You can imagine the amount of time a room full of dietitians can spend talking about food. Yesterday at my internship, we got on the topic of Greek yogurt after someone discovered we had 7 different types in the refrigerator… totally normal for a room full of dietitians. One of the pediatric RDs started comparing ingredient labels which led to a mini-lesson on the difference between true Greek yogurt and Greek-style yogurt.
True Greek yogurt traditionally involves an expensive straining process which filters out excess water concentrating the yogurt which makes it thicker, more tart and higher in protein than traditional yogurt.
There currently is no legal definition for Greek yogurt so certain companies have found cheaper ways to produce yogurts with similar texture and taste and still get away with calling it Greek, or Greek-style yogurts. They do this mostly by adding milk protein concentrates (MPCs), whey protein concentrates (WPCs) as protein-enhancing fillers and thickeners like gelatin or modified cornstarch to traditional yogurt.
Disappointing, isn’t it?
Below is a list of some of the major brands of Greek yogurt & their ingredients. You’ll notice they’re all plain yogurt because many with fruit have thickeners added already. I underlined the additives to make it easy on you since it is Friday and all.
- Fage - Ingredients: Grade A Pasteurized Milk and Cream, Live Active Yogurt Cultures: L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei.
- Chobani Non-fat Plain Yogurt - Ingredients: Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk. Live And Active Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus And L. Casei.
- Stonyfield Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt - Ingredients: Cultured Pasteurized Organic Nonfat Milk, Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus And L. Casei.
- Dannon Oikos Plain Nonfat Greek - Ingredients: Milk Non-Fat Grade A Cultured, Yogurt Cultures Active.
- Wallaby Organic Plain Greek Yogurt - Ingredients: Milk Low-Fat Cultured Pasteurized (Organic), Live Active Cultures: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, S Thermophilus, Bifidus.
- Trader Joe’s Greek-style Yogurt - Ingredients: Grade A Pasteurized Skim Milk, Live and Active Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus. Cultured after pasteurization.
- Athenos Greek Strained Yogurt - Ingredients: Milk Non-Fat Pasteurized Cultured, Contains Live Active Cultures: L-Bulgaricus, S Thermophilus.
- Brown Cow All Natural Greek Nonfat Plain Yogurt - Ingredients: Milk Non-Fat Pasteurized Cultured, Contains Live Active Cultures : S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei.
- Safeway’s Lucerne Plain, Nonfat Greek Yogurt - Ingredients: Cultured, Pasteurized Grade A Non Fat Milk, Milk Protein Concentrate, Organic Corn Starch, vitamin A acetate, Vitamin D3, Active live cultures L. Bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus.
- Yoplait Plain Greek Yogurt - Ingredients: Milk Non-Fat Grade A Pasteurized Cultured, Milk Protein Concentrate, Gelatin Kosher, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.
- Cabot Greek-style Yogurt - Ingredients: Pasteurized milk, cream, Whey protein concentrate, Milk protein concentrate, Live Active Yogurt Cultures: Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus, Vitamins A,C,D,E.
It’s funny this should come up because last week I wrote about cornstarch and its creepy presence in processed foods. I’ve learned that many MPCs used in commercial food products come from ultra-filtered skim milk from outside of the United States. More on that here but it seems the importing of these MPCs is a fairly unregulated business.
The last three brands all add MPCs, two also add thickeners and there are likely many more out there what are posing to be the real thing.
There’s no doubt Greek yogurt is pricier than regular. It takes a lot more work, time and milk to make true Greek yogurt. You’d think the brands using MPCs and thickeners would be less expensive but I haven’t really noticed a difference in price between the real Greek yogurt and imitation stuff, have you?
Regardless, I know I’ll definitely be reading the ingredient lists more closely now and choosing the additive-free Greek brands from now on when at all possible.
Questions of the day:
- Do you think these brands adding protein concentrates & thickeners are misleading customers that are trying to make healthier choices?
- Are these brands using additives entitled to call it Greek yogurt since there’s no actual legal definition?
- What are your thoughts on MPCs? I know very little about them but the apparent lack of regulation on imports kind of scares me a little bit!
P.S. More on the additive dispute from NPR including a lawsuit that’s happening.