3 ways to spice up that plain yogurt
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
So your eating plan has prescribed plain yogurt for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (or at least one of your meals), but you just can't stomach the idea of eating a whole serving of the creamy but tasteless concoction.
Years ago, we all used to eat and use plain yogurt. Then sweetened yogurt happened. Suddenly we had sweetened fruit "on the bottom" and sugar everywhere in between, with all sorts of flavors to choose from -- from key lime pie to coffee. And frankly, we've never looked back.
Trouble is, this fancy, flavored yogurt contains about 27 grams of sugar per 6-ounce serving and 170 calories compared with plain, low-fat yogurt, which has around 110 calories and no added sugar. It's time to get back to plain yogurt, don't you think?
But how do we do this after teasing our taste buds with a cornucopia of sweet flavors? We need to use plain yogurt in new ways, and we need to think up some fun, more healthful ways to sweeten and flavor plain yogurt.
The way I see it, you can spice up that plain yogurt at least three ways:
- Substitute plain yogurt as an ingredient in recipes or as a topping.
- Use it as a base for dips and spreads.
- Dress it up with tasty, lower-sugar ingredients for a snack.
You can start to incorporate plain yogurt into your day using one of these ways, or all three! See what works for you.
- Topping Ideas. Top your nachos, chili, enchiladas, tacos, and casseroles with plain yogurt, or try a mixture of fat-free sour cream and plain yogurt (stir equal amounts of each together). You can still journal the total amount of mixture used as plain unsweetened yogurt since fat-free sour cream is nutritionally close to plain yogurt.
- Creamier Smoothies. Add plain yogurt to your favorite smoothies. It adds creaminess! Simply substitute plain yogurt for any frozen yogurt or ice cream listed in the original smoothie recipe.
- Substitute yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise. Depending on the recipe, you can use plain yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonnaise. In a heated sauce, yogurt might not work as well as fat-free sour cream, which has gums and other soluble fibers added. So you may need to stir a tablespoon of cornstarch into a cup of yogurt before heating.
Dip Into It
- Ranch Dip. Sprinkle some Hidden Valley Ranch dip powder over half a cup of yogurt and stir. Start with 1/2 teaspoon of ranch powder, stir, and taste. If you want more flavor, add more powder in 1/4 teaspoon increments. Stir and taste until you get the flavor you want. Serve this Ranch Yogurt Dip with raw veggies or with your salad. Oh, and by the way, have as much as you want!
- Sour Cream Blend. In many dip, dressing, and spread recipes, you can replace half the amount of sour cream called for with plain yogurt. Simply mix equal amounts of fat-free sour cream and plain yogurt for your dip or dressing, or spread and proceed with your recipe. You can still journal the total amount of mixture used as plain, unsweetened yogurt since fat-free sour cream is nutritionally close to plain yogurt.
Make Your Own Yummy Yogurt
- Yogurt parfait. Layer plain yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit and a spoon of crunchy high-fiber cereal, such as reduced fat granola or Grape-Nuts.
- Homemade flavored yogurt. Sweeten plain yogurt at home with your favorite flavors. It's much lower in sugar than store-bought flavors. Just stir in fresh or frozen fruit (like frozen blueberries) and a dash (about 5 drops) of vanilla extract (or other extract) or a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. For example, you can make your own pina colada yogurt by mixing 1/8 cup of crushed pineapple (canned in its own juice) and a dash of coconut extract into 1/2 cup of plain yogurt.
- Nutty toppings. I like to have a nice, nutty, and sweet trail mix in my kitchen at all times. Almonds, pecans, dried fruits, raisins, coconut, and other trail mix favorites come in handy as a topping for yogurt. Choose whichever trail mix suits your taste.
Originally published June 4, 2003
Medically updated June 6, 2004.