Yogurt: A Healthy Snack

When I photographed this yogurt dessert for Clean Eating Magazine a few months back, I was thrilled to have some new inspiration to my favourite plain yogurt snack.

.........................................,........................................Jan/Feb 2010 Clean Eating Magazine
My night time snack preference is a bowl of plain yogurt. It satisfies any cravings that I might have, plus, the calcium in the yogurt helps me sleep better at night, not to mention what it does for my body while I sleep!

Those television commercials weren't lying, there are so many benefits to eating yogurt! Well, they were sort of telling us the truth. See, most yogurts that are advertised are flavoured yogurts and they have way too many unnecessary ingredients such as sugars, (aspartame and sucralose found in sugar free choices) corn starch, dyes, preservatives, gelatin and cream (to name a few). Plain yogurt is your other option which should really only have 2 ingredients: live cultures and milk. Plain yogurt is really the healthiest option and you can always add to it.

If you like your fruit flavoured store-bought yogurts, here's a little eye-opener for you. Once fruit is cut up, it begins to ferment and so additives and/or preservatives are added to the flavoured yogurts to keep the fruit from rotting. Also, there can be anywhere from 5 or more teaspoons of sugar added to one of those little yogurt container (where fruit already contain natural sugars)! One of the great benefits to plain yogurt is all the healthy bacteria that it provides, however, in the flavoured yogurts, the good bacterial cultures are interfered with when yogurt is flavoured. So in the end, all the "good stuff" you get from plain yogurt is lost when eating those already flavoured yogurts.

If my little eye-opener has turned you off flavoured yogurts, let me share with you the benefits of the plain, natural yogurts.
Fewer calories (while flavoured yogurts have the added sugars, plain does not), lots of calcium, protein, and my favourite, the friendly bacteria which is so good for your digestive tract. We've been hearing a lot about "Probiotics" in tv commercials and on product labels, all with good reason. Foods containing probiotics (such as plain yogurts) contain (good) bacteria like those already found in your intestine. Choosing yogurts containing natural bacteria strains as Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium Bifidus can provide the healthy bacteria to your digestive system which can help inhibit yeast infections, assist in digestive issues, promotes colon health and can boost your immunity.
I always prefer plain organic whole milk or low fat yogurt .
Although I find plain yogurt yummy on it's own, like the 6 packs of mini flavoured yogurts found in your grocery store, I like some variety. Adding chopped walnuts and honey is my fave, while chopping up strawberries, banana's or pineapple are up there as well. My favorite snack while visiting Greece is fresh yogurt topped with walnuts and honey. It's so popular there that most restaurants there will have this snack on their dessert menu's! The yogurt in Greece is unlike anything I've had here, and believe me, I've looked! The closest thing would be a balkan style yogurt. My favourite plain organic yogurt these days is from Stoneyfield Farm. It's comparably priced which is great as I go through the 32 oz tub's I buy, so quickly!

*A little tip if you normally pack yogurt for lunch, pack some plain yogurt in a container. Separately pack a whole banana, strawberry's or your fruit of choice, you can also include granola, nuts, dark chocolate, coconut (possibilities are endless!). When it's lunch time, chop up your fruit and mix in with yogurt.

You can also substitute yogurt for sour cream, top your butternut squash soup, or your baked potato, mix it in with your fruit smoothies! I've even found some people substitute yogurt in their baking! (I'll have to try that some day)

The new inspiration from my Clean Eating Magazine photoshoot, couldn't of come at a better time. We had shot the yogurt image this past summer, right about the time of a dinner party I was having which included 5 good friends and a great big bbq'd feast. When it came to dessert, I realized, I hadn't made any! We had just shot that Yogurt story for the magazine and since some of my refrigerator staples included yogurt and fruit, I used my new inspiration and mixed it with my old favourites to pull together an impromptu dessert for 6.

This mixture is per person, so 1 cup/1 person, 5 cups/5 people.
  • In a large bowl, mix 1 cup of plain yogurt (per person) with 1/2 teaspoon of real vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed**.
  • Then scoop out 1/2 cup yogurt mix into a dessert dish, layer some strawberries, then the other 1/2 cup of yogurt mix.
  • Top with more strawberries, and then finish it off with chopped walnuts and honey.
**Flaxseed is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called lignans. You can grind whole flax seeds in your cleaned out coffee grinder!

Needless to say, the dessert went off without a hitch and was loved by all!

Thank You to my sister Lisa and her nutritional expertise found on Naturally Savvy. Here's some more great information she's written on the benefits of plain yogurt, along with the link above on probiotics.

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