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The Skinny on Yogurt

by Lindsey Sexton - January 25, 2021

We need calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. And all are amply supplied in yogurt.

Why should I eat yogurt?

Yogurt has a much higher concentration of protein, vitamins and minerals than milk. The acidity of yogurt also makes it easier for the body to absorb such nutrients as calcium, zinc and magnesium. Another bonus is that the bacteria break down the sugars in the milk, making yogurt a food that can be more easily digested by those with lactose intolerance. 

Most people can benefit from regularly consuming probiotic-rich foods like yogurt. Probiotics can help maintain the balance of bacteria necessary for a healthy digestive system; and boost the immune system, shortening the length and severity of sickness. 


How much yogurt should I eat each day?

It is recommended that we eat about one cup (8 ounces) of yogurt per day. One cup of dairy-based yogurt or fortified plant-based yogurt counts as one of the three dairy servings recommended for children 9 years old through adulthood. For 2- and 3-year-olds, 2 cups of dairy are recommended. For 4- to 8-year-olds, 2½ cups per day.


What kind of yogurt should I buy?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates and inspects commercial yogurt products. The FDA also sets the following guidelines for labeling yogurt:

  • Regular yogurt must be no less than 3.25% fat and contain no less than 8.25% milk solids.
  • Low fat yogurt must be between 0.5 to 2% fat and contain no less than 8.25% milk solids.
  • Non-fat yogurt must be less than 0.5% fat and contain no less than 8.25% milk solids.

Other terms used to describe yogurt are based on differences in processing:

  • Set (equivalent to sundae or fruit-on-the-bottom): This is the firmest type of yogurt. During processing, the yogurt is set in a container and is left undisturbed. Fruit can be added to the bottom of the container so that, when turned upside down, it resembles a sundae.
  • Swiss (equivalent to stirred, custard, or blended): Most commercial yogurts are Swiss style. After the yogurt is set, it is stirred and dispensed into secondary containers, making it less firm than set yogurt. Fruit can also be stirred in to produce flavor varieties.
  • Liquid or drinkable: Liquid yogurt has milk, fruit, and/or fruit syrups added for increased fluidity and flavor. The pH of yogurt is raised when milk is added, so the shelf life of drinkable yogurt is generally only 4–10 days.
  • Yogurt cheese or strained yogurt: Yogurt is strained to remove liquid whey, resulting in a thick, creamy, concentrated product.
  • Frozen yogurt: To make frozen yogurt, regular yogurt is mixed with a pasteurized ice cream mix of milk, cream, and sugar. Other ingredients, such as stabilizers, fruit, and flavors are blended together and then the mixture is frozen. In some cases, frozen yogurt contains live bacteria; the bacteria become dormant when cooled, but regain activity post-ingestion due to the warm body temperature.
  • Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt contains about twice the protein and half as much carbohydrates and sodium as regular yogurt. During processing, the yogurt is strained three times, as opposed to two times with regular yogurt, which yields the higher protein content and creamier texture. There are also low-fat and fat-free options for Greek yogurt.
  • Lite or light: Yogurt that has 50% less fat or one-third fewer calories than regular yogurt is considered light.


Can I use yogurt as a substitute in recipes?

You bet! The following is a list of substitutions using non-fat plain Greek yogurt, along with an estimate of the calorie and fat gram differences by making the substitution. Keep in mind that this is an approximate substitution guide. Brands and varieties of yogurt can vary in addition to bakeware and ovens, therefore it may take a couple of tries to get recipes to turn out the way you want them to.

Ingredient Substitution The Difference
1 cup butter 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup butter Saves 366 calories and 46g of fat
1 cup oil 3/4 cup yogurt saves 1,829 calories and 224g of fat
1 cup sour cream 1 cup yogurt saves 390 calories and 43g of fat
1 cup mayonnaise 1 cup yogurt saves 786 calories and 78.5g of fat
1 cup cream cheese 1 cup yogurt saves 670 calories and 80g of fat


Sweet Ways to Enjoy Yogurt

Dip it. Have fun in the kitchen with your child by using yogurt as a dip for a variety of different fruits. For a healthier alternative to a typical cream cheese-based fruit dip, stir together 1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Sweeten it. While all yogurt has some natural sugar, take care to choose yogurts that are low in added sugars or have no added sugars. Fresh or frozen fruits can flavor yogurt or try using cinnamon or a sugar substitute. Additionally, you can sweeten yogurt using honey but be mindful that it is considered an added sugar.

Mix it. Start the morning off right by including yogurt at breakfast. Mix a 6-ounce container of low-fat yogurt with ½ cup sliced berries, a handful of granola and 2 tablespoons nuts for a quick and satisfying breakfast bowl.

Blend it. Blend up a calcium-packed snack using this yogurt smoothie recipe: 1 6-ounce container low-fat yogurt, ¾ cup low-fat milk, ½ cup frozen strawberries, ½ cup frozen blueberries, 1 banana, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Then, mix it all together using a blender. Depending on your family's tastes, you also can offer nut butters, vegetables, seeds or other nutritious add-ins.

Drink it. Have your children drink their bones strong with homemade yogurt beverages. Make your own by whisking together a 6-ounce container of low-fat strawberry-flavored yogurt and ¼ cup low-fat milk. Pour the mixture into cups and enjoy. If there's too much liquid, add more yogurt; if the mixture is too thick, add more milk.

Dunk it. Dunk in the yogurt fun with banana-yogurt-granola pops. Use half a banana with a popsicle stick placed in the bottom. Have your child dunk the banana in low-fat yogurt, roll in granola and enjoy!


Savory Ways to Enjoy Yogurt

Spoon it. Spoon in a delicious topping for your next taco night with plain yogurt. Use ½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons taco seasoning and 1 teaspoon lime juice for a fun alternative to sour cream. And that's not all: plain yogurt is a versatile ingredient and often can be substituted for sour cream in recipes.

Mix it. Choose plain and unsweetened yogurt, either strained or unstrained. Add herbs and spices for savory preparations. Top with roasted nuts for a crunchy addition.

Stir it. For a delicious tzatziki sauce, blend together 1 whole diced peeled cucumber, 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon dill, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Stir mixture into 3 cups of plain Greek yogurt. Serve as a sauce or a dip.

Sub it. Substitute plain yogurt in recipes calling for sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream cheese.