Power Food Number 3: Plain Greek Yogurt

The Body Back meal plan is all about clean eating, with an emphasis on lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Processed foods and added sugar are discouraged. This week I am unveiling my go-to “power foods,” or the staples of my diet. Today I discuss one of my favorite non-meat sources of protein: Greek yogurt.

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Until three years ago, Greek yogurt was, well, Greek to me. And so was the concept of “plain” yogurt. I mean, with a plethora of palate-pleasing flavors out there – from red velvet cupcake to key lime pie to thick and creamy cinnamon roll (I’m not kidding; I’ve never tried it, but it exists!) – why on earth would anyone want to eat PLAIN yogurt?

Yami yogurt – with fruit at the bottom – was a treat when I was a young kid. I remember loving boysenberry the best, but I have no idea why. Can’t imagine it tasted any different from the other berry flavors once I stirred that goopy fruit-like spread up from the bottom. I think I liked saying “Yami yogurt” more than eating it.

As an adult, I turned to Yoplait. I loved the ritual of peeling off that foil at the top, and getting every last bit of yogurt from the inside lip of the container. It had to be fat free, of course, because God forbid I allow myself any fat! (Never mind that any so-called health benefits from the lack of fat were negated by the amount of artificial sugar added to Yoplait to make it taste like something.) Thank goodness we understand now how important healthy fats are to our diet.

The first time I tasted plain yogurt was about 30 minutes before my first Body Back class. My instructor had suggested we eat a little bit of protein pre-workout. After consulting the Body Back food guide, I landed on plain yogurt with some fresh fruit and nuts. I remember having a bit of a stare down with that plain, unsweetened yogurt. “This is going to be gross,” I thought. Turns out, it wasn’t gross. It wasn’t the best thing I’d ever tried, either, but the fresh fruit made it palatable. And after a couple of days, it was as easy to eat as any flavored variety. Actually, it was so much better. With a clean palate from eliminating added sugar and processed foods, I was tasting and enjoying real food. What a concept.

A couple of weeks into the session, my instructor also suggested I try Greek yogurt. She knew I was a vegetarian and struggling to get enough protein. She explained Greek yogurt – depending on the brand you buy – may have twice as much protein as regular yogurt. I tried it, and liked it even better than regular yogurt. Because it is strained, it is much thicker than regular yogurt, which makes the texture more appealing to me.

I now eat plain Greek yogurt every single day. In addition to topping it with fresh fruit and nuts or granola, I also mix Greek yogurt into smoothies. When fresh local fruit is not available, I like to use frozen mixed berries and make a delicious soft-serve treat. I just add equal amounts of yogurt and frozen (not thawed) berries to my Vitamix, and SLOWLY blend them together until the fruit becomes just blended. Be careful not to over-blend, or it will become a smoothie. The result reminds me of the tart flavor of those “Push-Up” pops I used to love as a kid. Bonus: No added sugar. It’s a wonderful, creamy, cooling treat on a hot day. Add a bit of granola if you want some crunch.

My favorite brand of Greek yogurt is Fage. The texture is phenomenal. But we consume so much Greek yogurt in my home, I also buy the less expensive Kirkland brand at Costco. I save this for smoothies, where its texture isn’t so important.

How do you like to eat Greek yogurt? Do you have a favorite brand?

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Olympia, WA 98501

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