the lid and let the mixture cook for four hours.
Read more: Yogurt Brands Containing Probiotics
Carbs in Nondairy Yogurts
There are many low-carb yogurt options available for people who don't want to eat dairy. If you're vegan, lactose intolerant or simply prefer nondairy options, you can find yogurts made from products such as soy, coconut, almonds and cashews.
The amount of carbs and sugars in nondairy yogurt varies depending on the brand. As with dairy yogurts, plain, sugar-free yogurt is your best bet for both lower carbs and sugar levels in a nondairy yogurt. Nondairy yogurts containing fruit have more carbs in them than plain versions.
Kite Hill Plain Almond Milk Yogurt contains just 3.33 grams of carbs per 100 grams of yogurt (all 3.33 grams of carbs come from sugar). Comparatively, Kite Hill Blueberry Almond Milk Yogurt contains 10 grams of carbs per 100-gram serving, of which 9.33 grams are sugar.
Recommended Sugar and Carb Intake
Ultimately, whichever yogurt you choose to eat should fit within the dietary guidelines that apply to you. Recommended daily calorie intake depends on your age and activity level, so the best yogurt for weight loss won't be the same for everybody.
Health.gov's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, recommends that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake, but this may be different if you're following a low-carb diet.
Carbs are important macronutrients because they break down efficient energy sources that your body uses for fuel. However, not all carbs are created equal. The carbohydrates found in whole grains and vegetables are much better for you nutritionally than carbohydrates from added sugar.
The American Heart Association strongly recommends limiting your intake of added sugars every day. For women, they recommend an added sugar intake of not more than 100 calories per day, or around 6 teaspoons. For men, the recommendation is not more than 150 calories per day, which is around 9 teaspoons.
- Institute of Culinary Education: "High- or Low-Tech Homemade Yogurt"
- USDA: "Yogurt, Plain, Low-fat"
- USDA: "Yogurt, Greek, Plain, Low-fat"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Figure 2-9"
- USDA: "Dannon, Fruit on the Bottom Low-Fat Yogurt, Lemon"
- USDA: "Yoplait Original Strawberry Yogurt"
- USDA: "Fage, Total 0%, Nonfat Greek Strained Yogurt, Honey"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How to Choose a Healthy Yogurt"
- World Applied Sciences Journal, 2012: "Effect of Gums on Yogurt Characteristics"
- USDA: "Kite Hill, Artisan Almond Milk Yogurt, Plain"
- USDA: "Kite Hill, Artisan Almond Milk Yogurt, Blueberry"
- American Heart Association: "Sugar 101"