I’ve written before about milk for children (see my blogs on milk recommendations and milk after 1), but when I recently shared an Instagram post about yogurts, I received tonnes of messages asking about which ones were best to offer to young children.
With the help of Charlotte Radcliffe and Selina Patel from The Nutrition Consultant, who did a HUGE amount of work researching the variety of yogurts available on the market, I wanted to help breakdown why yogurt is a great food for babies and children and what the best options are to offer to your little ones.
Why offer yogurt?
Yogurt is one of my favourite foods for children, from right at the beginning of weaning.
It’s a great first texture for babies and it can be used easily in both sweet and savoury dishes; either with fruit or porridge or in pasta or curry sauces. Yogurt with berries, nut butter and milled seeds or oats is a perfect example of a super quick and simple meal that requires very little preparation.
Nutritionally, yogurt is an ideal food to offer babies and young children. It’s a good source of calories, fat, protein, calcium and importantly iodine, which can be hard to get enough of if your child doesn’t eat fish or dairy.
What do I need to know when offering yogurt to my baby?
While there is a huge amount of choice when it comes to yogurts, some options are preferable to others as a regular choice for your little ones.
These fab infographics from The Nutrition Consultant lay out the information really clearly to compare the overwhelming number of yogurt varieties out there. As you can see from the graphics, a lot of the options that are marketed to children tend to be higher in added sugar. While these are fine every now and then, they’re not ideal to offer regularly. Fruit flavoured yogurts, often include fruit in the form of an ‘added sugar’ such as fruit concentrates, fruit juices or fruit purees. Some also have plain old table sugar added in too.
What’s the best yogurt to offer to baby?
I’d always recommend to offer your baby full fat, plain yogurts as a standard yogurt of choice. Greek, plain and natural yogurts are all perfectly fine, but go for varieties of these that:
- Are full fat (not low fat or reduced fat for young children)
- Are plain (not flavoured options)
- Have no added sugars, including fruit juice and fruit concentrates (FYI there will be sugars naturally present in the plain yogurts (usually around 5-6g/100g), but you want to make sure there are no added sugars. Our blog on label reading coming soon will help!)
If you want to add flavour to the yogurts, you can always add in some fresh fruit at home – that way your baby will get more of the nutrients from the fruits themselves, and less in the way of added sugars.
Why full fat?
As with milk and other dairy products, reduced fat yogurt options are not recommended for young children as it can mean that they don’t get enough energy or fat – essential in growing little people! While they’re fine to offer occasionally, full fat and plain yogurts are the recommended choice for children.
A note on saturated fat: as shown in the graphic, Greek yogurts tend to be higher in saturated fat than natural yogurt. Saturated fat is a type of fat associated with increased risks of developing certain health conditions, and it’s generally recommended to prioritise unsaturated fats (for example from avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and oily fish) where possible. If your little one has a balanced diet and doesn’t have many foods high in saturated fat (e.g. processed meats, butter, coconut oil) then this is still absolutely fine to offer.
What about plant-based yogurts?
I wrote a detailed comparison of plant-based milk alternatives earlier this year but I haven’t written before about dairy free yogurt options. I’ll be writing a similar comparison about this very soon, so watch this space! In general, the most important thing to note when thinking about these options for children is that as the nutrient content of yogurt is similar to milk, many dairy free options will be lacking in nutrients such as protein and calcium. Not all options are fortified and so my best advice would be to check for brands that do fortify with calcium (and ideally vitamin B12 and D) and ensure you’re offering plenty of protein and calcium rich foods if your baby is dairy free.