What’s the best type of yoghurt to choose for my 2 year old?
Yoghurt is made from fermented milk and is a good source of protein and calcium. There are various types of yoghurt. Two main categories are natural yoghurts (made from fermented milk only) and flavoured yoghurts (natural yoghurt flavoured with fruit, fruit flavours or other flavours, may also be sweetened with sugar, fruit juice or artificial sweeteners). Within these categories, there are various types available such as low fat yoghurt (made from low fat or skimmed milk), sugar-free flavoured or “diet” yoghurts (no added sugar but may contain artificial sweeteners) and greek yoghurt (extra water is removed from yoghurt to give a creamier texture). “Live”, “probiotic” or “bio” yoghurts contain significant quantities of live “good” bacteria which may promote good bowel health. Fromage frais is a creamy soft cheese made from milk and cream. It is also a good protein and calcium source. Fromage frais with fruit and sweetened with sugar or fruit juice are often marketed for children.
In choosing a yoghurt for your toddler, consider the following:
- Choose a full fat product. Toddlers have high energy needs and so full fat dairy products are recommended (unless weight gain is excessive).
- Natural yoghurt is a healthy choice. To vary the flavour, you could add fruit such as mashed banana, soft chopped mango or peach, pureed pear or berries.
- If choosing a flavoured yoghurt, opt for one that is flavoured with fruit.
- Avoid “diet” yoghurts which contain artificial sweeteners as these are not recommended for toddlers.
- Fruit yoghurts may contain added sugar. A high sugar intake is not recommended for any age group. However if your toddler’s overall sugar intake is low (e.g. not having juice or sugary drinks, sugary cereals, sugar-containing sauces, sweet biscuits or confectionary on a regular basis), the sugar provided in a fruit yoghurt is acceptable.
- Be aware that the “of which sugars” part of the food label is not the amount of added sugar. This figure indicates the sum of:
- the added sugar (sucrose), plus
- the naturally-occuring milk sugar (lactose, usually around 6-7g per 100g of yoghurt), plus
- the naturally-occurring sugar from added fruit (fructose, usually quite minimal as fruit makes up a small part of the product).
- The amount of added sugar therefore is the “of which sugars” value minus approximately 6-7g.
- The “of which sugars” value can be useful for comparing yoghurts. The product with the lower “of which sugars” value will probably contain less added sugar.
- Depending on the country of origin, ingredients may be listed in order of volume. The product with sugar further down the ingredients list probably contains less. This is the case for products from USA, EU countries, Australia, New Zealand.
- It’s a good idea to choose fruit yoghurts with pieces rather than smooth versions at least some of the time from early on. Research shows that infants who are exposed to foods with different textures are often less fussy eaters later in childhood.
- Chocolate- and other flavoured-desserts are often displayed next to yoghurts. These are high in sugar and not a healthy choice.
In summary, a full fat natural yoghurt, with added fruit if you wish, or a full fat fruit yoghurt are healthy choices for a snack or dessert for your 2 year old.