Beyond obviously being delicious, recent research has shown that eating yogurt can help people drop pounds.
“Yogurt can be a great snack for weight loss because of its protein content,” says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet.” It helps keep you full so you’re not starved an hour after you eat.”
The thing is, there are a few common yogurt mistakes that can turn this weight-loss weapon into a gain weight. Here are the habits to avoid so you can reap the healthy benefits:
Focusing Too Much on Calories
Calorie counting can be helpful when you’re trying to stay on top of your food intake, but it may be misleading when it comes to yogurt. “A lot of yogurts that are low in calories and actively promote that don’t have enough protein,” says Gans.
Rather than only looking at how many calories a container racks up, be sure to check out the protein level, too. “A yogurt may be 100 calories but only have six grams of protein,” says Gans. “In that case, you would probably be better off choosing one that has more calories but 12 to 15 grams of protein so it’s easier to stay full until your next meal.”
Not Measuring Portions
“Buying a big container and dishing it out is a great way to save money you would spend on individual portions,” says Gans. But your instincts may lead you to over-serve yourself. Don’t just gauge portions with your eyes—actually measure them out to make sure you’re not going overboard.”
Most single-serve containers are six ounces, but if you’re dishing from a larger container you can aim for a cup,” says Gans.
Adding Too Many Extras
Buying plain yogurt and adding your own extras is a great idea in theory, but in practice you could be sabotaging your healthy-eating efforts. “People will add honey to sweeten, cereal for some crunch, or maybe nuts and fruit,” says Gans. “All of these things can be great additions, but in modest amounts. It’s very easy to turn yogurt from a snack into a meal without realizing it.”
First, decide if you’re having yogurt as a snack or as a full-on breakfast. If it’s just a snack, keep it at no more than 200 calories.
“That’s room for around a cup of yogurt, fruit, and maybe a light sprinkle of nuts,” says Gans. If you’re using it as a breakfast, Gans suggests adding a serving of cereal and a serving of fruit, but still no more than an ounce of nuts to avoid going too high in calories.
Going for Fat-Free
“Fat-free yogurt might be overcompensating in another area like sugar,” says Gans. All yogurt will have naturally occurring sugars as a byproduct of coming from milk, but some have insane amounts of added sugars to boost the taste. If the total sugar content of one serving is above 18 grams or if sugar is the first ingredient on the label, try a different kind.
“Nobody needs to do fat-free unless they actually prefer the taste of it, but I also think people don’t need to do full-fat unless they’re not getting enough of it in the rest of their diet,” says Gans.
Instead, she recommends buying low-fat and checking the ingredients list to make sure you’re getting enough protein and not too much sugar. It’s totally fine to get the kind that already comes with fruit as long as sugar doesn’t come before it on the label.
Seeking Out Probiotics Above All Else
Given that plenty of studies suggest probiotics are beneficial, they’re poised to become one of the newest “It” ingredients. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because a label mentions probiotics, it’s healthy,” says Gans, who thinks of it as an added bonus rather than something you should seek out above all other ingredients. ”
It is possible to eat too much yogurt, and I can’t say probiotics are directly related to weight loss” says Gans. While it’s fine to hop on the probiotics train, there’s no need to start loading your diet with yogurt to get your fill.
Turning to Parfaits
We can’t blame you, they’re so pretty! But they can often be a dressed-up disguise for an unhealthy snack. “Parfaits can be very misleading,” says Gans. “They might have full-fat yogurt, and they’re usually packed with granola.”
Even more, the layers of granola break up the yogurt and make it easy to think you’re eating less than you actually are. If you’re in a rush and jonesing for a dairy fix, go for a regular packaged yogurt. Even better, when you have time you can make a healthy parfait of your own.