Friday, February 25, 2011

The Greeks are taking the hearts of many a woman... because of their yogurt that is (and maybe swarthy good looks and accent?)

Greek Yogurt is the latest food fad. Almost every client I have had, and every woman I have talked to, asks me about Greek Yogurt and if it is good for you. Most people tell me that since Greek Yogurt is such a thick and creamy form of yogurt, it is comparable to eating ice cream. Imagine, a yogurt that people can happily subsitute for ice cream?! Talk about a dietitians dream come true!

What is Greek Yogurt? Apparently I have been eating "Greek Yogurt" for years without realizing it. I have always been a fan of making yogurt cheese, and that is exactly what Greek Yogurt is. It is just a regular yogurt that has been strained of most of the whey in order to make a thicker product. It is also called Labneh for those of you who have been to the middle-east or enjoy the regions cuisine.

Is Greek Yogurt better than regular yogurt? Yes (if you are comparing protein content and not calcium). Since Greek yogurt is a more concentrated yogurt (with less whey, and also less sugars, salt and and water), it contains more protein by volume. If it is made with low-fat or fat-free milks, it will also be low-fat or fat-free, but will probably contain a few more calories than plain regular yogurt. However, many people eat yogurt to get part of their calcium requirement, and most varieties of Greek contain 30-40% less calcium than regular yogurt.

Greek Yogurt is expensive, any recommendations? Yes, Greek yogurt really hits the wallet hard with one serving costing over $1 (whereas you can buy regular yogurt for anywhere from $0.33-$0.60 at most supermarkets). This is probably why I choose to make it at home instead (see next paragraph). However, if you have a Trader Joe's near you, the chain does offer it's own brand of Greek Yogurt (even flavored varieties) for much cheaper than Fage, Chobani, Dannon, or other brands.

How do I make Greek yogurt at home? When someone asks me about Greek yogurt I always tell them how simple and easy it is to make at home. Simply put, you just buy regular cheap yogurt, and set up a funnel into a mug (so that the whey and water can drip into the mug).
1.   Preferably you would use cheese cloth, put the cheese cloth into the funnel.
2.   Scoop the yogurt onto the cheese cloth/funnel apparatus (I don't have cheese cloth lying around so I just use a coffee filter which works just as well).
3.   Put the yogurt apparatus into the refrigerator over night (you can cover it so it doesn't take on scents and flavors of things in your fridge). Make sure the bottom of the funnel isn't hitting the bottom of the mug you use, there needs to be space for the water to flow out of the funnel.
4. The next morning you will awaken to a thickened (Greek) yogurt!
5. Simply scoop the yogurt out of the cheesecloth/coffee filter and top with your favorite fruit and sweetener.

So much cheaper and not that labor intensive, right?

My Recommendations: I recommend that you do consume Greek yogurt if you like it. If you don't, that is fine, stick with regular yogurt! Always choose low-fat or fat-free varities (apparently 0% is considered comparable to the high fat versions by most people). As with other yogurts and cottage cheese, be cautious of pre-flavored and sweetened varities. I'm not aware of any "light" Greek yogurts yet (as in the "light" yogurts such as Dannon Light 'n fit that are flavored and sweetened, but low in calories). So, I recommend you buy plain 0% Greek yogurt, add either a little sugar, or Splenda, Truvia, agave, honey, etc (your favorite sweetener), and some fruit for a delicious breakfast, snack, dessert or meal add-on!


Diane said...

kelly - I heard Greek yogurt is good because it has no cholostrol. How can that be? Is it true?

Kelly Strogen, MS, RD, LDN said...

Hi Diane, thanks for the question. Here is my response:

Cholesterol is only found in animal products, and only those products that contain fat (high-fat dairy, meat, eggs, etc). So, if you eat 0% fat Greek yogurt, it will contain <5 mg cholesterol in most cases (same is true for fat free regular yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, etc).

If you buy the 2% or whole milk Greek yogurt, it will contain some cholesterol (I think about 5-10 mg for 2% and up to 40 mg for whole milk). The recommendation for most people is to keep dietary cholesterol <300 mg/day, but research shows you should be more concerned about your saturated fat (SF) consumption. SF has a greater effect on blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol.