March 7, 2012

Soup to Nuts: 'Gurt alert, yo

It's always a healthier snack/dessert than a candy bar or a soda, but, parents be warned, yogurt can be sneaky sweet.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Yogurt makers such as Yoplait, Dannon and Stonyfield increasingly are targeting kids – and their parents, who may assume they’re providing their child with a healthy snack or school-lunch item when that may not necessarily be the case.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Kids'll dig this dip, and they can help make it, too

Brenda Bracy, a nutrition associate with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Eat Well Nutrition Education Program, makes this yogurt-based dip with the children in the program:

RANCH DIP

This is a perfect recipe for even the youngest of children to help with in the kitchen. With clean hands, children can scoop, measure and pour the ingredients into the bowl and help with mixing.

You may have a little extra cleanup afterwards, but it's well worth it. Children will be more likely to try new foods when they have helped make them. This is also a great opportunity for one-on-one time with your child, whether they are an only child or home alone with you while others are napping or going to school.

3/4 cup light mayonnaise

1 cup plain yogurt (Greek type makes thicker)

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients in a medium size bowl with a fork or wire whisk. Chill.

Use to dip fresh vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli or cucumbers. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

HOW THEY COMPARE

YOPLAIT TRIX LOW FAT STRAWBERRY BANANA BASH YOGURT

Container size: 4 ounces

Calories: 100

Sugar: 14 grams

High fructose corn syrup: None

Artificial colors or flavors: None

Taste: Reminiscent of a strawberry Sweet-Tart; banana flavor is hard to detect

Other flavors: Strawberry Punch, Raspberry Rainbow, Triple Cherry, Cotton Candy

How it grabs your child's attention: The Trix rabbit is featured on the packaging, and each package of four yogurts come with one plastic "Silly Swirler" in one of four colors. Children use them to swirl the red and yellow colors together -- then they ask mom to buy more yogurt so they can "collect all four."

STONYFIELD YOBABY ORGANIC VANILLA YOGURT

Container size: 4 ounces

Calories: 110

Sugar: 12 grams

High fructose corn syrup: None

Artificial colors and flavors: None. Also, no antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones or persistent pesticides.

Taste: Maybe it's because it's made with whole milk, but this yogurt is ultra-creamy, the flavor is subtle, and it doesn't taste too sweet.

Other flavors: Plain, banana, peach, blueberry

How it grabs your child's attention: This is for babies ages 6 to 18 months old, so the packaging is geared more toward catching Mom's eye with photos of babies and natural ingredients. The yogurt is made with Omega-3 DHA and zinc for developing brains, which appeals to parents who want to raise an Einstein. Stonyfield also makes a YoToddler yogurt for 1- to 3-year-old children that comes in strawberry-banana flavor with DHA, and apple flavor with DHA and iron.

YOPLAIT GO-GURT PORTABLE COOL COTTON CANDY AND BURSTIN' MELON BERRY LOW-FAT YOGURT

Container size: 2.25 ounces

Calories: 70

Sugar: 10 grams

High fructose corn syrup: None

Artificial colors and flavors: Yes – the cotton candy is a sky-blue color.

Taste: This definitely tastes like cotton candy, and it's incredibly sweet, like eating a spoonful of sugar.

Other flavors: Banana Split/Strawberry Milkshake; Strawberry Splash/Berry Blue Blast; Rad Raspberry/Paradise Punch; Strawberry Banana Burst/Watermelon Meltdown; Strawberry Kiwi-Kick/Chill-Out Cherry; Phineas and Ferb Summer Punch/Perry Punch; Sponge Bob Special Edition Strawberry Riptide & Bikini Bottom Berry

How it grabs your child's attention: Yogurt in a tube – what else is there to say? Well, the tubes glow in the dark and are called "slurp sabers." And Yoda is on the package. Parents, you don't have a chance.

STONYFIELD YOKIDS SQUEEZERS STRAWBERRY ORGANIC LOWFAT YOGURT

Container size: 2 and 6 ounces

Calories: 60 calories in 2 ounces; 80 calories in 6 ounces

Sugar: 2-ounce tube contains 9 grams; 6-ounce tube contains 13 grams

High fructose corn syrup: None

Artificial colors and flavors: None

Taste: Even though this has as much sugar as the Go-Gurt, for some reason it doesn't taste quite as sweet. But it is much sweeter than other Stonyfield yogurts. Good strawberry flavor.

Other flavors: Cherry & Berry; Blueberry & Lemonade; Strawberry Vanilla & Blueberry; Strawberry & Banana

How it grabs your child's attention: Sticker on the package explains how kids can win a private screening of "The Lorax" movie.

DANNON DAN-O-NINO BANANA DAIRY SNACK

Container size: 1.76 ounces

Calories: 60

Sugar: 7 grams

High fructose corn syrup: None

Artificial colors and flavors: None

Taste: Strong banana flavor

Other flavors: The banana is packaged with strawberry and raspberry flavors.

How it grabs your child's attention: Cartoon dinosaur; calls itself a "dairy snack" instead of yogurt

DANNON DANIMALS CRUNCHERS VANILLA NONFAT YOGURT WITH CHOCOLATE CHIP GRAHAMS

Container size: 3.5 ounces

Calories: 100

Sugar: 11 grams

High fructose corn syrup: None

Artificial colors or flavors: None

Taste: Yogurt is sweet; grahams are fairly tasteless.

Other flavors: Strawberry with chocolate grahams

How it grabs your child's attention: Monkey on the package, grahams in the shape of monkeys, bananas, faces and D's, presumably for Dannon's

YOCRUNCH VANILLA LOWFAT YOGURT WITH M&Ms

Container size: 6 ounces

Calories: 180

Sugar: 27 grams

High fructose corn syrup: None in the yogurt, but there's some corn syrup in the candy.

Artificial colors and flavors: Yes, in the candy.

Taste: Tastes like most sweet vanilla yogurts, but the M&Ms take it over the top

Other flavors: Other toppings include granola and Oreos.

How it grabs your child's attention: This product is not specifically targeted to children and is not on the shelf at kids' eye level, but the toppings are definitely kid-friendly.

STONYFIELD YOKIDS RASPBERRY ORGANIC GREEK YOGURT

Container size: Just under 4 ounces (about 3.75)

Calories: 100

Sugar: 16 grams

High fructose corn syrup: None

Artificial colors and flavors: None

Taste: Bright raspberry flavor; doesn't taste too sweet despite the amount of sugar

Other flavors: None

How it grabs your child's attention: This yogurt, for ages 2 to 6, also has more understated packaging geared towards parents, not kids.

– Meredith Goad, Staff Writer

Most children's yogurts come in 2-, 3- and 4-ounce servings – most commonly 4-ounce cups – so that's a limit of about 15 grams for 4 ounces.

It can get really tricky and confusing reading the nutrition labels on yogurt, but it's important to try, not only for sugar content but also for things like artificial ingredients. The brands vary widely, but some manufacturers do seem to be making an effort to make their products healthier.

Yoplait, for example, just reformulated its Trix yogurt so it now contains no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup. (The yogurt is colored with vegetable juices, beta carotene and turmeric extract.)

Yes, you have to watch your kids' eyes pop when they see that silly rabbit, famous for pushing sugary cereal to children. But a 4-ounce cup of the reformulated yogurt contains a total of 14 grams of sugar, which meets the Guiding Stars guideline.

"A lot of manufacturers are catching on that it's not just health-nut granola moms that are worried about things like dyes and additives," Dow said. "I think new labeling instructions or nutritional navigation systems will make the sugar content more transparent, too, over time."

Salge Blake said there's been a lot of discussion about changing labeling requirements to include added sugar.

"This way people wouldn't get confused when they saw the yogurt container, and they could separate out what is naturally occurring and what is added sugar," she said.

Meanwhile, parents will have to decide for themselves which is better: A 2.5-ounce tube of YoPlait's Go-Gurt with 70 calories, red and blue dyes, artificial flavors and 10 grams of sugar, or a 2-ounce tube of Stonyfield's organic YoKids Squeezers with 60 calories, no artificial flavors or colors, but nearly as much sugar as the Go-Gurt?

Still confused? Here are some tips from the experts on how to get yogurt into your children without filling them up with sugar:

n Start out feeding your children plain yogurt when they are babies so they will adapt to it and don't get used to the taste of sugary yogurts.

"When they've grown up on the sweetened stuff, the plain is just not going to appeal to them," Bracy said.

n There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. Think about that when you're shopping for yogurt and looking at labels, and put it in the context of your child's overall diet.

Dow sends flavored yogurts to school with her own children, but it's part of an overall lunch that might include snap peas, whole grain crackers and a banana. "It's not going with an orange and strawberries and gummi snacks," she said.

n Bracy recommends mixing half and half a flavored yogurt like vanilla or strawberry with plain so the kids get a snack that's slightly sweetened and that they'll actually eat, but the sugar content is not over the top.

n Are those yogurts with cookies on top inherently evil? Dow allows her own children to have them, but only as an occasional dessert or mid-afternoon snack, not as breakfast or lunch.

n Add your own sweeteners to plain yogurt. Try honey, fresh fruit or a little unsweetened applesauce. Yes, it's sugar, but at least you'll be in control of how much you use. And you'll be adding vitamins and minerals instead of just the empty calories you get with sugar.

Bracy has even added mandarin oranges and a sprinkling of cocoa powder to the yogurt she makes for the children she works with, and they eat it up.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

 

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