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!