Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Yogurt is yogurt. Right?

A little over one month ago, Gluten Free Steve - another GF blogger here in Colorado - made an interesting post about his search for a gluten-free, high fructose corn syrup-free yogurt. That search led him away from his standard Yoplait, and toward the Weight Watchers line of yogurts. It got me thinking about my own transition in the world of yogurt.

Yogurt has been a big part of my diet for as long as I can remember. I've had a severe lactose intolerance since birth, but thankfully, the live active cultures in yogurt help my body break down the lactose that would otherwise cause trouble. As a consequence, yogurt has been an important - perhaps even my main - source of calcium.

Growing up, there was only one brand of yogurt you'd find in my family's refrigerator: Dannon. One flavor in particuler took up more than its share of shelf space - blueberry fruit on the bottom. In a word, it was my favorite, by a long shot. My mom would literally go to the supermarket, find the manager of the refrigerator section, and have him bring out a case of Dannon blueberry fruit on the bottom yogurt.

In more recent times, however, my diet isn't what it used to be. For one, I'm strictly gluten-free. For another, I've made the switch away from high fructose corn syrup, and more generally, I've shifted toward foods with shorter, simpler ingredients lists, and away from foods that have longer, more complex ingredients lists that read like a chemistry kit. It was with this new dietary perspective that I one day spun my cup of Dannon yogurt around to read the ingredients list: right after milk and blueberries, it read sugar, fructose syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. Holy sweetness attack Batman! Farther down the list, the ingredients became less and less recognizable. Were my Dannon days over? I'm sorry to say, yes. Literally decades of Dannon-eating tradition had come to a close.

It was just as well. Apart from the high fructose corn syrup, which is a separate issue, the ingredients list had no obvious sources of gluten. But when I double-checked that impression against the Dannon official statement, the picture suddenly wasn't so clear. On the topic of gluten in its yogurt, Dannon says: "DANNON yogurt products are not formulated to contain gluten, but they can't be considered gluten free. The natural system for stabilizing flavor might contain ingredients derived from gluten sources. Since there is a current lack of consensus on individual sensitivity levels to gluten, and there are no accurate tests to detect the presence and amount of gluten, DANNON yogurt cannot be classified as 'gluten free.'" Those sounds like fightin' words to me.

So began my quest to find a tasty, gluten-free, high fructose corn syrup-free yogurt. It wasn't nearly as easy as I'd expected it to be. Some yogurts that fit the bill tasted too sour. Some lacked the right texture. (I'm not that picky...really.) Brown Cow, which is all natural, certified gluten-free, and which has a nice, simple ingredients list, had potential. But when I tasted the Cream Top Blueberry, all I tasted was maple (pure maple syrup is the second ingredient, and it overpowered all other flavors).

Finally, after much searching, I found a trio of winners. First, there's Stonyfield Farm. For one, it's organic. And for another, the entire line of yogurts is gluten-free (most are certified as such; those that aren't yet certified are currently undergoing that process, but are already gluten-free). Then, there's Wallaby Organic Yogurt. Again, they're organic. All the milk comes from pastured cows that live on small, family farms in northern California. And of course, the entire line of yogurt is gluten-free. Finally, there's Rachel's Wickedly Delicious yogurt. While not certified as gluten-free, the yogurts don't list any sources of gluten. In theory, they're 100% gluten-free, although the Rachel's website contains a standard precautionary statement. If you have concerns, contact them.

Such has been my quest to find a tasty, gluten-free, high fructose corn syrup-free yogurt. At the beginning, I would have thought that yogurt was yogurt. But oh, how my eyes have been opened!

- Pete


Renee said...

I don't think you are lucky enough to have Trader Joe's in Colorado but they have some great yogurts. And their store brand greek yogurt is much cheaper than the actual Greek brand of greek yogurt they carry. Yum! Before I discovered TJ's yogurts I ate Stoneyfield Farms - it is good too.

peterbronski said...

Thanks for the tip, Renee! Alas, we don't have Trader Joe's in Colorado. However, my mother lives in New York, and she's a big Trader Joe's fan.

Cheers, Pete

Shirley said...

Visiting from GFS' blog :-) ...

I've found myself eating less and less processed foods because of my requirements for no gluten, no HFCS, no soy, no MSG, and no weirdo unpronounceable ingredients. It's so good to hear about Stonyfield yogurts. I really love GFCO because they certify GF to less than 10 ppm. (I've found I have issues with products that contain more than that.)

For those who are into making their own food because they just enjoy the process or because they like being in total control of the ingredients, Stephanie from A Year of Crockpotting just posted how to make yogurt in your crockpot. Almost all of her recipes are gluten free. You can set your view up to get the GF recipes. (BTW, I just made her Thai coconut soup yesterday for my GF support group and they loved it!) Here's the link to the yogurt recipe.

Thanks, Pete, for the info! Thanks to Renee also, but no Trader Joe's near me, unfortunately.

peterbronski said...

I've used a crockpot to make many things, but never yogurt! Sounds like something I need to try. Thanks for the info, Shirley, and thanks for visiting!

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

Try chobani yogurt.its all natural,gluten free,highfructose free and fruit comes on bottom.they r delicious.

peterbronski said...

Hi Anonymous... We're a step ahead of you! We reviewed Chobani yogurt back in 2010 here:

Cheers, Pete

Warren Lee said...

Hi Peter,

Stumbled across your very interesting and well-written blog.... I dunno how.... But here I am.....

Been meandering around.... Really like your keyword search list.

On the topic of yogurt, with no additives, no gluten I follow another blogger who blogs about all kinds of interesting things..... Occasionally there are recipes.

Here is one on making yogurt from scratch...... She makes it sound so easy....

I will try it one of these days..... But from the sounds of your blog, and the need for GF and wanting to avoid hi-fructose corn syrup, etc... You might want to check it out!!!