Greek Yogurt – Let Me Count the Ways

May 14, 2013 in Cooking & Baking Hints, Diabetic Menu Item, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Uncategorized, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Yogurt is an old food; actually it’s one of the oldest known to mankind. I assume that since Greece was one of the early civilizations, that they’ve had plenty of time to practice making extraordinary yogurt. The makers of Greek yogurt use different bacterial cultures than our regular American-style yogurt. Those cultures and the straining process, yield a product that is much creamier; has less sugar and almost twice as much protein. The straining process used in making Greek yogurt separates the whey and lactose (milk sugar) from the yogurt portion and that’s what makes Greek yogurt perfect for cooking and baking.

Health, convenience and taste; there are many reasons to give Greek yogurt a try; some of them are listed below:


  • Carbs

For those carefully watching carbs, Greek yogurt ranges between 5 to 8 grams in 8 ounces, compared with 13 to 17 grams in regular yogurt. That’s really a nice savings! Since so much of the lactose is removed in the straining process, it may even be a good choice for those with lactose intolerance.

  • Fat

Greek yogurt is loaded with saturated fat (not what your heart needs), but if you choose the nonfat varieties, you may be pleasantly surprised, at how creamy it is without any of the saturated fat.  If you use the full fat Greek yogurt, it contains 5 grams of saturated fat in an 8-ounce serving. Yikes! But don’t forget, just buy the nonfat Greek yogurt and still get the benefits along with the savings in fewer calories and less fat.

  • Protein

Greek yogurt has just about double the protein of regular yogurt – helps to keep you satisfied longer – nice diet aide.

  • Calcium

Greek yogurt has  about the same as the benefits of drinking fresh milk, but without most of the lactose (milk sugar) that causes problems for those with lactose intolerance. In addition, it’s a great way for those with diabetes to enjoy the benefits of dairy without so much sugar. As mentioned above, it is low in ‘carbs’.

  • Probiotics

Don’t forget those live culture bacteria – probiotics, sound nicer than live culture bacteria, but whatever you call them they help to keep the gut healthy. You don’t need expensive probiotic additives so often found in processed food. They are naturally in Greek yogurt because it’s made with live and active cultures. (Be sure to look on the label – active cultures must be listed in the ingredients list.)

  • Salt

And lastly, 8 ounces of Greek yogurt averages about 50 milligrams of sodium –

that is about half the amount in regular yogurt. This is a great low sodium food.

Greek yogurt delivers all these benefits, but the thick creaminess with just about double the protein; half the sugar, ample calcium and live cultures make the Greek yogurt an excellent choice.

What’s so great about the tangy taste of Greek yogurt is that you can use it to replace sour cream and mayonnaise, which get almost all their calories from fat. Or you can just sweeten it to use it in all the traditional ways, like snacks and desserts that you’ve become used to having. Sweetening it yourself makes it especially nice, because now you have control over what type of sweetener and how much sweetener to use. Make your individual taste buds happy!! Also, if you buy the unflavored/unsweetened, you’ve got a staple on your refrigerator shelf, waiting for your sweet or tangy recipe.

Ideas for broadening your use - Yogurt is not just for snacking

To get started to take advantage of the nutrition packed in a container, this is one food that doesn’t require you to be a chef. You may want to began with a traditional yogurt and honey dessert; or an easy, fresh fruit and cereal sprinkled dish of yogurt; or just as a garnish for soups – dollop in middle of curries, tomato soup, chili; or a topping for fruit salad; or as a substitute for mayo in dips and salad dressings.

I’m still learning new ways to use it and hoping to try some new recipes soon. I’ve already used it to calm down a spicy curry and add the creamy taste and texture to sauces and soups.

Think of using it (about 9 calories per tablespoon for the nonfat variety) instead of mayonnaise (100 calories per tablespoon). Think potato salad, macaroni salad, guacamole, deviled eggs, tuna and egg salad sandwiches, and sandwich spread. The tanginess and thickness is what makes it work so well as a substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise. They all taste great with yogurt.

If you want to make it even thicker, you can put it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer and strain it even more.  It will be about the consistency of cream cheese – very nice sandwich spread. If you use the nonfat yogurt, you only add protein to the bread instead of all that saturated fat in butter or mayo. Also, you can use the strained yogurt with a little added herbs, and/or onions or garlic. Nice for a cracker and cheese spread appetizer or snack.

My out-of-state daughter gave me a darling Butterfly Meadows egg dish shaped like a butterfly; so naturally we had to have some deviled eggs to christen the dish. She had just read an article in Cooking Light that told about how many calories could be saved by using Greek yogurt instead of Mayonnaise. The eggs were delicious and because we used nonfat Greek yogurt we saved 91 calories for each tablespoon of yogurt that we substituted for the mayo. Since mayo has vinegar, Greek yogurt’s tang fits just perfectly.

Whenever I see cream-based sauces like Alfredo - I skip it. But now, it is actually adding creaminess without the calories, not to mention the extra calcium and protein, and with the nonfat variety, it’s nix for saturated fat.

Are you a cheesecake lover?  Try one of the websites below to find a recipe for cheesecake. You can also use a sugar substitute if you don’t want lots of sugar. Be creative.

Parfaits served in pretty stemware or tall slim glasses are so fun to eat with iced teaspoons and seem so fancy. But the greatest thing is that they’re easy as can be. Just layer yogurt, fruit, toasted nuts, granola and top with a strawberry or cherry and maybe a mint leaf – festive and easy.

One of our very first uses of Greek yogurt was to top our homemade whole grain pancakes; we just sweeten nonfat yogurt with a natural sweetener and sprinkle with fresh fruit. We also sometimes pour on a little delicious fresh sauce from strawberries whirled in the blender. It is now a standard at our home.

If you use sour cream to top tacos or chili – give yogurt a try as a low-cal but delicious substitute.

Do I need to mention smoothies? It’s a natural to substitute for cream or ice cream.

Frozen yogurt pops – mix fresh or frozen berries in with sweetened Greek yogurt and freeze in little paper cups with popsicle sticks poked into the middle. I wonder how the kids would feel about having a healthy popsicle.

Some people use Greek yogurt instead of some of the butter in baked goods – half butter and half Greek yogurt.

Does someone in your family love mashed potatoes, but not need all that butter and milk?  Try Greek yogurt.

A couple of hints: Add the yogurt after you remove the hot soup or pasta from the stove.  I often stir a little of the hot ingredient into my yogurt to temper it.

Be careful!  Many yogurt companies are adding or considering adding Clarinol CLA conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is supposed to help with weight loss. There is a potential problem including heart damage and sudden death especially for the obese. You can get safe amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish and other food naturally in a healthy diet. Seriously, stick with real food, like yogurt and fish, and skip all the additives.

There are literally hundreds of recipes for foods that could use Greek yogurt as a beneficial substitute for fatty creams and cheeses. You may not even think of these possibilities because yogurt is not usually associated with them. How about Mac ‘n Cheese? Key Lime Pie? Visit the some of the following websites to get more ideas that you can try.

I use Costco’s Kirkland Signature (which is probably made by one of the above brands); but what I like about it is that the price is half or less of the other brands. So it never hurts to get a bargain, great nutrition, versatility, taste and convenience in a single container. Seriously, no hype! Greek yogurt let me count the ways.