How to Choose the Best Yogurt

Who the heck does not like yogurt? After all the possibilities for its use are endless! Yogurt can be used in parfaits, smoothies, soups, pancakes, and can even pinch-hit for sour cream. Yogurt is rich in protein and calcium and also contains potassium which is important for ♥ health.  Yogurt also contains live, active bacteria cultures. These active bacteria cultures are also known as probiotics and are great for maintaining a healthy gut and digestive system. However, with so many choices choosing the best yogurt can be challenging to say the least! 

how to choose the best yogurt

Navigating the grocery store tin search of the best yogurt can be tricky! I was in Shop Rite the other day and I kid you not – the yogurt aisle almost spans the entire length of the dairy aisle. I remember back in the day – the only two choices were Yoplait and Columbo straight up regular yogurt. There were no flips, dips or cherry pie-flavored yogurts. Just the normal variety of boring flavors like vanilla, peach and strawberry.

P.S. - what the heck ever happened to Columbo yogurt_!

Now a days there are SO many different options to choose from. Greek, traditional, flavored, plain, fruit filled, and varying percentages of fat are all factors to consider when buying yogurt. But what do these terms all mean? What is the best yogurt in light of all these choices? Let’s get to the bottom of this madness asap! 

 

 

What percentage fat should I buy?  

 

This is a tough question to answer. In all honesty – it depends on your #dietarygoals are as well as your overall health.

If you have high cholesterol or are just trying to keep your calories on the low side then it would be best to choose low-fat (1%) or fat-free (0%) yogurt. These two choices generally have the lowest calorie value and contain a nominal amount of saturated fat.

Tip_ saturated fat raises our lousy cholesterol (LDL) which we want low and decreases our healthy cholesterol (HDL) which we want high.

However, if cholesterol is not an issue and you are just looking for a yogurt with a thicker consistency then opt for a 2 % or full-fat yogurt.

I personally prefer 2% or full-fat plain yogurt. My favorite traditional brands when I can find them (please don’t laugh 🙂 ) are YoBaby Whole Milk Plain Yogurt or Liberte Plain 2 % Yogurt.  Shop Rite generally carries the YoBaby but as of lately I can only find the plain Liberte yogurt at Whole Foods. The reason why I like these brands is # 1 (and most important) they taste pretty darn good ! And # 2 both brands contain under 10 grams of sugar. Also they have no added funky ingredients. 

 

Which is best: Greek or traditional yogurt?   

 

Greek yogurt is strained which makes it thicker, creamier, and smoother than traditional yogurt. When comparing Greek and traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt has around double the protein but does have less calcium than traditional yogurt. Both Greek and traditional yogurt are usually well tolerated by individuals with lactose intolerance. However, Greek yogurt has less lactose than traditional yogurt and may be even better tolerated than traditional yogurt. For most people, Greek yogurt is preferable to traditional yogurt because of the higher protein content.

Nowadays pretty much every major brand has both a traditional yogurt and a Greek yogurt. Even Chobani who started out their career just selling Greek yogurt now has a “old-fashioned non-Greek traditional yogurt smooth yogurt”. Therefore, you really do have your pick if you are brand loyal.

However, please don’t fret if you just don’t love Greek yogurt! Many of my patients don’t like it and prefer the traditional style instead. Keep in mind – the average American consumes more than their daily requirement for protein. So if you opt for the non-Greek variety you will not be selling yourself short in meeting your protein needs.

For the Greek yogurts I personally bounce around brand wise depending upon what is on sale and has the lowest amount of sugar per serving. Although I do the bulk of my shopping at Trader Joe’s unfortunately (aside from their ‘plain’ Greek yogurt) they do not carry a whole bunch of options under 10 – 12 grams of sugar.  Some of the Greek yogurt brands in my fridge now are Siggi’s Greek Yogurt – 2 % Black Cherry, Fage Greek Yogurt-2% plain and Chobani Plain Whole-Milk Greek Yogurt.

 

Should I buy plain, flavored, or fruit filled yogurt?  

 

One of the major issues with yogurt is it often has added sugars. Yogurt is made from milk (duh!) and therefore has naturally occurring sugar in it, called lactose. Thus, if you look at the nutrition label of plain yogurt, you will notice it has 12 g of carbohydrates.  Since this sugar is naturally occurring, it is not of concern. However, what is concerning is the large amount of added sugars in many yogurts. A serving of flavored yogurt can contain an upward of 30 grams of sugar depending on the brand. That is a wholelata sugar! A can of soda has about 24 grams of sugar so the comparison is clear. 

 

yogurt bowl

how to choose the best yogurt

 

You can skip the added sugars by buying plain yogurt and adding your own fruit and flavors such as cinnamon and vanilla. You can even get fancy with different extracts such as almond, coconut or coconut to pump up the flavors without the calories or carbs.

If you want to buy a flavored yogurt, check the nutrition label and try to buy a yogurt containing less than 12 grams of sugar per serving. Some of the brands with the lowest amount of sugars include Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt, Chobani Hints, and Siggi’s Greek yogurt mentioned above.

how to choose the best yogurt

Navigating the yogurt aisle used to be challenging! But now, you should be able to navigate the dairy aisle with ease. Opt for low sugar yogurts that fit your dietary goals, budget and taste palate.  Choosing the best yogurt should not be pretty easy!

As always, if you have a question bring the nutrition label to your nutrition visit and the dietitian can review it.  Enjoy your creamy, delicious yogurt!

Alcohol 101: How can I fit alcohol into my diet?

Alcohol 101: How can alcohol fit into my diet?

One of the common questions I receive in my practice is, how can alcohol fit into my diet? Honestly, as an RD I have nothing against alcohol. In fact, if you were to review many of my customized meal plans you would see I actually purposely put alcohol on my patient’s meal plans. While, I personally can count on one hand how many drinks I have in the course of a year it does not by any means make me a hater. Honestly, it seems like I did SOOOO much drinking before I turned 21 (many, many, many moons ago!) that when I finally did actually reach the legal drinking age – I was all set 🙂 SO I will cheer YOU on! 

However, as we all know calories in drinks can add up fast. And as a result, instead of seeing results, patients remain “stuck” in a weight loss plateau. Sound familiar?

 

alcohol fit into my diet

Since alcohol is a pretty much part of just about every social occasions including family parties and nights out with friends seems like it would be worth chatting about. Right? Whether you are trying to lose weight or build muscle, drinking alcohol too frequently can get in the away of your goals (shocker right?!). However, this does not mean you have to give up the occasional drink or night out with friends. Rather, just do so in moderation. And follow my tips for making the best choices when it comes to alcohol. Winner, winner, winner chicken dinner! 

 

What is a standard drink?

First things first. Before we talk about how alcohol can fit into your diet we probably need to define an alcoholic drink. Most people are surprised to learn what counts as a standard drink. The amount of liquid in your glass doesn’t always match up to the alcohol content of your drink. Different types of beer, wine, and hard liquor can have different percentages of alcohol content.

In the U.S., a standard drink contains roughly 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol.

One standard drink includes:

12 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol content

5 ounces of wine with 12% alcohol content

1.5 ounces or a shot of 80-proof distilled spirits of liquor with 40% alcohol content

 

What has more calories: beer, distilled spirits, or wine?

The calories per each standard drink are as follows:

• 1.5 ounce drink of distilled spirits (40 % alcohol) is 98 calories, 0 g CHO, 0 g Pro, and 0 g Fat.

• 12 ounce drink of regular beer (5 % alcohol) is about 150 calories, 13 g CHO, 2 g Pro, 0 g Fat.

• 5 ounce drink of wine (12 % alcohol) is about 120 calories, 4 g CHO, 0 g Pro, 0 g Fat.

 

 

What are the current recommendations for alcohol?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans alcohol recommendations differ for men and women. Women are encouraged to limit alcohol to up to 1 drink per day. While men have a slightly longer leash of up to 2 drinks per day. The Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason. Translation – there is no nutritional value to drinking. Therefore, no need to establish a “new” habit if you don’t already have one. 

 

 

alcohol fit into my diet

Aint’ that the truth ?!?

 

The Dietary Guidelines also warn about the side effects of excessive drinking.  These include: binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people under the age of 21. Binge drinking is defined as drinking more than 4 drinks during a single occasion for women and more than 5 drinks during a single occasion for men. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. If you are confused, please see above to see what counts as a standard drink. 

Consequently, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems. These may include hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Not to mention liver disease, digestive problems, cancer, learning and memory problems, mental health problems, social problems, and alcoholism. And how about them calories? 

What does my drink ‘cost’ me? 

 

I have done my best to establish a list of what I would consider commonly consumed alcoholic drinks. As mentioned previously, the calorie counts mentioned above are just for the alcohol. They do not address the multitude of beverages alcohol can be mixed with. My list below does include the mixers. The list is comprehensive but by no means all inclusive. Furthermore, don’t quote me on all the values – they are more or less estimates and refer to a standard drink. Depending upon who is making your drink – they may pour more or less alcohol and/or add more or less juice/soda/tonic/mix. 

 

If you do not find your drink of choice on this list, you can check out Calorie King for additional nutrition information.

Now that you know the numbers – let’s get down to the basics.

Be mindful of the mixers

The addition of juices, sodas, and sugary syrups are a caloric and sugar force to be reckoned with. And just because your drink is “clear” does not by any means it is free of calories. There’s a common misconception that tonic water is the same as seltzer water, but it actually contains a lot of calories and sugar. Or some folks think because their drink is mixed with juice – it is a better choice. Most juices contain at least 110 calories and 25 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving. So you add in a shot of alcohol and you are looking at + 220 calorie plus drink. While this may seem somewhat benign when you are on a calorie budget every calorie counts.

Instead try herb infusions, flavored club soda, or a squeeze of citrus. And if you choose so, use diet soda instead of sodas laden with sugar. Below are examples of low calorie mixers.

* Diet soda or diet tonic: 0 calories

* Light orange juice (8 oz): 50 calories

*Diet cranberry juice (8 oz): 5 calories

*Light cranberry juice (8 oz): 40 calories

*Light lemonade (8 oz): 5 calories

*Baja Bob’s sugar-free margarita or sweet ‘n’ sour mix: 0 calories

*Lemon or lime juice (1/2 oz): 10 calories

*DaVinci or Torani’s sugar-free syrups: 0

Keep it Simple

Or you can even skip the mixer altogether. Try ordering your favorite spirit or one of the new flavored liquors on the rocks (translation just on ice). Infused and ‘flavored’ vodkas are very popular because they are not sweetened but infused with flavor. There are a whole host of flavors ranging from jalapeno to peach to blueberry, to lechee fruit. You name it – there is probably an infused liquor with your favorite flavor. And best of all the flavor exists without adding any extra calories. The alcohol itself has calories (9 calories/gram) but you are saving on the calories from the mixer without compromising taste.

One of my favorite things to do (for the handful of drinks I have per year) is to make my own infused tequila. I take a whole pineapple and slice it into small disks. Next, I take about 4-5 jalapenos – seeds and all and chop them up. I then put the sliced pineapple and peppers into a tall glass pitcher. Next, I pour 2-3 cups of tequila over the fruit and peppers. I cover the mixture let it sit for about 4-5 days. Each day I muddle the mixture with a wooden spoon to release the juices and oils. Once the mixture is good and spicy I strain the liquid through a fine sieve and throw out the fruit and peppers. Lastly, I refrigerate the tequila until I am ready to use it for spicy margaritas! Yum!

Settle for a “spritzer”

Sounds pretty fancy, right? If you just want to be social and club soda won’t cut it with the company you’re keeping, ask for a wine spritzer, heavy on the spritz. All this is wine mixed with club soda. If you want to get extra fancy you can even try some of the zero calorie flavored seltzers to pump up the flavor.

Hydrate healthfully

You knew this was coming. Alcohol is a diuretic. Replacing fluid, particularly in warmer climates (hello Caribbean vaca), is essential. Calories (and sugar!) aside, try to make every other drink either club soda, sparkling water, or just plain water. Adding ice cubes to your beverage will help hydrate you and also make your glass of booze feel bigger.

Volunteer to be the DD

The best way to prevent alcohol from derailing your diet is to avoid drinking altogether. Why not volunteer to be the DD (designated driver) and save your group taxi or Uber costs by offering to drive?  While it may not be as fun as indulging with your group, you’re the one who’ll wake up the next day without a food or alcohol hangover. And as we all know that feels pretty dang good.

Conclusion

Bottom line – If you budget your calories carefully, you can safely “afford” to have a drink or two on a special occasion. But drinker be ware. Drinking loosens your inhibitions and may prompt unconscious eating. Additionally, drinking alcohol can also make you feel hungrier because alcohol can lower your blood sugar. SO why not grab a quick bite before you imbibe? Some good pre-party noshes: a small meal or snack containing fiber, protein and healthy fat. These might include a low-sodium chicken soup, greek yogurt and fruit, low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crackers, or a handful of nuts.Therefore, from a health standpoint, calories aren’t the only thing to consider. Practice moderation and always, always, always have a designated driver. Heck call me – and I will come get you!

diet calorie

 

Healthy Baking Substitutions

Healthy Baking Substitutions to Lighten Up Your Holiday Treats

I seriously cannot believe it is November! Can you?! Next week is Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday, of course!) and before you know it Christmas will soon be here. Now is the time of year for holiday parties and celebrations with family and friends. This also means it is the time of year for delicious and tempting desserts.

Oh my! But, the good news about this year is I have some tips for making your traditional dessert recipes healthier. Check out my healthy baking substitutions and you can enjoy that cookie, cake, or brownie without so much guilt.

Substitutes for flour

Black beans. Using black beans instead of flour can add protein with the same great taste. This is particularly tasty when baking brownies. When baking, swap out 1 cup of flour for 1 cup of black bean puree.

Whole wheat flour for white flour. Using whole wheat flour instead of white flour, adds fiber, which helps with digestion. Use 7/8 cup of whole-wheat flour for every cup of white flour.

healthy baking substitutions

Substitutes for sugar:

Unsweetened applesauce. Applesauce provides the same sweetness without the extra calories and sugar. You can substitute applesauce with sugar in a 1:1 ratio. However, you should reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup.

Vanilla extract. Adding vanilla extract and cutting the amount of sugar down can give great flavor without extra calories. You can try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar out of your recipe and adding an extra ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener that is lower in calories, but also much sweeter than sugar. Since stevia is sweeter, a recipe calling for 1 cup of sugar should only be swapped for 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia or 2 tablespoons of stevia powder.

Substitutes for oil or butter:

Unsweetened applesauce. Applesauce gives the same consistency without the fat. It works well in breads and muffins. Substitute half of the fat in your recipe with applesauce.

Avocado puree. Avocado provides creaminess with a healthy addition of unsaturated fats. This tends to be better in brownies and chocolate desserts. Using 1 cup of avocado puree per cup of butter works.

Mashed bananas. Bananas add a good consistency with added nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6. One cup of mashed banana works perfectly in place of 1 cup or butter or oil.

healthy baking substitutions

 

Prunes. Prunes can make a great substitute for butter and cut the calories and fat down. Combine 3/4 cup prunes with 1/4 cup boiling water, and puree to combine. Sub in equal amounts in most dark baked good recipes.

Greek yogurt. Substitute for Greek yogurt for oil. This can help cut fat and calories without a difference in taste. Substitute 1 cup of oil for ¾ cup of Greek yogurt.

Substitute for cream:

Evaporated skim milk. It provides the same consistency with less fat. Use 1 cup of evaporated skim milk for 1 cup of cream.

 

Please make sure you try these healthy baking substitutions prior to serving a recipe to others. Healthy can make a great difference, but it takes practice to master them. Making recipes healthier is worth the extra effort!

Hugs & High Fives,

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