French Women's Diet Secret: Yogurt & Weight Loss (cont.)

One of the easiest and healthiest ways to enjoy yogurt, as a nourishing snack or mini-meal, is to toss chopped fresh fruit into plain yogurt or add a little honey and wheat germ.

You can eat yogurt for breakfast, straight out of the carton, topped with fruit and/or cereal, or as a topping for pancakes or waffles. Blended with fresh fruit and ice, it becomes a smoothie -- a quick and portable breakfast or snack.

Or, satisfy your sweet tooth with frozen yogurt (or a frozen container of regular yogurt). You'll get half the calories of premium ice cream and none of the fat.

Yogurt is also a versatile ingredient for recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts. When recipes call for cream, sour cream, or mayonnaise, low-fat plain yogurt can easily stand in for part or all of the higher-fat ingredients.

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, advises using yogurt in cool dishes such as cold soups, salad dressings and dips, or as a creamy dessert topping.

Since yogurt separates when heated, it's a little trickier using it in hot dishes. But it can be done: Try mixing a little cornstarch into the yogurt, then stirring into your hot dish at the end of the cooking period.

Magee often uses yogurt to lower the fat content of her baked goods. "Yogurt is a great substitute for oil or butter in cakes and muffins because it adds moisture, volume and flavor without added fat or calories," she says.

Yogurt's acid content means it also works well in a marinade, to help tenderize meats.

Yogurt is perishable, so be sure to check the date on the container. An unopened container should keep about 10 days past the marked freshness date.

Making Your Own Yogurt

Want a ready supply of healthy, inexpensive plain yogurt? Try making your own.

The process is simple: Add live cultures to heated milk, and hold it at 110 degrees Fahrenheit until it's firm. You can then add flavorings, or, if you want to thicken it and boost the nutrition, you can add nonfat milk solids.

You can buy yogurt makers, which cost from $15-$60, or make it the old fashioned way with the recipe below:

Homemade Yogurt

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1 quart of milk (Low-fat is healthiest, but the higher the fat content, the creamier and smoother the yogurt will be)
1/4 cup dried starter culture or yogurt with active culture.*
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder (use 2/3 cup if you're using skim milk); optional
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin for thickening; optional)
Clean yogurt containers or canning jars with lids

*You can purchase dried starter cultures, or just get some plain yogurt containing live culture. Make sure the carton says it contains "live culture" or "active yogurt culture." Many pasteurized yogurts no longer contain the active ingredient.

  • Place the starter culture or active-culture yogurt in a large bowl. Add the dry milk powder, if using. If you want a thicker yogurt, add 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin, mixed with a small amount of milk.
  • Warm milk to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (use a thermometer) in a 1-2 quart saucepan or double boiler.
  • Add a small amount of the warmed milk to the active-culture yogurt or starter culture and stir.
  • Slowly add the rest of the warmed milk to the mixture. Stir well.
  • Cover the bowl and place the mixture into a commercial yogurt maker, an oven on very low heat (200 degrees), a heating pad, or a warm spot in your kitchen. Leave until set, about 6-8 hours. Use the thermometer to make sure the temperature stays at 100 degrees.
  • When set, refrigerate the yogurt for 8 hours before eating.

Yield: 4-5 cups yogurt

After the yogurt is set, you can stir in fruit and/or flavorings. To sweeten, try 2-4 teaspoons honey or sugar.

To make drinkable yogurt: add additional milk and/or fruit syrups to taste, after the yogurt is done.

To make frozen yogurt: Follow the directions on your ice cream maker, using the homemade yogurt instead of cream or milk.

To make yogurt cheese (which can be used as a substitute for cream cheese or in cooking): Drain yogurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth and leave overnight (cover the entire bowl, yogurt and strainer with a cloth).

In the morning, drain the liquid in the bowl. Place a weight (you can use a sealed plastic bag filled with water) on the cheese, cover again, and let stand another 8 hours. Wrap yogurt cheese and refrigerate.

SOURCES: Mireille Guiliano, author French Women Don't Get Fat. International Journal of Obesity, April 2005. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, WebMD Weight Loss Clinic "Recipe Doctor," cookbook author. Miriam Nelson, PhD, associate professor, Tufts University; author, Strong Women Stay Slim. WebMD Live Event transcript French Diet - American Women, by Mireille Guiliano and Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, March 10, 2005. Yogurt recipes from the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Last Editorial Review: 3/31/2005 8:49:24 PM