What's the Best Yogurt for People With Diabetes?

Greek Yogurt: Nutrition Benefits for People With Diabetes

Glass of Greek yogurt with berries

Yogurt, typically made from cow's milk (however, nowadays there are many alternatives), is a source of carbohydrate which is also full of good bacteria, calcium, and protein. If you have diabetes, yogurt can be a smart food choice; however, the trick is to know which kind of yogurt to choose and which to skip out on. 

What to Look for in a Yogurt

In the best kinds of yogurt, you get a good balance of protein and carbohydrate, along with calcium and healthy probiotics. You also don't get a lot of added sugar, additives, food coloring, or saturated fat. Choosing a low-fat  or non-fat yogurt version can help you to reduce your total calorie intake as well as keep your saturated fat (the type of fat that increase bad LDL cholesterol) low. In addition, since yogurt is a source of carbohydrate, you'll want to choose a yogurt that is low in added sugars such as fruited yogurts or those yogurts with added granola, or other toppings that are rich in sugar. Therefore, it's best to choose plain, low-fat yogurt. If you need to add sweetness, top your yogurt with some berries or peaches. Frozen varieties can make your yogurt seem "syrup-y", too, for more fiber and less added sugar. 

If you are looking to be "greener" and have some added healthy fats to your diet, you can choose a yogurt that is made from grass fed cows.

Greek Yogurt vs. Regular Yogurt

Greek yogurt is regular yogurt that's been strained, removing some of the whey and leaving behind a thicker, more protein-rich yogurt. Greek yogurt is readily available in regular grocery stores; find it in the refrigerated dairy section.

Regular yogurt provides 5 grams of protein per 6-ounce serving, while Greek yogurt provides up to 20 grams, depending on the brand. Because it has more protein, Greek yogurt has about 1/3 the carbohydrate of regular yogurt.  And, because lactose is a source of carbohydrate in dairy products, this means that many people find Greek yogurt easier to digest than regular yogurt, making it a good alternative for those people who have lactose intolerance. On the other hand, some varieties of Greek yogurt (mostly flavored ones) have less calcium than traditional yogurt, so keep that in mind if you're eating yogurt for calcium. 

For people with diabetes, plain, low-fat, or non-fat Greek yogurt is an exceptional meal and snack option due to the low carbohydrate and high protein content. Avoid those Greek yogurt varieties that have added syrups, fruit preserves, sweeteners, or added toppers on the side. As an added bonus, choose a grass fed Greek organic variety. 

How to Have Yogurt in Your Diabetes-Friendly Meal Plan

Yogurt for breakfast: For a great, filling, and nutrient dense breakfast, try 6 to 8 ounces of plain low-fat Greek yogurt topped with one serving of fresh or frozen seasonal fruit (like berries, sliced peaches, chunked apples, etc.) and top it with 1 tablespoon nuts, such as, chopped almonds for crunch, additional protein, and healthy fats. If you like, add a sugar-free sweetener, cinnamon or vanilla powder for added flavor. 

Yogurt in dips: Plain low or non-fat Greek yogurt can also be used almost exclusively in place of sour cream in dips and recipes since the texture and flavor are so similar. You can also sub out some mayo in coleslaw recipes. Lastly, you can use Greek yogurt in baked goods that call for sour cream, such as cookies, scones, or cake.

Yogurt in smoothies: Add some low-fat Greek yogurt to your smoothies for added thickness, texture, and protein. 

Yogurt as a topper: Swap out honey and maple syrup and top your whole grain pancakes or waffels with a dollup of Greek yogurt. 

Yogurt as dessert: Instead of eating ice cream for dessert, try a frozen container of Greek yogurt. Top it with some fresh or frozen berries and you have a sweet after dinner treat. 

Recipes to Try That Use Greek Yogurt:

What if You Don't Like Greek Yogurt?

The thick texture and consistency of Greek yogurt may not be for everyone. If you'd like an alternative you can always opt for a low-fat plain variety. When possible, keep it organic. 

If you are lactose intolerant, you can choose a coconut based yogurt or an almond or cashew milk based yogurt.