By Alia Hoyt
Greek yogurt has become something of a nutritional juggernaut in recent years, and with good reason: The popular snack is naturally packed with protein, promotes healthy digestion and helps keep hunger under wraps. Amateur and professional chefs alike are embracing its many uses as a substitute ingredient for more traditional recipe components that may be tasty, but are less than good for you.
“The thickness and creaminess of Greek yogurt makes it an excellent substitute in place of high-fat ingredients like oil, sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise,” says nutritionist and upwave reviewer Shoshana Pritzker, RD, CDN.
Of course, popularity often comes with a price. The downside of Greek yogurt’s slim-and-chic reputation is that the marketplace has become saturated with look-alike products that are less healthy than the true, protein-plentiful version. “The ‘real thing’ shouldn’t have any additives or thickeners,” Pritzker says.
So, now that you know what to buy, let’s learn how to lighten up your favorite fare with this healthy ingredient.
Chicken, Waldorf, tuna: Salads like these are ideal candidates for a nutrition boost, Greek yogurt-style. Sub equal parts of the healthy stuff in place of cholesterol-laden mayo. “You won't really notice a difference,” says Pritzker. “You’re gonna cut out a ton of fat while saving the flavor.”
In general, baked goods involve oil and butter, both of which can be easily replaced with Greek yogurt. Pritzker suggests using three-quarters of a cup of yogurt for every cup of oil. Butter is a little more variable. Start by replacing every cup of butter with a quarter-cup of yogurt and a half-cup of butter, and tweak as desired based on personal preference.
My love of brownies is long, storied and one day will be the subject of an epic poem, at the very least. Still, even I acknowledge the high fat and calorie content of my beloved treat. It’s easy to lighten brownies up without drying them out, though, by subbing Greek yogurt in place of standard vegetable oil.
Mmm... pancakes. Ow... tummy ache. Homemade pancakes are full of flavor, but rife with fat and calories. The next time you have an urge to whip up a batch, swap out whole milk for -- you guessed it! -- Greek yogurt. Your skinny jeans will fit better, and you’ll feel better.
A party just isn’t a party without dip, from ranch to spinach and artichoke to French onion and beyond. Next time, ditch the sour cream in favor of Greek yogurt, and no one will be the wiser. Seriously, I recently chowed down on my friend’s signature party dip for an embarrassingly long time before she revealed her secret swap. In a word? Yum!
Hot, creamy soups are the perfect cold-weather treat. Unfortunately, they’re often made with cream, and that may add an extra layer of winter insulation to your body. Next time you crave a creamy soup, substitute Greek yogurt for the cream -- but use a bit of care. “Add it at the end and take the pan off the heat to avoid curdling,” Pritzker says. “Also, mix it in slowly.”
One of the most beloved side dishes of all time, mashed potatoes are typically made with cream and/or butter. Replace those fatty ingredients with Greek yogurt, and your spuds will have the rich flavor and texture you enjoy, but with fewer calories and far less fat.
However you choose to swap in Greek yogurt, remember to be flexible. Taste, test and tweak recipes to suit your personal preferences. This type of kitchen experimentation can be fun -- and it's beneficial for your waistline, too!