In Praise of Greek Yogurt: 5 Different Ways To Dive In - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

In Praise of Greek Yogurt: 5 Different Ways To Dive In

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I know that a lot of people don’t do yogurt – I know I surely didn’t – but in all seriousness… sometimes, you have to know how to use an ingredient in order to get the most out of it. And really, greek yogurt offers a lot, and it’s kinda crazy to not take advantage of it.

So… what is greek yogurt?

Ohio State University nutritionist Julie Kennel Shertzer explained to me that both Greek- and American-style yogurt are made by fermenting milk with live bacteria cultures—the only difference is that Greek yogurt is strained to remove the liquid whey, hence its thicker consistency. Both are nutritional superstars: They’re excellent sources of calcium and good sources of protein, their bacteria cultures aid digestion, and the unsweetened low- and nonfat varieties are low in calories. But according to Shertzer, Greek yogurt does have a few nutritional advantages over regular yogurt: “Since it’s a more concentrated product, it packs a few more grams of protein per serving,” she says. It’s also a bit lower in sugar and carbohydrates, since lactose, a form of sugar present in all dairy products, is removed with the whey. [source]

Now, I’ve got to admit… eating yogurt by itself? It’s a little bit of a struggle for me. It reminds me too much of just eating sour cream or something. However… today, we’re going to change that. Listed below, are my five favorite uses for greek yogurt. Bon appetit!

1) Salad dressing. That’s right – use your greek yogurt in this quick little recipe for homemade flavorful ranch dressing, and not only cut calories but add a little extra tang to it without any added salt:

about 1/3 cup of parsley
2 tablespoons of finely chopped green onions (chopped however finely you’d prefer it in your dressing)
1/3 teaspoon of black pepper
1 cup of fage 0% yogurt
at least 1/2 cup of buttermilk, maybe more depending upon how thick you want your dressing.
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of cream cheese
1 tablespoon of finely chopped onion

Toss everything into a bowl. Stir generously. Taste your ranch. Do a happy dance.

2) Have pollen allergies? Eat your yogurt with honey. I know that for me personally, if there’s one thing I used to dread, it was spring time. All sneeze everything. The good thing about it is the fact that there’s an easy and natural fix for it.

At my farmer’s market, is an elderly woman who has more locally collected honey than she knows what to do with. One bottle of locally collected wildflower honey, at a tablespoon a day, is a win for me. Stir it into some greek yogurt and sure enough, I’ve got a pretty delicious and amazing snack that has plenty of protein and protects me from my horrid, horrid allergies. How does it work?

The idea behind eating honey is kind of like gradually vaccinating the body against allergens, a process called immunotherapy. Honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when flowers and grasses are in bloom. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating honey should make the body accustomed to their presence and decrease the chance an immune system response like the release of histamine will occur [source: AAFP]. Since the concentration of pollen spores found in honey is low — compared to, say, sniffing a flower directly — then the production of antibodies shouldn’t trigger symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. Ideally, the honey-eater won’t have any reaction at all.

As innocuous as honey seems, it can actually pose health risks in some cases. Honey proponents warn that there is a potential for an allergic reaction to it. And since honey can contain bacteria that can cause infant botulism, health officials warn that children under 12 months of age whose immune systems haven’t fully developed shouldn’t eat honey at all [source: Mayo Clinic].

If a regimen is undertaken, however, local honey is generally accepted as the best variety to use. Local honey is produced by bees usually within a few miles of where the person eating the honey lives. There’s no real rule of thumb on how local the honey has to be, but proponents suggest the closer, the better [source: Ogren]. This proximity increases the chances that the varieties of flowering plants and grasses giving the allergy sufferer trouble are the same kinds the bees are including in the honey they produce. After all, it wouldn’t help much if you ate honey with spores from a type of grass that grows in Michigan if you suffer from allergies in Georgia. [source]

3) Make your own veggie dip. Instead of dipping your baby carrots in that unidentifiable ranch-like substance in the package, why not buy one large bag of baby carrots and use a little greek yogurt to make yourself a dip? Chop up a third of a cup of parsley, blend it into a cup of greek yogurt, and you’ve got a super-filling snack for well under 300 calories. Add basil, cracked red pepper and parmesan, and you’ve got another yummy dip. Shoot – chop fresh spinach, red pepper chunks, oregano and parmesan together in a big bowl of greek yogurt, and you’ve got an awesome almost-raw spinach dip. Blend it in with salsa and get a thicker dip for tortillas!

4) Can’t leave out you meat eaters! Use greek yogurt as a marinade. Bake some chicken until it’s almost done. Blend 1 cup of greek yogurt with 1 tbsp garam masala, 2tsp ground cumin and 2 tsp chili powder. Squeeze the juice from one lime over the top, and blend in some minced garlic. Pull your chicken out and coat it generously with the greek yogurt. Slide it back in the oven and broil it. Before you know it? Boom – tandoori chicken. Alabama white barbecue sauce? Yep. Use greek yogurt instead of mayo.

5) Swap out the sour cream… or the mayo… or the… whatever. No, really. Two tablespoons of sour cream has more calories than TEN tablespoons of greek yogurt. Top your nachos and enchiladas with greek yogurt blended with a little cilantro. Put it on your tacos underneath your pico de gallo. In my potato salad and chicken salad recipes, I use greek yogurt instead of mayo. Lots of options, here!

For me, some of these recipes and suggestions are beneficial in cutting calories. In other ways, they’re also a really awesome way to switch up ingredients simply for the sake of flavor. One of the awesome things about learning how to cook is the ability to swap out traditional ingredients for ones that are new to my kitchen, and discovering what new possibilities that opens up for me.

Now, my personal favorite is Fage 0% fat free yogurt. And while I typically rail against fat free food products because they’re made fat free by way of chemicals, added sugars or some other dastardly manipulation…. this one’s different – 0mg salt, 0g sugar, and it’s made fat free because they don’t use whole milk in the process. They use skim milk, which is regular milk with all the fat skimmed out the top (hence the name “skim” milk.) 20g of protein in each serving, and I’m in there like swimwear.

What do you do with your greek yogurt?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

44 Comments

  1. Savannah

    April 29, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    I LOVE greek yogurt! I usually have a container a day as an afternoon snack. My fav brands are Fage, Trader Joe’s, and Chobani. Usually I get flavors with fruit (pomegranate, blueberry) but plain, vanilla, and honey as well. I love your ideas and am definitely going to start using my greek yogurt in more exciting ways.

  2. drea

    April 29, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    one of my co-workers just turned me on to greek yogurt. i was not impressed @ all, tastes just like sour cream, but because i know it’s good for me i’m going to stick with it. it was tolerable with fresh raspberries, not so much with fresh blueberries. i’m going to try it with fresh pineapples this weekend.

    • Kait

      April 30, 2011 at 5:10 PM

      Mix in frozen wild blueberries (Wyman’s makes them..I LOVE the wild ones because they have more fiber and less sugar) before heading out to work. By lunch or snack time the blueberries will have defrosted lending their sweetness and color to the yogurt. Its like the flavored ones minus the added sugar.

    • digamba

      July 9, 2011 at 8:48 PM

      drea, try it mixed with a little shredded unsweetened coconut and just a tiny bit of dried fruit (I like to use craisins or currents, because they’re small and distribute well throughout). It is really thick and satisfying for a snack. If I’m having it for breakfast, I add a couple of tablespoons of chopped nuts to this, so it has more staying power.

    • Nicole

      September 25, 2011 at 7:52 PM

      Try greek yogurt with a teaspoon or two of raw honey, agave nectar, brown sugar or organic maple syrup mixed in with fruit … AMAZING!

  3. Stephanie CA

    April 29, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Fage 0% is my favorite too! and I’ve tried them all. I will try the savory options you mentioned above. BUT, I love it with honey and fruit, strawberries and/or bluberrys are my favorite but I sweeten them up with Stevia.

    Erika, what do you think about Stevia/Estevia/Truvia?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      April 29, 2011 at 1:18 PM

      I don’t do stevia, but truvia is a chemically processed version of stevia, so I DEFINITELY wouldn’t be doing THAT one.

      The only sweet I eat, outside of fruit, is my daily dose of locally collected honey for my allergies. I don’t really rock with it outside of that.

  4. Peggy

    April 29, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Erika, you are excellent with this site. I discovered greek yogurt last year and the tartness of it grew on me. I usually eat it with honey or sunflower seeds, but never crossed over to using it as you have suggested above, even though lately i have been wondering about doing so. I am going to try the above suggestions.

  5. Johnnie

    April 29, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Wow…..I love greek yogurt, ESPECIALLY Fage…I’ve even tried making my own by straining plain yogurt through cheesecloth…kinda messy but it worked!:-) I’m going to try out the dressing recipe this weekend and maybe crush up some mango and coconut in some plain yogurt for breakfast. Good thing it’s my lunch break; now I’m hungry…lol.

  6. Rita

    April 29, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    Thanks so much Erika for the information on Greek yogurt! I just discovered it, and I absolutely adore it. It is unbelievably expensive in the UAE @ 6.30 – 9.00 USD per container, but it so worth it. I put fresh strawberries in mine for a delightful breakfast treat!

    Also, thanks for the information regarding the lactose issue. I just indicated on my twitter account about the lack of ‘issues’ with lactose intolerance with Greek yogurt!

    I really love this stuff! Toodles!

    • Shante

      April 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

      Hi Rita you might want to try straining regular plain yogurt threw cheese cloth or a damp coffee filter. Greek yogurt is strained which is why it is so thick. If buying it that way cost too much, you can always save money and do it on your own.

      You can also make your own frozen yogurt or frozen yogurt fruit pops allowing you to limit the amount of sugar and preservatives. Summer is coming and something cold that isn’t full of junk is awesome.

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        April 29, 2011 at 3:24 PM

        See, I’ve read about this process, but I’m not going to blog about it until I can share my own experiences as successful. Got any links or anything to share?

        • Shante

          April 29, 2011 at 4:01 PM

          Straining yogurt is really easy and it will save you some money. I have done this technique at work from straining yogurt to making mascarpone cheese from scratch (that mess is wickedly expensive). I found a link with step by step directions so this should help. Oh one thing if you use a coffee filter get it damp first so the water that comes out of the yogurt will pass through and not just get soaked by the filter, trust me on that. Also do not squeeze the coffee filter because it will break and your yogurt will be a mess. You can put something heavy on top of cloth (like a plate with a heavy can on top) to press down on the yogurt to help with the straining process.

          http://greekfood.about.com/od/greekcookingtips/ht/strainyogurt.htm

          • Erika Nicole Kendall

            April 29, 2011 at 4:07 PM

            AWESOME. And YES, mascarpone is expensive! I bought some to make frosting and… let’s just say that I wept a little when it scanned at the register. LOL

            Cheese making is another concept that looks fun to me. I’ve watched mozzarella be made from scratch, and some day I’ll be able to try that myself… especially since there was this cranberry chipotle cheddar cheese that I fell in love with once, and then it disappeared off the market. I’d get into cheese making JUST to recreate THAT cheese. ROFL

            Food is just too much fun. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe what we really miss out on when we let other people do it for us.

          • Shante

            April 30, 2011 at 10:20 AM

            Thought I would pass this on to you, it is the link to the recipe for making the mascarpone cheese. It is really easy and lots of fun because you save some major money. Here a 4oz container of the cheese is $8 and a quart of cream is like $4. One quart of cream will make 2 cups of cheese. If you bought it from the store you would spend $32 which is crazy. I call that some serious savings. Anyway here you go and have fun.
            http://islandvittles.com/2010/04/01/homemade-mascarpone-cheese/

  7. L.P.

    April 29, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    I grew up eating yogurt so Greek yogurt has not been too much of an adjustment… I often use it as a base for smoothies, desserts (Greek yogurt+fresh fruits+Maple syrup –> yum!), for breakfast etc… Now I am looking for a way to make an authentic (and therefore cheaper) version at home! :)

  8. SingLikeSassy

    April 29, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Sigh. I’ve been eating greek yogurt with fruit for breakfast since forever and the reason I can’t eat it alone is because it tastes like sour cream to me. NEVER DID I MAKE THE CONNECT THAT I COULD USE IT AS A SOUR CREAM SUBSTITUTE. Thank goodness for you and this blog. LOL!

  9. Nicole

    April 29, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    You’re the best Erika. You gave me some really good advice about Fage, when I mentioned I had a hard time eating it. You said it’s a taste you have to “accept”. That helped me so much in being able to eat it. I have learned now to just let it be what it is (not expecting a sour cream taste, expecting a Greek yogurt taste) :)

  10. Sarah

    April 29, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    Fage + maple syrup + vanilla extract + cinnamon + almonds = a perfect afternoon snack.

  11. rissa

    May 2, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    we use the fat free greek yogurt to make parfait at my house. I LOOVE the allergy tip!! going to try to buy some local honey this weekend and start

  12. Regan Jones RD

    May 2, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    Like you, I struggled at first to find the right “place” to enjoy Greek Yogurt. The thickness is something you either love or not at first… and then you discover, as you mention, the amazing things Greek Yogurt can do that it’s thinner cousin cannot. So glad to see your tips! Our low-fat plain is the perfect starting point for me to try these.

    ~Regan Jones RD
    Cabot Creamery

  13. Dana

    May 4, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    I just ate some greek yogurt mixed with organic granola and peaches this morning and I felt so satisfied! I wasn’t hungry at all until lunch. Thanks for the suggestion!

  14. Naturally Girlie

    June 10, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    Just bought some this week and had no idea I could glam it up. I’m deciding which one to try first. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Johnnie

    July 3, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Hey Erica…I tried the dressing recipe; LOVE IT!

  16. Faith

    July 10, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    If you live close to a Target, Wal-Mart [ yeah…but] or Costco, Fage is the cheapest I’ve seen – nearly 1/2 less than other stores. Fage has $1 off coupons on their site.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      July 10, 2011 at 2:17 PM

      ^^^the woman who convinced me to give Fage a try, LOL. I’ll never thank you enough, LOL!

  17. Ki

    July 10, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    Yogurt cheese is my favorite, and it is beyond simple to make. Just take greek yogurt and strain it using cheesecloth overnight in the fridge(or until it’s as thick as you want). Fold in minced garlic, and some fresh chopped herbs of your preference. Refreigerate for another hour to let the flavours come together, then eat. I have it with baked pita chips, veggies, on toast, on baked potatoes. It’s my favorite way to use greek yogurt.

  18. Ruby A

    September 17, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Yes! I HEART the Greek stuff. A nice big bowlful has the ‘stick to your ribs’ consistency that fills a hole very nicely; much more so than other low-fat desserts for the caloric value. I use the 0% and 2% FAGE – no other brands have come close. This stuff is a real superfood IMO, but one that’s slept on.

    Here’s what I do:

    I mix a scoop of protein powder (with some bran and ground flaxseed) into it for a hearty breakfast or a filling dessert (takes on the consistency of a creamy whip-type thing, very satisfying), and top with bran flakes, banana, or defrosted berries (mixed with mixed spice, cinnamon, and a little Chambord or limoncello if it’s for dessert and I fancy a boozy treat!)

    It works well with seafood and chicken, too. For a quick lunch I mix it with some cooked chicken, a pinch of dried chillies, and Maldon salt; it works well with a cold salad, steamed veg and/or a baked sweet potato. Don’t microwave it; the yoghurt creates a watery runoff.

    For a basic seafood curry (king prawns being my fave) I sweat some red onions and garlic, add in some green or red curry sauce then fry until aromatic, and chuck in a nice big spoonful of yoghurt, mixed with coconut powder. It looks a little ‘bitty’ compared to the smoother texture of creme fraiche, but the taste is no different.

    Liking the sound of the cheese recipe…

  19. Jennifer

    April 26, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    I LOVE greek yogurt! I use plain greek yogurt when making mashed potatoes! I don’t use any cream or milk. I use a splash of chicken broth and greek yogurt with a tbsp of butter and chives or any herb on hand. Great for shepherd’s pie topping!

    • Robin

      August 21, 2012 at 8:32 PM

      Great ideas! I’ll have to try. I have added plain greek yogurt to a baked potatoe instead of sour cream. Very tasty!

  20. Christina

    May 26, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    This is a great post! One thing I like about Greek yogurt is how filling it is. It can truly carry me past that mid afternoon “I want to put anything in my mouth” slump.

    Just wanted to mention also that there are some flavored Greek yogurts that may temper that sour flavor (but check for sugar content.)

  21. Robin

    August 21, 2012 at 8:30 PM

    I love, love LOVE greek yogurt! I sometimes have it twice a day (one for breakfast and one for desert) either with fresh fruit and/or granola or without. I love the fact that its so low in calories and tastes so yummy! My quick go to breakfast!

  22. Ruth

    August 25, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    I had Greek yogurt and some precooked Quinoa for breakfast with cinnamon, honey and a tiny sprinkle of flax seeds, raisins and walnuts. I was surprised how much I liked the quinoa lol, finally after trying a few different ways, I have found a way to enjoy it.

  23. Thembi

    September 23, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    I know I’m late to this thread but um hello…tzatziki! Google up any old recipe and theyll all do. Greek yogurt, a little lemon juice, dill, garlic, and chopped cucumbers. Its so good I end up dipping more cucumbers in it or using it as the centerpiece to a wrap filled with veggies like more cukes, tomatoes, sprouts, and lettuce.

  24. Adaobi

    December 17, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    mashed banana, a tbsp of peanut butter, and a sprinkling of chocolate chips. absolutely decadent

  25. Aisha

    January 3, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    I also use it to deep condition my hair.

  26. Linda

    January 10, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    I will try the yogurt, my doctor says I really need to for healthy reasons. It is just so hard to smell, look at and taste. I tried it in a smoothy, but still I did not like the taste.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      January 11, 2013 at 6:52 AM

      In all honesty… I find that people who say these kinds of things have really had their palates polluted by processed foods. Lots of foods have different tastes and textures, and you have to learn how to use them to your advantage – those tastes and textures – instead of trying to start writing foods off.

  27. Tamara

    April 14, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    My hairdresser introduced me to Oikos Greek Yogurt Bwith fruit pneapple) on the bottom. I bought some on my shopping trip today.

  28. Ceej

    April 14, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    A little honey and cinnamon make a great greek yogurt fruit dip.

  29. GreekGirl

    June 2, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Hey there! Just found your post. As you can assume from my name, i’m greek. Nice to see that traditional greek products are getting popular. From the brands you mention, the one we find here is fage. Of course there are dozens of other brands, and many of them are local. I would suggest you tried greek yogurt with living cultures. (you can even make it yourself if you get the bacteria to ferment it) It’s the one that has a buttery crust and it’s in fact a probiotic product. It’s a bit fattier and more sour than the industrialised fage it might remind you of buttermilk or kefir (even though the one made from sheep’s and goat’s milk is sweeter than the cow’s), but it’s a super food. It’s “prescribed” by our doctors when we get antibiotics to inhibit yeast growth. As far as the uses for strained yogurt (that’s what we call it) you can use it to make a sauce that resembles mayonnaise. Just whip or blend it with extra virgin olive oil (less than half cup), the juice of half a lemon, and a couple spoons of mustard and add sea salt and white pepper to taste! It’s low fat, low cholesterol and you don’t have to worry about salmonella!

  30. Marie Shanahan

    July 11, 2013 at 3:18 AM

    I think that you are so smart. :) Thanks so much for the fittest of recipes!

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