yogurt - did you know....

Everybody has their reasons for eating and enjoying yogurt; taste, health and wellness or as a desert... whichever is your choice you should know a thing or two before you choose your yogurt. Like, did you know that most national brand yogurts don't contain active yogurt cultures? with a brand like yoplait... might as well just drink a cup of milk with sugar!
There are several different types of probiotic cultures, but it is important that the cultures are live, if you are looking at heavily processed yogurt (Dannon and Yoplait) it is entirely possible that the beneficial cultures are no longer alive.

live probiotic cultures can have healthy effects on any of the following:
colon cancer
high blood pressure
inflammatory bowel disease
irritable bowel syndrome
immune function and natural defense system
lactose intolerance

I was interested to learn that if you are lactose intolerant you can eat yogurt because of the active yogurt cultures without the discomfort. If you are taking antibiotics it's great to eat yogurt to help repair your intestinal flora, kefir is great for this as well and super healthy for your kids if they are on antibiotics.

just a few brands that I looked into:
Dannon - I looked through their website and 95% of their products list sugar as their second ingredient (if it wasn't sugar it was fructose in the remaining 5%) and many do not contain active yogurt cultures--so be careful to read the label but these have way too much sugar to give to kids, it's really just like candy. Even their light version contained fructose, aspartame, modified corn starch, citric acid... it just goes on...)

Yoplait - The same as above, sugar is the second ingredient on all of their products.

you get the picture...

Stonyfield Farm - we love them because they are organic but they are not totally out of the hot water, their recipe for the children's products have 25% less sugar than other standard kids yogurts, so that's pretty good, but really it's still the second item listed (organic cane sugar). All of their products contain active yogurt cultures, so they get a good rating for us but not great. I once got an email from a mom who injected plain yogurt into their yogurt tubes with a syringe, I know it sounds weird but every time I give my kids one of those things I think of that mom's wonderful idea!

I think that the best thing that you can do is use plain yogurt, our family is pretty into greek yogurt, and add the flavors yourself! honey, homemade jam, lingonberry sauce, bananas, melon, etc... then you get the good effects of yogurt and you don't have to make it so sweet (YOU control the sugar). I also think that sweetened yogurt trains your kids to like sweet things, they literally get used to the sweet taste and expect it. Sure your kids are going to balk the first time you offer them plain yogurt with a bit of fruitiness but they will eventually get used to it. You can also open a "kids yogurt" and then just stir in some plain yogurt so it's not completely sweet... I promise you they will never know the difference!

Kefir is also a good way to add probiotics to your kids sweetened yogurts, it's easier because it's more liquid, and it's terrific for smoothies. Although kefir and yogurt are similar in taste, Kefir has more than double the amount of live and active cultures - 10 strains of bacteria, where as most yogurts generally have only two or three. Some (particularly frozen) yogurts do not contain any live bacteria or could have bacteria that have long since died, due to processing and other disruptive factors (honestly I never thought of that...). Always check the label. There are some great Kefir products from Lifeway, for adults and kids (probugs above are yummy for kids!) they have less sugar and they taste great! I think that yogurt can be such a good part of a families diet but WATCH OUT--you may just be handing your kids a load of sugar or sending them to school with a cup of sugar for lunch, so be choosy and enjoy the wonderful benefits of yogurt! read labels and be smart when choosing your yogurt.

Like I always say, I don't know everything about yogurt, I was just surprised to find most of this out, so if YOU do please give us a comment so that we can all learn more about the benefits of healthier yogurt.