New to reading nutrition labels? Want some practice and pointers? Don’t know what to look for? In this series, we are giving a full breakdown of how to analyze a food’s nutrition label. Today? A tub of vanilla-flavored greek yogurt by Yoplait.
Note: this is episode 2 in an ongoing series of label-reading practice
Each post increases in difficulty and builds off the previous
1. What Am I Eating?
The first step when reading a label is always to use your brain. Before doing any reading, it’s best to make a quick educated guess or a rough estimate of what you may find on the label.
Examples: Is it really savory? Might be high in salt. Is it sweet? You can bet on sugar. Is it a meat? Look for protein.
Making predictions like these will very quickly improve your reading skills, so you can reach a point down the road where you can estimate what’s in your food to a high degree of precision.
In this case, we are looking at yogurt. Because it is dairy, it will have some protein. The fat and content will vary from fat-free to full fat, and the amount of carbs depends on how much added sugar there is.
Be wary that when foods like peanut butter, cheese, and yogurt are “reduced fat,” the lost flavor tends to be made up in sugar.
2. Check for Claims
Is there anything on the box, container, or bottle meant to entice or warn consumers? Examples: “Cholesterol free,” “Low in sugar,” or “An excellent source of iron.”
Based on these, even before reading, you can observe how it compares to other products or even other brands of the same food.
For this vanilla yogurt, here are some large claims that stand out:
- “Flavored with other This term, to be honest, does not mean much. It simply means... More flavor”
- “100 calories per serving”
- “Fat free”
So we now know the yogurt is flavored, fairly low-calorie, and does not contain any fat.
3. Read the Ingredient List
Now it’s time to look at the back of the package. This will be a little more complicated than last time. Keep in mind, just because you encounter an ingredient you have not heard of, or is several syllables long, is not a clear indicator it is bad for you.
Google it! Check your sources, see if there are verified side effects / benefits, or just find out why it’s in there in the first place. Here is our ingredient label:
See also: What’s on the Nutrition Label?
Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, Fructose. Contains 2% or less of: Corn Starch, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Yogurt Cultures (L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus), Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.
Contains live and active cultures.
Gluten Free – No Gelatin
1. Hopefully the first ingredient in all dairy products you purchase is milk. Check.
2. Next we have fructose. It is considered a “natural” sweetener, because it is the sugar found in fruit.
After that, in trace amounts are the following:
3. Corn starch– you guessed it, the starchy carbs taken from corn. It’s a thickener, and not a very nutritious one.
4. Following corn starch is the dreadedly ambiguous “natural flavor.” As explained here, that includes almost anything.
5. Then we have potassium sorbate, which, as manufacturers are required to explain, is a preservative. It is very widely used, but like most sweeteners, is controversial when it comes to its physiological effects.
6. After that are healthy bacteria L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus. They are necessary to This refers to a culture of cells- keeping things like yeast... More the yogurt, and good for digestion.
7. Acesulfame potassium. It is an artificial sweetener, used because of its attractive “calorie-free” profile. However, it is fairly conclusive that it is pretty poor for your health.
8. Following that is sucralose, yet another sweetener. It is similar to acesulfame potassium in that is artificial and A unit commonly used to measure the amount of energy that is... More free, except does not have quite as bad of a rep.
9. Rounding of our list are vitamins A Acetate and D3. They are simply nutrients added to give the yogurt a vitamin boost.
After the list is the mandatory statement that there are live cultures of probiotics found in your product. The yogurt is also gluten-free (not a huge surprise), and does not have gelatin. Read more here about finding reading the ingredient list to find allergens.
4. Read the Label
We’ve already learned so much from the ingredient label, but there is still a little more information to sort through. This will be a quicker run through than in the previous post.
- The entire container is 4 cups, or a quart. Every 225 grams / 1 cup of yogurt is 150 calories.
Wait a second? Didn’t the huge title on the front say 100 calories? Isn’t this called Greek 100?? Well if you look closely at these claims, the yogurt is 100 calories “per 2/3 cup serving.” Sneaky.
- It’s fat-free. It has a little cholesterol and sodium, as is the norm for dairy products. Those nutrients are naturally occurring.
See also: How are Nutrients and Calories Rounded?
- 17 grams of carbs, 11 of which are sugar. Lastly, a whopping 19g of protein.
- For the vitamins and minerals: 6% of your Vitamin A, 20% of your calcium, and 30% of your daily dose of vitamin D.
See also: Get to Know Your Nutrients
5. The Verdict?
My two cents? There is better greek yogurt out there. If you ask me fructose, although natural, is still sugar. Additionally, it also has a couple other sweeteners that might be even worse than sugar. Lastly, there are only 2 probiotic cultures used. Yoplait seemed to have made this yogurt with flavor as the main objective, and nutrition as a secondary.
Remember, as outlined here, the product almost always has a different nutrition label and ingredient list for each flavor. Just because the vanilla is good or bad, depending on your standards, does not mean “Boston cream pie” will be too.
Thanks for reading!
Yoplait. Greek 100: Vanilla. https://www.yoplait.com/product-greek-100-vanilla. Accessed 25 November 2016.