Yogurt is not only tasty and versatile, it’s also one of my favorite foods for babies (and big kids, too), taking the #1 spot on my Baby’s Best Bites list!
Yogurt is a significant source of calcium, vitamins B2, B12 and B5, zinc, potassium and protein. The live bacteria in yogurt also provide health benefits including a boost to immune response, reduction of bad cholesterol and increase in good cholesterol. The cultures also make it easier for our bodies to process B vitamins and calcium so that we get more out of these nutrients than usual when ingested through yogurt. No wonder we’ve been making cultured milk products for nearly 5,000 years. (Really! There’s evidence that yogurt was produced by medieval Turks in the 11th century.)
But are all yogurts created equally?
Yogurt has become seriously big business with options ranging from squeezable smoothies to crunchy toppings, from Greek-style to Swedish-style, not to mention every flavor under the sun. And with big business comes serious marketing. Yogurt is sold to us using everything from novelty packaging to over-the-top (and sometimes unsubstantiated) health claims. But, as it turns out, many of the products you’ll find in the yogurt aisle are packed with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and/or artificial dyes.
So, are all yogurts created equally? Most definitely not.
It may not be the most exciting option in the yogurt aisle, but plain yogurt—made with whole milk for children under 2—is, hands down, the best yogurt for your family. It’s also the most reliable way to get the most of yogurt’s health benefits. And this isn’t just about skipping the neon green yogurt snacks. Ounce per ounce, plain yogurt is also more nutritious than the simplest fruit- and veggie-added options. It has fewer calories, no fillers, no added sugar and often more calcium or protein.
My family’s favorite way to enjoy yogurt is straight out of the container with added fresh fruit, but it’s also a great ingredient for cooking. You can use yogurt (particularly Greek-style) to make dips, sauces, marinades, cakes and salad dressing. Just keep in mind that cooking yogurt with heat kills the live cultures, so be sure to include plenty of un-cooked yogurt in your diet, too. But even when heated through, yogurt is nutritious and often a great substitute for fattier or less healthy ingredients like sour cream or mayo.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use yogurt:
- Blended with avocado for this quick and easy Yogurt Avocado Sauce
- Mixed with cream cheese and sandwiched between two waffles
- Mixed with minced garlic and paprika that has been sautéed in melted butter for 2 minutes, poured over poached eggs
- Mixed in with or as a substitute for mayo in lunch salads (e.g., tuna or egg salad) or dressing like this Cilantro Yogurt Dressing for slaw
- Mixed with garlic and cumin, curry or masala powder as a marinade for grilled chicken
- Mixed with lots of dried mint, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil for a spread on middle-eastern style lamb burgers
On top of all of this, yogurt also makes an amazing edible finger paint for little ones!!
What are your favorite ways to use yogurt?