Yogurt May Offer Positive Benefits For Diet Quality and Body Fat In Children
U.S. children are consuming diets too high in calories and lacking in important nutrients.1 In particular, dietary intakes of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, as well as fiber, are of public health concern in children of all ages.1 In addition, more than 30% of U.S. children (ages 2–19) are overweight or obese, with 17% of children being obese.1
Poor eating habits started in childhood may continue into later life; therefore, early interventions are needed to help children adopt healthy nutrition.1 Two recent reviews have found that consumption of yogurt may help improve diet quality and lower body fat in children.2,3
A yogurt snack contains nutrients that are lacking in children’s diets.
Most U.S. children consume snacks; but these snacks tend to be high in calories and sugars and do not provide significant amounts of the nutrients of concern.2
A recent review examined data from both the 2009–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the 2004–2005 and 2009–2010 School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study (SNDA). This review found that 97% of children surveyed eat a daily snack, with half of children consuming multiple snacks per day.2 Snacks contribute 37% of children’s caloric intake, but only 15–30% of vital micronutrients and nearly 40% of the added sugar in children’s diets.2
The authors of the review, and at least one other, have found that introducing vitamin D-fortified yogurt to children’s snack times may help increase dietary intake of nutrients currently lacking in children’s diets:2,3
Adding one 6-oz. serving of vitamin D-fortified yogurt each day would help children move closer to almost all nutrients of concern, including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.2
Combining yogurt with fruit or vegetables as a snack would increase dietary intake of all nutrients of concern, since this snack would also provide fiber.2
A snack that includes low-sugar, vitamin D-fortified yogurt contributes vital micronutrients to children’s diets without adding empty calories.2
Yogurt has been shown to be associated with lower body fat in children.
Another recent examination of NHANES data (2005–2008) has found that higher yogurt consumption was associated with lower measures of adiposity in U.S. children (ages 8–18), such as lower BMI-for-age, lower waist circumference, and smaller subscapular skinfold.3
Snack time may be an opportunity for improved diet quality and weight management in children.
Current snacking trends show that children are consuming snacks that contribute excess calories and sugars to the diet, but not enough of vital micronutrients.2 In addition, as one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, combating childhood obesity is an important step in fighting the obesity epidemic.1 Adding yogurt to 2 snack occasions a day may help improve both diet quality and lower body fat in children.
When fortified with vitamin D, yogurt provides three of four nutrients of concern in U.S. children: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.
Consumption of yogurt helps meet recommendations, as outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, to increase intake of fat free or low fat milk products and to choose foods that provide more potassium, calcium, and vitamin D.1
Swapping yogurt for salty snacks helps meet DGA recommendations to reduce daily sodium intake and to consume fewer foods with sodium.1
Yogurt has also been associated with lower measures of body fat in U.S. children.3
Five tips for adding yogurt to snack time
Parents don’t need to worry if their kids won’t eat yogurt “straight-up.” Here are five snack ideas that incorporate yogurt.
Use yogurt as a dip for sliced fruits and veggies.
Make a smoothie by mixing yogurt with milk and berries or other fruit.
Create a yogurt parfait by layering with fruit and nuts or granola.
Top a sweet potato with yogurt and cinnamon.
Make a healthier dessert by topping yogurt with fruit, nuts, peanut butter, cinnamon, or a drizzle of honey.
Recipe: Creamy Hummus Dip
For children who love to dip, this creamy hummus recipe provides additional protein and fiber, especially when it’s scooped up with cut veggies (like sliced bell pepper or broccoli florets) or whole grain crackers.
Note: the red pepper flakes are an optional ingredient. More yogurt-based snack recipes can be found here.
The benefits of yogurt go beyond delicious taste and creamy texture.
Overall, swapping yogurt for other foods in a child’s diet, that tend to be more energy-dense and less nutrient-dense, may help improve diet quality and prevent excess weight gain.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.
2. Hess J, Slavin J. Snacking for a cause: nutritional insufficiencies and excesses of U.S. children, a critical review of food consumption patterns and macronutrient and micronutrient intake of U.S. children. Nutrients. 2014;6:4750-4759.
3. Keast DR, Hill Gallant KM, Albertson AM, Gugger CK, Holschuh NM. Associations between yogurt, dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intake and obesity among U.S. children aged 8-18 years: NHANES, 2005-2008. Nutrients 2015;7:1577-1593.