In pregnancy, yogurt (or yoghurt, as it’s also known) is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. However, because there are so many different types of yogurt, it’s hard to know which one is best. Plus, is all yogurt safe in pregnancy, anyway?
I’ve put together this ultimate guide to yogurt in pregnancy including a run-down of the ingredients, benefits for pregnant women, and brand recommendations. I eat it every day and have tried and tested dozens of brands in many countries.
Please note this guide is all about normal yogurt and yogurt drinks. If you want to know all about frozen yogurt, then there’s a separate guide to that here.
Is Yogurt Safe to Eat in Pregnancy?
Almost all commercially-made yogurt will be safe to eat when you’re pregnant. These are the many brands sold in shops, stores, supermarkets, and the occasional artisan market.
Commercially-made yogurt is pregnancy-safe for two reasons:
- It’s usually pasteurized (covered below)
- Factory-produced yogurt is subject to strict controls on the time, temperature and sanitation methods used.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Greek Yogurt?
Whether the yogurt is ‘Greek’ or not doesn’t make much difference to its pregnancy safety, as this often refers to its texture, rather than any difference in ingredients. ‘Greek-style’ yogurt has been strained to make it thicker and creamier.
Any Greek imported yogurt that has actually been made in Greece and shipped out will also be safe if it’s a commercial brand sold in stores.
What Kind of Yogurt is Unsafe in Pregnancy?
Fermented products like yogurt may be unsafe in pregnancy if they’re homemade. This is the case, even if pasteurized milk is used.
This is because homemade fermented foods are far more prone to contamination with bad bacteria growing alongside the good bacteria (source: ISA).
If you do choose to make your own yogurt, be extra careful with sanitation and temperature/time controls. If you aren’t confident or experienced in home fermentation, it’s much easier and safer to buy commercially-made yogurt for the duration of your pregnancy.
The only other ‘unsafe’ yogurt is any yogurt made from raw, unpasteurized milk, covered below.
Is Yogurt Pasteurized? (Country Guide)
Commercially manufactured yogurt is made from pasteurized milk in the USA by law (source: FDA). The same pasteurization rules apply to yogurt in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. This means that any store-bought yogurt in these countries is safe in pregnancy.
Raw, unpasteurized milk yogurt does exist in these countries outside of regular supermarkets and shops, and is not safe for pregnant women. It’s usually very hard to find. The most common type is when it’s made and sold directly by a farm, such as in a farm shop or as a ‘barn door’ sale directly to visitors.
This is perfectly legal in some countries, but again, this is a specialist product. If you’re buying directly from a farm or farm shop, check that pasteurized milk has been used.
‘Farm’ type raw milk yogurts are more prevalent in European countries, such as Italy, France and Greece. If you’re abroad and eating yogurt, then check if pasteurized milk has been used. The word you’re looking for on the label or when you’re asking, is:
|Country||Word Meaning ‘Pasteurized’|
|Spain||pasteurizada / pasteurizado|
|Germany / Austria||pasteurisiert|
If in doubt, then avoid the yogurt. Raw milk yogurt is still rare in such countries, but you can’t rule it out entirely, particularly in rural areas. You should be fine with branded/supermarket versions, but it’s always safer to check first.
Is Probiotic (Bio) Yogurt Safe For Pregnant Women?
Probiotic yogurt (sometimes called ‘live yogurt’ or ‘bio yogurt’) is usually safe for pregnant women to eat. There are different probiotics in live yogurt depending on the manufacturer and country. Common ones include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus casei
There haven’t been many conclusive trials yet involving probiotic supplements, but yogurt is considered a safe way of taking probiotics naturally (source: APA).
One study found that probiotics had no adverse effect on either pregnant women or their babies (source: PMC).
Since yogurt provides a small amount of natural probiotics, taking probiotics in food like yogurt is considered safe and nutritious for pregnant women (source: Today’s Dietician). Consuming food that contains probiotics may help with gut health, and prevent diarrhea (source: PubMed).
In all, it is safe and potentially beneficial to eat live yogurt in pregnancy. It may help your gut health, and in most cases, it can certainly do no harm.
The same rules apply to probiotic yogurt concerning pasteurization (explained above). Probiotic yogurt made from raw, unpasteurized milk should be avoided.
Can I Eat Yogurt in Early Pregnancy / The First Trimester?
Yogurt can be eaten at any stage of pregnancy, including early pregnancy in the first trimester, right through to birth.
Due to its beneficial nutritional profile (see below), there’s no reason not to enjoy yogurt throughout your pregnancy. Some yogurts are better than others depending on how they are processed and sweetened.
The best yogurt brands to have when you’re pregnant are covered later in this article, below.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Yogurt in Pregnancy? Is It Good / Healthy?
Yogurt can be a beneficial food for pregnant women, as it is an excellent source of calcium – an essential mineral for pregnant women. During pregnancy, you should try to increase your calcium intake up to 1000mg per day (source: WebMD).
Yogurt is also a good choice for increasing your calcium intake as the body absorbs calcium from unflavored natural yogurt equally as well as calcium from milk (source: PubMed). One cup of plain yogurt has almost 300mg of calcium (source: NutritionData).
Yogurt is also high in protein, B vitamins, and zinc (source: WebMD).
Yogurt, of course, lends itself to being a healthy ingredient in other food such as making a dip, or sprinkling with other pregnancy-friendly foods like fruit.
Many of yogurt’s benefits depend on the type of yogurt – some flavored versions are packed with added sugar, food colorings and fat. Natural or plain, unsweetened yogurt with no added sugar is usually the best bet in pregnancy. Some recommended brands are below.
Which is the Best Yogurt Brand for Pregnant Women?
Not all yogurts are created equal, and some are MUCH better for you than others.
Staring at the shelves and wondering what the difference is between low fat, no fat, unsweetened, Greek, organic, natural, grass-fed and all the rest of it can make it seem like the choice is overwhelming.
To help you shop for better yogurt, here’s my shortlist of the best yogurts for pregnancy. I’ve personally tried all of them and have recommended these because they taste good, too:
- Stonyfield Farm Organic Plain Greek Grassfed yogurt – this one ticks all the boxes and it’s creamy and delicious. It contains whole milk and six live cultures, and that’s it. You can get it at Whole Foods via Amazon, delivered or in person at one of their stores.
- If you want a 0% fat version, Wallaby Organic would be my next choice. It’s slightly sweetened (with organic cane juice and a little lemon juice) to make up for the reduced fat, but is otherwise one of the better no-fat yogurts you can get. Again, it’s on Amazon or in some larger supermarkets.
- If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to get deliveries of yogurt or have a shopping routine at a local store, the best yogurt I’ve found that is available in most supermarkets is Greek brand FAGE. It’s genuine Greek yogurt that comes in different fat percentages. It lacks the depth of flavor in the yogurts above but is still authentic and creamy.
- Other brands found everywhere and in many countries are Activia, Chobani, Dannon, Oikos, Hollondia, Onken and Yeo Valley. They’re all safe in pregnancy, as are supermarket own-brands, though the flavor and texture (in my opinion) don’t compare to the ones listed above.
If your store carries more options (and I’m sure it does!), here’s what to look for when buying yogurt to eat in pregnancy:
- Natural, plan and unsweetened yogurts are usually better for you and much lower in sugar than flavored versions. You can always sweeten it yourself with something healthy like fruit, a little honey, compote or granola.
- Lower fat yogurts usually contain fewer calories, so if you think you’ll be consuming a lot, choose either low fat, no fat or reduced-fat yogurt if you prefer this – this is where the fat content is listed at 2% or less.
- Check the sugar – it’s sometimes added to low-fat versions to improve the flavor. Healthier options should be less than 15g per serving.
- If you’re looking for live yogurt, check the label for active cultures, or look for the “Live and Active cultures” stamp/seal on the carton.
- Check the list of ingredients. Quality yogurt should just be milk and live cultures, and that’s it. Anything else added is for flavor, texture and so on – but isn’t needed in pure natural yogurt.
How Much Yogurt Can I Eat Per Day When Pregnant?
There is no hard and fast rule about how much yogurt pregnant women can eat daily. This is because there are many differences between brands of yogurt, and how yogurt is used (e.g. in cooking, or eaten on its own) also varies.
Unlike other food in pregnancy that you have to limit (for example, tuna fish, because of mercury), there’s no recommended upper limit on yogurt. In the absence of any certified advice or clinical trials, it probably comes down to common sense, and having yogurt as part of a balanced diet.
Yogurt can be safely eaten daily if that’s your preference (e.g. for breakfast). If you do eat lots of yogurt, try to stick to the healthier versions described earlier in this article.
Yogurt that is high in sugar and fat (particularly if its flavored) may raise your blood sugar, which can be a problem in pregnancy, particularly if you have gestational diabetes (1).
Unsweetened, natural yogurt is a much healthier option if you’re going to eat it regularly.
Can I Have Yogurt Drinks When I’m Pregnant?
Popular brands of yogurt also come in drink form (like Yoplait, Chobani, Activia etc.) Yogurt flavored drinks are also a good way of consuming yogurt, but they’re often sweetened much more than ordinary yogurt, to make them more palatable.
Yogurt drinks are usually safe in pregnancy, as yogurt itself is, when it’s commercially made. What to look out for in yogurt drinks is almost exactly the same as what to look out for when buying yogurt, which is covered above.
If you fancy a yogurt drink or smoothie, the best thing of all is to take a quality, unsweetened yogurt (my recommendations are above, earlier in this article) and make your own!
This one from Food Jazz is pretty good and is made with fresh fruit and unsweetened plain yogurt. Remember to wash the fruit thoroughly, or use frozen, and you’re good to go.
Does Yogurt Help With Indigestion and Heartburn?
Heartburn and indigestion are common in pregnancy, so you might wonder if something cold and creamy like yogurt might soothe it.
Higher-fat versions of yogurt might aggravate heartburn if you’re particularly prone to it, since some fats cause acid reflux (source: PubMed). This varies from person to person – some have no effect at all.
As it’s high in protein, yogurt can make food easier to digest, and subsequently may help with heartburn and indigestion (source: AARP).
Reactions can be different from individual to individual, so try a small amount of yogurt (if it’s not a type you normally eat) and see if it agrees with you first.
Overall, yogurt can be a healthy, tasty and versatile addition to your pregnancy diet. If you’re also wondering about similar foods, you might also be interested to read about frozen yogurt and ice cream, too! If you’re a dairy fan, there’s an ultimate guide to eating cheese in pregnancy, too.
|This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.|