Yogurt is an incredibly nutritious food for children. It offers loads of protein for strong bodies and probiotics for a healthy gut. It also packs in the bone-growing goodness of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. But for children who cannot have dairy, it can be tricky to find good non-dairy yogurt options.
In the past, children with dairy allergies or intolerance had to cut this yummy food out of their diets. Now, however, there are plenty of dairy-free yogurt choices on the market.
If you are struggling to navigate your child’s non-dairy dietary options, reach out to Portland Pediatric and Family Nutrition. From picky eating to disordered eating and everything in between, we can help.
Will My Kid Actually Eat Non-Dairy Yogurt?
Since our staff had not yet eaten any dairy-free yogurt options, we decided to try five different brands to make a comparison. We wanted to look not only at the nutritional content but also the taste and texture. After all, you don’t have to convince your child to eat something based on its grams of protein, right?
The lactose-free brands we tested for this post are:
- Chobani, plain and vanilla
- So Delicious
- Kite Hill
- Forager Project
Each of these was available at our local Fred Meyer/Kroger store. We were not yet able to find Good Karma or Ripple, so we will update when we get a chance to taste them.
The first observation about these dairy-free yogurts was that they are all higher in added sugar than traditional yogurt. To get a little nutritionist on you, let’s look at the sugar issue. In dairy yogurt choices, naturally-occurring milk sugar makes up 6-8 grams of the total sugar amount. When we subtract out the natural milk sugars, we get the added sugar.
Almond milk, coconut milk, and soy milk don’t contain naturally-occurring sugars. That means the total amount of sugar is added to the yogurt. These products ranged from 12 grams-18 grams of added sugar or about three to four teaspoons!
Dietary guidelines indicate that 10% or less of a child’s daily caloric intake should come from sugar. One of these lactose-free yogurt choices would meet almost the entire daily sugar amount for a young child age two or three years old. For older children, it would account for nearly half of their daily recommended intake. See our blog post Sugar and Kids for more information on this.
Calcium and Protein
We were disappointed to see that not all of these dairy-free yogurt choices had calcium supplements added to them. They do not meet the calcium amounts found in cow’s milk choices.
In addition, coconut milk yogurt options are significantly lacking in the powerhouse protein your child requires. Products with almond or soy milk are better options for meeting their needs.
There is good news for all of the non-dairy yogurt choices we tried. They include similar probiotic strains as traditional yogurt. Since probiotics are such a vital part of overall health, we were happy to see this. If you are new to the world of probiotics, you can get more information on our blog post, Top Four Ways Probiotics Can Help Your Child.
The Good, the Bad, and the Let’s-Not-Talk-About-It
So let’s get to what matters most when trying to get a child to eat a new food. How did they all taste? Here are our rankings.
- Chobani. Overall, this one had the best taste and texture. But it’s unfortunate to have to give up the protein and calcium benefits in this milk alternative.
- Silk. This almond milk yogurt has a higher nutritional punch with added protein and calcium. But the texture and taste didn’t quite match up with Chobani.
- So Delicious. The So Delicious brand was a very close third place for taste and texture. It also includes a good serving of calcium.
The Kite Hill and Forager Project brands didn’t make the cut at all. They have too much sugar and not enough calcium. And their taste and texture? We are pretty sure your kiddos will not eat it. And if that’s the case, then what’s the point?
When we track down the Good Karma and Ripple brands, we will give you an update. Good Karma looks like it will be the most nutrient-dense option since it includes added Omega -3’s.
If your child can tolerate traditional yogurt, then we recommend sticking with that option. Nutritionally, lactose-free yogurt choices do not stack up to those with cow’s milk. Chobani Greek Yogurt or Siggi is an excellent option for those without restrictions.
But if your child needs a non-dairy option, keep an eye on sugar, protein, and calcium amounts in your selections. Again, Chobani comes out in the lead in our taste-test.
Regardless of what food struggles your child faces, the experts at Portland Pediatric and Family Nutrition can help. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Katharine Jeffcoat, will walk alongside you as you navigate everything from prenatal nutrition to feeding your teenage athlete. Reach out today to get connected.