Believe it or not, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to buying the best yogurt for babies! Should you buy sweetened or unsweetened yogurt, plain or flavored, whole milk yogurt or low fat, conventional or organic?
Read on for a detailed rundown of what you should be looking for when it comes to the best yogurts for babies!
Should Babies Have Yogurt?
Many parents are concerned with whether yogurt for babies is a healthy addition to their baby's diet or not. So let's clear that up first!
When Can Babies Have Yogurt?
Cow's milk yogurt is a great option for babies, even as one of their first foods right around 6 months of age when they start solid food!
Many people are concerned with yogurt because we recommend not giving milk to babies under one. But milk to drink is the main thing that should be avoided under one, not all dairy. So no need to be concerned on that end!
If your baby has a milk allergy, then cow's milk yogurt is obviously not going to be the best choice for them.
There are a ton of dairy-free yogurts out there, though, that can meet most kids' needs.
Keep reading for a list of the best non-dairy yogurts for babies. And know that the benefits and considerations of a plant-based yogurt will be the same as those for cow's milk yogurt that I talk about below.
The Health Benefits of Yogurt
Yogurt is a source of good fats that can help to support healthy brain development in your baby. Fat is one of the essential nutrients for babies, and yogurt is a great way to help them meet their needs.
Milk is also a common allergen. That means it is actually a good thing to offer towards the beginning of foods if your child is not allergic to it already. And as we don't want to offer milk as a drink, yogurt is a great way to get it in as an allergen.
Yogurt is also a great source of probiotics with several different types of live cultures in it. These live cultures can help with having a healthy digestive tract.
The Basics of Baby Yogurt
Fat Content of Yogurt
First and foremost, you should be buying your baby whole milk yogurt. That is the number one recommendation and the best option for babies.
This usually means somewhere between 3-4% fat content on the label. A higher fat content is not a bad thing here, though. You just don't want to go with one that says 1 or 2% yogurt.
Babies need a high fat diet to help with brain development, and full-fat yogurt is a great way to provide that.
Greek vs Regular Yogurt
As far as greek yogurt versus regular yogurt, it primarily comes down to personal preference.
Regular whole milk yogurt tends to be fairly runny and can be hard for babies to eat by themselves. Greek yogurt, on the other hand, stays on spoons much easier, and is my personal preference.
But due to the way greek yogurt is made, the milk protein content is going to be much higher in it. With young children, we actually don't want them to have too much protein!
With that said, as long as your child isn't eating 1-2 cups every single day of greek yogurt, I don't worry about it. If they really like their yogurt and can eat a lot of it, simply consider serving different kinds throughout the week instead of only greek yogurt.
Unsweetened Yogurt or Flavored Yogurt for Babies
One of my biggest nutritional recommendations is to start your baby on plain whole milk yogurt with no added sugars or sweeteners of any kind.
Between 6 months to 1 year especially, babies are great little food explorers and their taste buds are open to most foods.
Most babies have absolutely no problem with plain yogurt. It is often the parents that feel the preference for flavored, not the baby!
Babies under one really do not need to have a flavored yogurt that is sweetened with anything. That includes most of the brands marketed directly for babies, as they more often than not have added sugars in them.
The Baby Yogurt Grocery Store Experiment
For an eye opening experiment, the next time you are in a store find one of the baby yogurts on the yogurt aisle. Check out the nutrition label and compare the grams of sugar in a container of plain yogurt to those in a flavored one.
The last time I did this, the flavored one had an entire teaspoon (4g) of extra sugar in one 4oz (1/2 cup) container! That is a lot of sugar, especially for a baby that really doesn't need any in their diet at all.
Keep in mind if you do this little experiment that you should use a plain version of the yogurt as a comparison.
Milk has naturally occurring sugars that shouldn't be considered added sugars. Use the plain one to figure out how much of the sugars in the flavored one are from the milk if added sugars are not clear on the label.
Flavored and Unsweetened Baby Yogurt Options
I know that there are a few yogurt brands out there that have recently created some unsweetened, flavored yogurts. If you can find these, then that is a great option.
But unsweetened in my mind means nothing added, including artificial sweeteners, stevia, or agave. I might even include fruit juice in my list of sweeteners to avoid here, depending on how much is added to the container.
Don't get me wrong, I by no means think that sugar or sweeteners are evil! You can check out my take on added sugar for kids under two here.
But added sugars are simply unnecessary when it comes to a baby under one. They are learning what they like to begin with, and really don't have much extra room in their diet for sugars.
If you happen to have a baby who doesn't take to plain yogurt after you have tried multiple times, there are some quick ways you can flavor your yogurt at home. You can also do this just to switch up how you serve yogurt, even if your baby doesn't mind the flavor of the plain yogurt.
I like to add a little peanut butter to my greek yogurt. You can also boil down some frozen or fresh fruit with nothing added and use that, or a jar or pouch of baby food fruit purees as a fruit flavor.
The sky is the limit when it comes to flavoring yogurt! Remember, their taste buds are different than ours, and they might enjoy different flavor combinations. Try experimenting, and see what works.
Organic Yogurt vs Conventional Yogurt
This is always a hot topic in nutrition! Organic products are by no means a requirement when it comes to dairy and babies. They can be quite expensive, and if you do not have the budget to buy organic, conventional is still an excellent choice.
If your budget does allow, dairy is one of the few things that there is a slight nutritional difference between conventional and organic.
At least in the United States, organic dairy means that cows have been raised on a pasture for at least some part of their lives.
Pastured cows produce milk that has a better fat profile than ones that have been grain fed. That doesn't make organic a necessity here, but if you do have the budget buying organic dairy can be a good option.
The Best Dairy-Free Yogurts for Babies
Non-dairy yogurt in general has the same benefits as cow's milk yogurt, and is a great option for babies.
Aim for an unsweetened version, just like with cow's milk yogurt. This usually means plain or sometimes an unsweetened vanilla version of a plant-based yogurt.
The best dairy-free yogurt options for babies tend to be:
- Forager Cashewgurt plain unsweetened or unsweetened vanilla
- So Delicious Coconut unsweetened or unsweetened vanilla
- Lavva original
- Kite Hill plain unsweetened or vanilla unsweetened, in regular or greek yogurt style
- GT's Cocoyo plain
- Coconut Cult original
The Bottom Line With The Best Yogurts For Babies
When it comes down to it, there is not one "best yogurt". There are different things to consider when buying, like whether or not your baby is self-feeding and would benefit from the thicker texture of greek yogurt.
But other than that, the key really is find a full fat yogurt that is plain or unsweetened. Stick with that, and you will be off to a great start.