What's Up with the Yogurt Aisle These Days?
Have you guys been in the yogurt aisle lately?! The place is a freaking minefield filled with sugary syrup-laden goop that hardly resembles what yogurt was originally intended to be: bacteria and milk, and that's it!
I get tons of questions along the lines of, "Which yogurt is best to buy for my kids?", so I've got a few yogurt-buying tips for you to help you figure out the confusing world that the yogurt aisle has become.
What is Yogurt Anyway?
Let's start by defining what yogurt is. The word "yogurt" comes from the Turkish name "Yoghurmak", which means "to thicken". The process by which milk becomes yogurt involves thickening.
You get yogurt by fermenting milk with bacteria, converting the milk's natural sugar (lactose) to lactic acid and thereby increasing its acidity.
At its core, yogurt is milk and bacteria. And nothing else....
Yogurt is made by mixing two types of bacteria Streptococcus thermopiles and Lactobacillus bulgaricus and adding that to pasteurized, homogenized milk (which may have additional nonfat milk solids added too).
But What About Flavored Yogurt?
Today, over 85% of yogurt consumed in the United States is flavored yogurt. So it's not surprising that most people think yogurt should be sweet.
If you take a gander at the food label of most yogurt products on shelves in the store today - and ESPECIALLY those marketed to kids - you'll find that the vast majority contain added sweeteners.
"But it's just fruited yogurt and fruit is good for you". Not so my friend. Take a closer look - there's rarely any actual "fruit" in your fruited yogurt. If there was, you'd find fiber on the label - since fruit is a natural source of fiber.
If there's so little fruit in your yogurt that your yogurt has 0 grams of fiber, I hate to break it to you - but, there's basically no fruit in your yogurt.
It doesn't matter how much fruit is pictured on the label, or how red or pink or purple your "berry" yogurt is - that "fruity" taste is coming from added sugars that you and your kids just don't need to be getting from yogurt. That's what ice cream is for.
Best Bets for Yogurt and Your Family
What I recommend for families that want fruited yogurt is this: make your own using real fruit. Take plain yogurt and add real fruit - it's that simple.
This approach tastes better, is better for you, and is generally cheaper than buying small individual cups of syrupy yogurt.
But what kind of plain yogurt?
The same recommendations that hold true for milk make sense for yogurt too: offer whole milk (and yogurt) up until age 2 and then make the switch to reduced-fat, low-fat or nonfat after that. (The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend that for kids who are at risk for obesity or have a family history of heart disease, they should go to 2%/reduced-fat milk before age 2).
The good thing about this plain yogurt recommendation is that once you get to the yogurt aisle at your grocery store, the selection process is actually pretty easy. Because there are so FEW types of yogurt that aren't laden with sugar, once you find the ones that are just good old-fashioned yogurt, it's easy to pick a brand.
There's a few brands that I routinely choose for my 5 small children all aged 3 and under. This is because they tend to be available in bulk containers (cheaper and less waste) and have very short ingredient lists. The brands we buy are:
- Chobani Greek yogurt, plain whole milk yogurt
- Fage Total (whole) Greek yogurt or Total 2% Greek yogurt
- siggi's Icelandic-style yogurt: skyr - Plain Whole Milk or 2% plain yogurt
Barring any major sales, most of the time I tend to avoid the smaller, individual cups since they're more expensive per serving. I buy my plain yogurt in bulk and then dish it out at home and serve it with fresh fruit.
I'll be the first to admit yogurt isn't my favorite food to serve my self-feeding children because of the mess...but I generally serve yogurt only on bath days, since I know they're really going to get into it and I don't want to deprive them of the fun that feeding yourself yogurt at this age is!
Sampling Siggi's New Flavors
I recently attended a Nordic Cooking Event for nutrition folks hosted by siggi's Icelandic-style yogurt (skyr). I love that the founder Siggi got sick of the artificial yogurts he found on the shelf in the US and was homesick for the staple of his childhood, skyr, a thick, creamy, high-protein yogurt from his homeland Iceland....so he went ahead and made it for all of us!
Today, siggi's makes a line of yogurt that is (in their words) "high in protein, contains real fruit - not flavoring, and not a lot of sugar."
Thanks to samples provided by siggi's, we recently tested out a bunch of new flavors back at home with the Fortified Family.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm usually too cheap to buy individual cups for my 5 kids :) ...but you know how kids LOVE anything individual or kid-sized, and my kids are no different. They were so jazzed to have their own cups of yogurt...as you can see:
So clearly the kids like siggi's skyr, but as the nerdy nutrition mom, I really like the short ingredient list in the entire line of siggi's products, as well as the fact that there are a variety of 2% and whole milk options for kids.
I feel like SO much of the regular yogurt aisle today is either "diet" (i.e. artificially-sweetened low-cal versions of yogurt) products aimed at adults wanting to lose weight or super-sugary kids brands...so the straight-up fruit-flavored, minimal sugar siggi's varieties are a welcome addition in our house!
Adult-ing Your Yogurt
I mentioned this recent siggi's "Nordic Cooking Event" - and I would be remiss if I didn't share at least one of the amazing recipes the different teams of fellow nutrition nerds created during this awesome evening gathering.
I'm not the most creative of cooks, and I'll be honest I'm usually content to just eat yogurt out of a tub...but, all of the recipes at this dinner used some sort of creative inclusion of Siggi's, and I was surprised to learn how easy it is to incorporate siggi's skyr into everyday recipes.
Perhaps my favorite recipe of the night was the one our team prepared, "Roasted Root Vegetables with siggi's Tarragon Yogurt Sauce", which I'll share here with you below. But, in the meantime, you can pick up all sorts of incredible recipes using siggi's over on their recipe page, here.
Roasted Root Vegetables with Siggi's Tarragon Yogurt Sauce
Roasted Root Vegetables
- 4 butternut squash, cut into 2 inch cubes
- 16 large parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 inch thick pieces
- 5 lb brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and cut in half
- 20 finerline potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise in half
- 3 celery root, trimmed, cut in half and sliced lengthwise (1/2 inch thick)
- 3 medium onions, trimmed, peeled, halved and cut each half into quarters
- 10 rutabagas, peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all of the cut vegetables in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil.
- In a large baking dish, spread the vegetables on the bottom, trying to leave a little space so they can roast and not steam. You may need 2 baking dishes.
- Place in the preheated oven and roast for 45 minutes. Using a spatula, scrape the vegetables every 15 minutes to evenly roast and caramelize.
- Once the vegetables have roasted and are soft when pierced with a small knife, remove and serve with the yogurt sauce.
Siggi's Tarragon Yogurt Sauce
- 6 cups siggi's plain (0% or 4% whole-milk) skyr
- 3 oz fresh tarragon, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 3 oz red wine vinegar
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- Salt and pepper
- Toast the almonds in a sauce pan over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the skyr, tarragon, dill, and red wine vinegar. Whisk together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Thank you to siggi's for hosting the Nordic Cooking Event and for providing samples used in this blog post.