Protein-packed, low-fat Greek yogurt can be a good choice for people following a diabetes diet plan. Here's why.
Smooth, creamy, thick — Greek yogurt is one of the hottest foods around, and its popularity shows no signs of abating. With a pudding-like texture and a slightly tart flavor, Greek yogurt also has more protein and fewer carbs and fewer sugars than traditional yogurt. This means that Greek yogurt can be appropriate for people with diabetes, says Tami Ross, RD, LD, a diabetes educator and vice-president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
"My patients love the consistency of it," Ross explains. "Even the patients who are not big on yogurt or milk products overwhelmingly seem to like Greek yogurt."
Greek yogurt's thick consistency comes from straining it to remove liquid whey. This process increases the amount of protein per serving and removes some of the carbohydrates, which people with diabetes must watch carefully.
"For folks with diabetes, the lower carbs are a plus," Ross notes. "You can work in the yogurt for a snack without having to account for so many carbohydrates."
The increased protein can also help you feel that you've had a more substantial snack, so you'll feel more satisfied and won't be hungry for something else quite so quickly. "In terms of promoting satiety and helping people feel full, it's great," Ross says. And starting your day with Greek yogurt may even help you manage your blood sugar throughout the day. Eating low-GI foods for breakfast helps prevent blood-sugar spikes later on, one recent study found.
Check the Labels on Greek Yogurt
Of course, not all Greek yogurts are created equal. With many brands and flavors on the market, it's important to read nutrition labels carefully to find one that will work with a diabetes diet. Carbohydrate content is the most important item to look for on the nutrition label of Greek yogurt, since it accounts for the sugar content that diabetics must watch. The best choice is always a nonfat version, Ross says.
In terms of flavor, plain varieties also work best for diabetics over the fruit-filled choices. "If there's fruit on the bottom, it means there's going to be more sugar and carbs in it," Ross warns. "If you really want a flavored yogurt, you can flavor it yourself with fruit at home."
Another alternative is to select vanilla or honey-infused Greek yogurts, which are usually lower in carbohydrates than those with fruit. "My patients feel like they are getting a decadent treat when they get to eat yogurt with honey on the bottom," Ross says. "It's almost too good to be true." To avoid accidentally exceeding your carbohydrate limit, you should also check the label to find out how many servings are in a single package "In some products, one container may be two servings, so you have to be careful," Ross says.
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