Food for Thought
A bowl of yogurt is a near-perfect snack. Each spoonful provides muscle-building protein, bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D, potassium, and good-for-you bugs. But no longer is Greek the only globetrotter in the dairy aisle. These worldly options are also worthy of a resounding Opa!
Like Greek, this Icelandic style of strained yogurt is thick, creamy and packed with protein—about 16 g in a 5-ounce serving. Its stick-to-a-spoon consistency makes skyr seem extra filling. As with all yogurt, plain versions typically have two to three times fewer sugar calories than flavored types. Skyr tends to be naturally a little sweeter and less tangy than other yogurts, so unflavored should be more approachable to picky eaters. Some brands use milk from grass-fed cows, which may boost omega-3 fat levels.
Prep tip: For something close to pumpkin pie for breakfast, spoon 3/4 cup plain skyr into a bowl and stir in 3 T pumpkin purée, 1 t maple syrup, ¼ t cinnamon and 1/4 t vanilla. Top with granola and berries.
So thick you could lay bricks with it, labneh is an ancient dairy staple of the Middle East and is made by straining yogurt past the point of even Greek varieties. Think of it as a delicious cross between yogurt and cheese. Labneh is rarely sullied with added sugars, but it’s typically made with whole milk, so it has saturated-fat calories. Like Greek and skyr yogurts, it loses much of its lactose during straining, making it easier for some people to digest. Labneh is most often used in savory applications—as a bread spread or dip, for example.
Prep tip: Spread labneh on a plate and top with wedges of roasted beets, olive oil and balsamic glaze.
Made by inoculating milk with a colony of bacteria and yeast called “kefir grains,” this drinking style of yogurt—originally from the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe—has an even greater number and diversity of probiotics than other yogurt guises. This gives kefir its defining tangy characteristic. Low-fat kefir can be a good compromise between less- satiating fat-free yogurts and the full-fat versions that have more saturated fat. Plain kefir can replace buttermilk in recipes like pancakes.
Prep tip: For a recovery smoothie that tastes like chocolate fudge, blend 1 cup plain kefir, ½ small avocado, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 T cocoa powder, 2 t nut butter, 1/4 t cinnamon and 1 small frozen banana (chopped).
France also has a distinct yogurt heritage: “pot set” yogurt. Rather than being made in a large vat and then divvied up into containers, this yogurt is cultured in individual containers, often Instagram-worthy petite glass jars. It’s unstrained, so it’s not quite as thick as Greek or skyr (read: lower in protein), but it’s still super-creamy, largely because it usually comes from whole milk. Flavored Americanized versions tend to have more sugar than real fruit.