by Dietitian Ellen
"What’s better? Doing two things at once, or just one? It’s not complicated."
Well, the same is true about Greek yogurt. It’s not complicated.
You have maybe heard about Greek yogurt and its health benefits. (And if you haven’t heard about Greek yogurt, please come out from under the rock you’ve been living under.) Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about surrounding this not-so-recent food trend?
Let me tell you what the fuss is about.
Yogurt comes from milk that has healthy bacteria (probiotics) added. During processing, yogurt is strained through a cheesecloth, which allows the excess “liquid whey" part of the milk to drain off. Regular yogurt is strained once. Greek yogurt is strained twice, which gives it a thicker consistency. See, not complicated.
Okay, maybe it’s not entirely that simple… Let’s compare some of the important aspects setting Greek yogurt apart from regular yogurt.
Greek yogurt has twice the amount of protein as most regular yogurts. This is due to the extra straining process. 6 ounces of Greek yogurt typically contains 14–17 grams of protein. That’s a lot of protein for such a small serving size! Regular yogurt will have between 7–8 grams of protein in 6 ounces. As we have discussed earlier in the series, protein is important for providing energy and for helping to reduce soreness after a workout.
Some (note, I did NOT say all) brands of Greek yogurt use less or no added sugar when processing their product. This can make Greek yogurt especially beneficial for people with diabetes. A lot of Greek yogurt brands contain natural sugars from the included fruit.
Sweetened varieties of regular yogurt are jam packed with added sugars, which is why they sometimes taste like dessert, *cough*… key lime pie flavored yogurt or yogurt with candy pieces on top? #whatisupwiththat #doesnotcountashealthy
Regular yogurt takes the tape on this one. Regular yogurt has about two to three times the amount of calcium as Greek yogurt. Both are still considered a good source of calcium, but remember to continue to get calcium from other food sources as well. Calcium is absorbed best from food and in small amounts. Having 3-4 servings of calcium rich foods, like dairy, per day will help to consume the calcium you need.
Although athletes often need extra sodium after a long, sweaty workout to replace electrolyte stores, it is important to keep sodium consumption under control throughout the rest of the day. Greek yogurt typically has about half the amount of sodium as regular yogurt.
As mentioned previously, Greek yogurt has a thicker and creamier texture than regular yogurt. Greek yogurt can be used in cooking and does not curdle like its regular yogurt counterpart.
Many varieties of Greek yogurt are considered lactose free, which makes them safe for consumption for those with a lactose intolerance. Some or all of the lactose may be removed during the extra straining process. Chobani Greek yogurt is one brand that is considered lactose free.
You will find that Greek yogurt is more costly than regular yogurt. Before you throw your hands in the air and protest against the Greek variety, remember the nutritious benefits you receive from having twice as much protein, fewer carbohydrates, and less sodium in Greek yogurt. If you prefer a Greek yogurt found in the HealthMarket at your local Hy-Vee store, I suggest shopping on Wednesdays when you receive 10% off all items in the HealthMarket. If you live outside the Midwest and do not have the pleasure of shopping at Hy-Vee, you’re just out of luck. Just kidding. I would suggest finding out about sales and coupons offered at your local grocery store.
Some of my Favorite Recipes Using Greek Yogurt
Plain, non-fat, Greek yogurt can often be used in place of sour cream or cream cheese in recipes. Also consider replacing oil and eggs with Greek yogurt when baking or replacing higher calorie ingredients with Greek yogurt in dips, salad dressings, sauces, smoothies, or desserts.
Mayo Free Chicken Salad: This is a perfect “in a pinch” recipe combining chicken, sweet grapes, sliced almonds, crunchy celery, and low-fat Greek yogurt. This is perfect any time of year, but especially delicious for a summertime picnic.
Pumpkin Fruit Dip
All you need:
1 (6 oz.) container Hy-Vee vanilla Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 small/medium apples, cored and sliced
All you do:
Stir together the yogurt, pumpkin puree and cinnamon in a small bowl until smooth. Serve cold with sliced apple wedges.
Chocolate/Vanilla Chobani Pops: These are a delicious, healthy alternative to typical popsicles. I’ll warn you, your kids might eat them all before you have a chance to enjoy.
Skinny Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo: Who knew Alfredo could be healthy? It is when you use Greek yogurt in place of heavy cream!
Have you ever tried freezing your Greek yogurt? You should. It is as good as, or better than, it sounds. If you are like me and aren’t crazy about the thicker texture of Greek yogurt, try adding chia seed, or a little bit of low fat Bear Naked Fit granola to give it a different texture.
I also suggest these little guys for a guilt-free afternoon snack. At just 100 calories for 3.5 ounces and 8 grams of protein, these are the perfect pick me up. Look for Chobani Bite at your local grocer.
The possibilities are endless when using Greek yogurt. Remember to look for a brand that uses very few or no added sugars to fully reap the rewards of this high-protein punch.
What’s your favorite brand/flavor of Greek yogurt? Or what is your favorite recipe using Greek yogurt? (And if you ask me, the kids in that ad never get old.)
Have a great weekend!
Ellen Ries, RD, LD
Read Dietitian Ellen’s introduction to this series: Super Foods for Athletes. Watch our blog every Friday for additional articles!