We love yogurt and kids love it as well, especially when it’s pink and it ‘s supposed to contain strawberries or other fruits in it. Because we love it so much, yogurt is part of most people’s shopping basket on a daily basis. Unfortunately often we don’t realise that these products could hardly be classified as yogurt, the more appropriate definition is sweetened and coloured yogurt-like desserts.
Most of the flavoured “healthy” fat-free products are full of added sugar, artificial sweeteners, colour and other ingredients that shouldn’t be consumed on a daily basis. The more concerning problem is that children are heavy consumers of the Kids yogurts which in some cases are even worse. It’s difficult for your kid not to want them since they have been designed to attract kids with their numerous TV adverts and fun colourful packaging but remember that at the end of the day you are still the one in charge of your kids’ food.
So let’s have a look at some of the most popular fat-free yogurts that we watch all day on TV. Are they really going to help us maintain a slim figure and how are they creamy when they don’t have any fat?
Weight Watchers Fat Free Berry Fruits Fromage Frais
Let’s start with my “favourite” brand – Weight Watchers. One of the first things you see on the package is the “FAT FREE” sign below the reassuring “Weight Watchers” logo. It doesn’t say “yogurt” anywhere on the packaging as it isn’t but it’s in the yogurts section of the store and most people probably wouldn’t even notice the difference.
Here are all of the ingredients of the blackberry flavour:
- Fromage Frais (a thick cream cheese similar to the consistency of yogurt)
- Fructose-Glucose Syrup (concentrated sugar syrup made up of different types of sugar but mainly Fructose & Glucose)
- Modified Maize Starch (normally this is chemically modified maize starch which helps the texture to be gel-like. Organic products use only organic modified maize starch as they don’t allow the ‘chemical modification’ of starch)
- Guar Gum – it’s not carcinogenic or teratogenic so in general it’s considered safe
- Locust Bean Gum – same
- Carrageenan – a very concerning additive that you should avoid, there are limited studies on humans that show different reactions but all researches made on animals show different gut issues.
- Flavourings (not specified what they are but most likely artificial as we can’t see the word “natural”)
- Artificial Sweeteners:
- Aspartame – this is the worst and most harmful additive in modern processed food. Aspartame has many adverse effects and is blamed for health conditions like Diabetes and Epilepsy. It’s added to products like Diet cokes and as we see here yogurts as well. This is a known carcinogen (capable of causing cancer).
- Acesulfame K – second worst sweetener and it is found to cause many side effects as well. It is also carcinogenic, another additive you should stay away from.
- Preservative: Potassium Sorbate – considered a safe and non-toxic preservative
- Acidity Regulators:
- Citric Acid – it is also used as preservative, it is commonly described as “Vitamin C” but the reality is that it comes from genetically modified black mould grown on GMO corn syrup.
- Sodium Citrates – generally considered a safe acidity regulator
I think it’s fair to say that this is a very long list. Quite a lot of them are artificial and even though there are some additives that are safe in small quantities, we see some very alarming sweeteners that should not be consumed on a daily basis.
Other popular fat free yogurts with similar ingredients
The “Fat free” label is considered by many people an indication that the product is healthier than others and will not promote weight gain. This is a marketing strategy which deceives consumers, in most cases the products are free from fat but full of different types of sugars that affect our weight and health much more seriously. “Low in calories” is another catch phrase that is a misleading mainstream belief about healthy food, more about this in why you need to stop counting calories.
Müller Light (Fat Free)
These are all of the ingredients of the Banana & Custard flavour:
Yogurt, Water, Banana Puree (3%), Fructose, Modified Starch, Inulin (soluble fibre, added to processed foods and can cause gastrointestinal discomfort for some people), Gelatine (animal by-product, not a vegetarian product), Flavourings, Colours: Carotenes, Curcumin, Sweeteners: Aspartame, Acesulfame K, Syrup, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid
There are several concerns about this yogurt. First it contains animal by-product which is not nice and many vegetarians might not realise it. It also contains colours, flavourings, carcinogenic sweeteners and an additional third sweetener “Syrup” which doesn’t give much information about what kind of syrup it actually is.
One fascinating fact about the Vanilla flavour is that it doesn’t contain any actual real vanilla, just artificial flavourings and sweeteners to make it taste like vanilla.
Activia Snackpot 0% Fat Strawberry Yogurt
These are the ingredients of the Strawberry flavour:
Fat Free Yogurt (Skimmed Milk, Skimmed Milk Concentrate / Powder, Live Cultures including Bifidobacterium Lactis, Strawberry (9%), Fructose (1.9%), Stabilisers (Modified Maize Starch, Carrageenan), Concentrated Black Carrot Juice, Flavouring, Acidity Regulators (Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid), Sweeteners (Acesulfame K, Sucralose (another synthetic sweetener found to have some concerning effects on our health).
The Activia yogurt has the same bad ingredients but it is also extremely high in sugar compared to the others. This pot of light 0 % fat yogurt contains 14.5 g of sugar, which is equal to one whole table spoon of sugar. So while you are avoiding the fat, you are actually consuming a huge amount of sugar which is definitely not going to help you stay slim.
Shape 0% Fat Yogurt
These are all of the ingredients of the Mango & Peach flavour:
Skimmed Milk, Skimmed Milk Concentrate/Powder, Milk Proteins, Yogurt Cultures, Fruit 8% (Peach (7%), Passion Fruit (1%)), Sugar (2%), Stabiliser (Modified Tapioca Starch, Modified Maize Starch, Carrageenan), Fibre (Oligofructose – often used in low fat foods to improve the mouthfeel, lost when the fat was removed), Flavourings, Artificial Sweeteners: Acesulfame K, Sucralose (another bad sweetener), Acidity Regulators (Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid), Colour (Paprika Extract)
Reading the ingredients of all of them you can actually see pretty much the same list on each one which means there isn’t really much difference from one yogurt to another, same processed product just different brand and packaging.
This article from Fit day explains in more detail why each of the most popular 4 sweeteners found in the above yogurts are not a safe additive to our food and are actually quite dangerous.
Avoid ‘Fat free’
The list doesn’t end here unfortunately, pretty much any flavoured yogurt has similar ingredients. The problem with the fat free ones is that they deceive the consumers, making them think they are buying innocent food – a yogurt with fruits and no fat, right? It should be as simple as that but unfortunately we can’t find that simplicity in processed food. Real yogurt contains live cultures and no added ingredients or fat removed. The skimming process of the milk is not a natural process as well, it removes some vital vitamins and results in a more processed product. Fat in yogurt is what makes it creamy so in reality fat free yogurt can’t be that thick and creamy without the help of artificial additives to keep it thick. Read more about the benefits of real full fat yogurt in the Dairy & Eggs Guide.
There is always an alternative
Is it really worth risking your health by consuming the above carcinogenic yogurts? The occasional processed sweetened yogurt will probably be harmless but regular consumption of such products can really help you put on undesired weight and challenge your body with unnecessary additives. How about next time you buy the simple natural full fat yogurt and add fresh fruits yourself? Even if you are at work you can still do that, natural organic yogurt is sold in small pots as well and there are always many fruits available in the supermarket that are washed, packed and ready to be eaten.
How much will the alternative cost? For example Sainsbury’s sell a small pot of organic yogurt, which is 150 g (bigger than the regular flavoured pots which are about 120 g) for 0.50 p. You can also find in Tesco and other supermarkets small pots of Yeo organic natural yogurt which is also 0.50 p and 150 g. A small banana costs about 0.11 p. The total cost of our natural banana yogurt is 0.61 p. This is slightly more expensive than the yogurts above but that’s because they are sold in a multi packs which reduces their cost. The price of your home made fruit yogurt would go down to about 0.35 p per 100 g if you buy fruits in larger quantities and the natural yogurt in the large regular 500 g pots. That’s cheaper than most yogurts.
This means you can actually buy more for less and still be healthier. It doesn’t have to be fat free if you are on a real food diet and you get the right nutrition. There is 4 g of fat in a 150 g pot of natural yogurt, do you really think it’s going to affect your weight that much? You should be more worried about how the added sugar and sweeteners are going to affect your weight and health. This article is related to this topic – why processed food is the main cause of obesity.
Bottom line, be a smart consumer and love the natural probiotic yogurt, not the colourful, deceiving yogurt-like desserts the food industry is selling you.