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It appears healthy, but is it? Chobani Greek Yogurt

June 25, 2012
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I’m dedicated to giving the middle finger to the food industry – more specifically to the food marketing industry – whenever they deserve it. Because I used to work in advertising, selling “food” products that I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. And neither should you. Here’s why.

I remember when Chobani hit the blog scene. It felt like every healthy food blogger was suddenly raving about the free samples they’d received in the mail and using yogurt in their baking and cooking umpteen ways. Well, gotta hand it to the marketing folks at Chobani. They got the word out, big time! So let’s talk about it.

Chobani Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is delicious, no doubt. And it’s been receiving attention for having more protein and less sugar than regular yogurt. Chobani in particular has been appealing to the health-conscious consumer and we see this reflected in the packaging. “Only Natural Ingredients” is scrawled across the top (but we know by now that means nothing, right? The word “Natural” has yet to be regulated by the USDA.) Chobani also reminds us that this product is non-fat (some varieties are low-fat). And as a sponsor of the Olympic team, it’s gotta be good for us, right?

Well, it appears to be healthy! But is it?

For the record, I define “healthy” food as food that is real, whole, nutrient dense and comes from the earth.

Nonfat Yogurt made from nonfat milk
Milk is a perfect example of a whole food – when we keep it whole, that is. As soon as we start removing fat, it’s no longer in its natural state. I’m sorry to have to say this, but Chobani is right off the bat not a whole food.

Why does it matter? Well, in this case, fat is important for absorbing calcium. There may be 20% of your RDA of calcium in this cup, but it’s not able to be absorbed properly without fat. See, you need fat.

Finally, a last note about the milk used to make Chobani. It’s not organic. That’s a bummer. But the Chobani website claims that the milk they use is free of rBST (a synthetic growth hormone). That’s good.
Ingredient score: 100

Live Cultures
Super. That’s the best part of eating yogurt, nutritionally speaking.
Ingredient score: 300

Blueberries
Real fruit? Great. I wish they were organic. Blueberries in particular are one of those fruits that according to the Environmental Working Group you should always buy organic to avoid some serious pesticide residue.
Ingredient score: 25

Evaporated Cane Juice
Apparently blueberries are not sweet enough on their own. Damn. Evaporated Cane Juice is about as sugary as sugar gets. There’s no redeeming value here. In fact, it’s one of the biggest reasons I said no when Chobani asked to send me samples. I try to keep sugary treats out of the house and I certainly don’t need it in my “health” food.
Ingredient score: -1000

Pectin and Locust Bean Gum
Thickeners. No big problem here. But note that if you made your own yogurt at home, these are not part of the recipe. They’re kind of a “cheat” for industrially made stuff.
Ingredient score: 0

Total score: -575
Yes, these scores are a little arbitrary, but you get my point. Chobani has a lot of healthy aspects, but it’s not a whole food. And it’s just another way sugar sneaks into your diet. Finally, it’s adding to your toxic load with non-organic fruit and milk.

It appears to be healthy but it definitely…isn’t the best.

Better alternatives?
- Organic, full fat plain greek yogurt with fresh organic fruit
- Want something creamy and sweet? Try this pudding.

You may also be interested in:

It appears to be healthy, but is it? Wheat Thins
It appears to be healthy, but is it? Morningstar Riblets
It appears to be healthy, but is it? Cran-Pomegranate juice

  • Eleanor

    Recently I dragged out my yogurt maker that I’d had for years but never even used and made some homemade yogurt with raw whole milk. I don’t know what took me so long! It’s so good, you can eat it plain – no sugar needed. Add some fresh strawberries and it’s over-the-top incredible. I’m never buying the store stuff again.

    • http://www.findyourbalancehealth.com/ Michelle Pfennighaus, CHC

      My husband used to make homemade yogurt! So yummy. Now I buy it “homemade” from the raw milk farmer I buy all our dairy from. Or, if I run out, I get whole-fat organic from the supermarket. Funny, it actually can be hard to find among all the sweetened nonfat stuff!

  • Beccaarly25

    This is precisely what prompted me to try Maia Yogurt! Their milk is sourced from grass-fed cows and is also not treated with rBST or rBGH, there’s 1g fat per cup, only 2 added grams of cane sugar, and only 5 ingredients. No thickeners or anything like that. Oh and no added sugar in the plain, and 10x the probiotics of any of the other yogurts! You gotta try this one, Michelle. Not certified organic but contains mostly organic ingredients according to the manufacturers. Fiber too! YUM.

    • http://www.findyourbalancehealth.com/ Michelle Pfennighaus, CHC

      Becca, me thinks you might work for Maia yogurt? It doesn’t sound too different from Chobani but thanks for dropping by!

  • Vonnie Neufeld

    Hi Michelle, Thanks for your post about the yogurt. I am just embarking on this social media journey as an IIN graduate and health coach. Inspired by you.

  • Bob

    Just saw this after searching for other people complaining about “evaporated cane juice” as a deceptive label for sugar. It’s just the most recent way “healthy” food try to hide their ingredients, and apparently there’s even a lawsuit over this evaporated cane juice…

    I don’t think you go far enough. An actively deceptive label should penalize a product by at least 10,000 points in your scheme, and that penalty should apply to every food the parent corporation makes. Anyone who deceptively markets crap as health food should be in prison.

    • http://www.findyourbalancehealth.com/ Michelle Pfennighaus, CHC

      Bob, I like how you think. And I agree. -10,000 points for Chobani!

  • cmathews

    I prefer Fage greek yogurt. Chobani, in comparison, tastes thin and chalky to me. However, I recently noticed that Fage changed their formula – the whole milk version used to contain 12 grams of fat – it was “divine” – and great for trying to bulk up a skinny toddler! But now the full fat contains 6 grams of fat (what the 2.5% used to be). I really wish they would bring back the good stuff. People are naively more concerned about levels of fat than they are of sugar.

  • Carl

    Nice article. It’s a great yogurt compared to the main stream ones found in your big grocery stores. Any idea why the plain version still has 7g of sugar with no evaporated cane juice?

    • http://www.findyourbalancehealth.com/ Michelle Pfennighaus, CHC

      Lactose is the natural sugar occurring in milk

  • http://twitter.com/timomactweeter Tim MacLean

    this is not only arbitrary but ridiculous. using real blueberries gets +25, using a natural sweetener vs. some chemical gets minus 1000. this is hardly a “sugary treat” when compared to garbage most people eat, i bet ur tons of fun if a healthy yogurt offends u so much as to refuse samples lol

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