The difference between the Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is in the straining process. The Greek variety is strained more extensively, which removes more of the liquid whey, lactose and sugars. This also produces Greek yogurt’s thicker consistency.
Both low- and non-fat versions of Greek and traditional plain yogurts can play a part in a healthy diet by improving bone health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in adults. Yogurt, Greek or otherwise, is a good source of calcium, potassium, Vitamin D and protein. Both regular and Greek yogurts also contain active cultures (probiotics), which promote better digestive health.
One of Greek yogurt’s primary benefits is it delivers higher protein and less sugar than the regular variety. Six ounces of Greek yogurt can deliver as much protein as three ounces of lean meat. As a result, Greek yogurt promotes the sense of fullness with fewer calories than many other protein sources. On the downside, Greek yogurt can be higher in cholesterol and lower in calcium than regular yogurt. Full-fat versions of Greek yogurt can be higher in saturated fats.
Aside from all the great benefits of Greek yogurt, you may be getting bored with breakfast parfaits, don’t really like yogurt to begin with or have never been able to acquire a taste for Greek yogurt’s more intense flavor.
With just a few creative reconfigurations, you can introduce the healthy benefits of Greek yogurt into your favorite snack foods, recipes or toppings, while getting the benefits of active cultures (to promote digestive health), higher protein and lower fat. Remember to choose a low-fat or no-fat Greek yogurt.
- Sour cream. For the simplest of swaps, top your tacos or baked potatoes with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Compare the numbers: one ounce of low-fat sour cream (which is half a tablespoon) contains 51 calories, 4 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein. On the other hand, the same amount of Greek yogurt contains 22 calories, 0.6 grams of fat, a little more than 1 gram of carbohydrates and 2.9 grams of protein.
You can also thin out Greek yogurt with a bit of 2% milk and add your favorite Ranch dressing or French onion seasoning to make a healthier version of your favorite dip (make it even healthier by substituting raw veggies for the potato chips).
- Mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is a creamy dressing made mostly from eggs and oil, which are both fats. Using Greek yogurt replaces fat with protein in recipes like tuna, macaroni, chicken, or potato salads. It works well in deviled egg recipes and in creamy salad dressings, like Caesar and Ranch.
- Heavy cream or milk. Use Greek yogurt in your mashed potatoes, soups or sauces. Chef’s tip: To prevent curdling, remove the dish from the heat source before adding Greek yogurt to the recipe. Yogurt as a milk substitute is one of the reasons yogurt parfaits have become popular.
- Use in baked goods. Reduce the fat content in store-bought mixes for cakes, muffins, pancakes by replacing eggs and oil with Greek yogurt and water. You can also substitute Greek yogurt for cream cheese when making cake frosting.
Finally, make sure you check the nutrition label. The ingredient list should be fairly short, with milk and active cultures at the top of the list. Some brands contain more sugars and less protein than others. Fat content can also vary. As with any dairy product, opt for the low-fat or no-fat version for maximum health benefits.