Friday, May 27, 2011

Yogurt: A Powerhouse

In my opinion, yogurt is a “power food.” Loaded with probiotics, calcium, and protein it’s my favorite go-to for a quick pick-us-up.

Yogurt is also one of our favorite foods to “doctor” for snacks and meals. There are so many options! Yogurt is delicious on its own, in smoothies, with fruit, as a dressing, marinade, dips or garnish!

Since we’re talking about snacks this month, let’s focus on that for today.

First, you need to choose your yogurt. I make my own every week or so, but if you’re buying yours, go for the simplest choice out there: plain (full fat is best, and choose low-fat options carefully).

Avoid yogurts geared especially for kids (packed with sugar, artificial flavors and colors) as well as most fruit-flavored choices and “light” yogurts. Remember that while these sound appealing in terms of calories, the real food is replaced with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, dyes, preservatives, and the fat is sometimes replaced with fillers to help the taste.

Be aware that even organic yogurt products still have thickeners, sugar, and some form of coloring, even if it is more “natural.”

Read your labels! The ingredient list should say “milk” and “active cultures.” Nothing else!

It is far better to have a serving of plain, yogurt you sweeten or otherwise enhance yourself !

I can hear your protests now, however, about the convenience of single serve yogurt and the moans about pickiness from kids. I know! The ideas I have below are very simple, however, and something should appeal to everyone!

  • If you must, you can find plain yogurt in single serve containers. You can start there and add your own fruit or a dollop of honey.
  • Make your own single serve containers! I always keep my eyes open for small 1/2-1 cup containers. There are options out there in plastic or glass.
  • If you aren’t a fan of whole fruit in your yogurt, puree yogurt and fruit (fresh in season or frozen if not) and pour into containers. (Add a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup if you need to). This only takes a few minutes every time you do it and you are ready for snacks or lunches.
  • You can also freeze portions of your fruit/yogurt combo. I freeze in ice cube trays for babies and young toddlers and in freezer pop molds or Dixie cups for older kids. Sure to delight on a hot day!
  • Mix a little fruit juice with yogurt and serve immediately or freeze for another popular treat.
  • Yogurt and granola is, of course, a classic combination. I haven’t found my perfect granola recipe yet, so please share if you have one!
  • If you’re interested in branching out, goat’s milk yogurt is one of my favorite indulgence. It’s delicious on its own, but can also be served with fruit, nuts, or cereal.

There are dozens of ways to dress up plain yogurt. Get creative then come back to share your ideas!

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