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    Archive for the ‘Greek yogurt’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: “Greek-Style” Yogurt

    JF08_IO5aI’m a little afraid to ask you this, but here it goes.

    I have noticed that some Greek yogurts actually say “Greek style” on their packaging (with the word “style” in tiny letters).  I’ve been reading your blog for a while, so I have a feeling this is significant.

    Are these different from (or less healthy than) a “real” Greek yogurt like Fage?

    — Melissa Heaney
    Albany, NY

    Ah, the drawbacks of being a sharp-eyed nutrition sleuth at the grocery store.

    I recall several years ago, when I first started reading ingredient lists for common brands I used to buy, walking around supermarket aisles in a heavy-hearted daze.  It was almost as if I had just been told that my significant other had been cheating on me on a daily basis.  Except that, rather than stumbling across a hurriedly-scribbled name and number on a piece of paper, I was alerted to the presence of artificial dyes, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup.  Heartbreak on aisle five!

    Onto your question — there is a difference between Greek-style yogurts and actual Greek yogurts.  If you’re curious about what makes Greek yogurt special, please read this post.

    Here is the ingredient list for Fage non-fat Greek yogurt:

    Grade A Pasteurized Skimmed Milk, Live Active Yogurt Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus)

    Now, let’s take a peek at the ingredient list for a Greek-style yogurt.  For this example, I am using The Greek Gods brand:

    Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, Inulin, Pectin, Active Cultures (S. Thermophilius, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, L. Casei)

    Whereas “true” Greek yogurt’s thick consistency is the result of straining out the watery whey, Greek-style yogurts add thickeners (ie: gum blends like pectin and inulin, milk solids, stabilizers).

    Each yogurt’s respective Nutrition Facts label also tells the tale.  Here is what 6 ounces of real Greek yogurt offer:

    • 90 calories
    • 0 grams fiber
    • 15 grams protein
    • 19% of the Adequate Intake of calcium

    That same amount of Greek-style yogurt contains:

    • 60 calories
    • 2 grams fiber
    • 6 grams protein
    • 25% of the Adequate Intake of calcium

    Let’s make sense of that.

    • The decrease in calories is due to the reduction in protein.  Remember, Greek yogurt’s higher protein levels are due to the absence of watery whey.  Greek-style yogurt retains the whey and adds on thickeners.
    • As you know, all dairy products are fiberless.  The 2 grams of fiber in Greek-style yogurt are due to the presence of thickening gums.  Depending on what other brands of Greek-style yogurt use, the fiber value may be zero.
    • The higher percentage of calcium is also attributed to the presence of whey.

    There is nothing troubling, disturbing, or unhealthy about pectin and inulin.  We aren’t talking about blue dyes or trans fats here.  Two FYIs, though:

    1. For optimal health benefits, fiber should come from foods that naturally contain it, rather than add-ons.
    2. If you’re looking for the higher protein benefits of Greek yogurt (mainly the ability to feel satiated for a little longer), reach for the authentic product.
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    You Ask, I Answer: Greek Yogurt

    fage-greek-yogurtI know Greek yogurt is thicker and firmer than regular yogurt, but are there any nutritional differences between the two?

    — Julie Abdir
    Keene, NH

    Yes, slight ones.

    Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt (even in its fat-free version) because the watery whey is strained out.  This straining process also makes Greek yogurt higher in protein and lower in calcium than regular yogurt.

    Whereas a cup of regular yogurt delivers 13 grams of protein and 450 milligrams of calcium, that same amount of Greek yogurt adds up to 20 grams of protein and 150 milligrams of calcium.

    Another bonus?  Since Greek yogurt is highly concentrated, it delivers a higher amount of probiotics than regular yogurt.  Remember, though, you always want look for the “Live & Active Cultures” seal to make sure you are getting beneficial bacteria.

    Keep the same #1 yogurt guideline in mind when buying Greek varieties: buy the plain flavor and jazz it up yourself in healthy ways (i.e.: add dried or fresh fruit, nuts, ground flax, oat bran, etc.).

    If you’re not into traditional yogurt consumption, try using Greek yogurt (0% or 2% fat) as a substitute for sour cream in a savory dip.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Ultimate Yogurt Bowl

    I came up with this concoction last year and it soon became one of my favorite breakfasts.

    Depending on your caloric requirements, you may opt to have it as a weekend brunch item or have it as your weekday breakfast with a few modifications (detailed at the end of the post).

    Either way, it’s a delicious source of calcium, Omega-3 Alpha Linolenic Fatty Acids, heart-healthy fats, and fiber (including a spectacular 3 grams of the soluble, cholesterol-lowering variety).

    6 oz. low-fat plain dairy or soy yogurt (I love Greek yogurt’s taste and texture)
    1/2 cup strawberries, chopped
    1 medium banana, sliced

    1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

    1/4 cup oat bran
    3 Tablespoons ground flaxseed

    Get all the ingredients into a bowl and mix them together. Yum!

    NUTRITION FACTS

    646 calories
    23 grams fat
    3 grams saturated fat
    16.6 grams fiber
    40 grams protein
    300 milligrams calcium (30% of the Daily Value)

    Note: If you are preparing this with “regular” (non-Greek) yogurt, protein adds up to 29 grams and calcium totals 700 milligrams!

    If you need to lower the calories, try one — or more — of the following options:

    Omit the banana and save 105 calories (fiber total decreases to a still excellent 13.1 grams)
    Omit the walnuts and save 131 calories (the ground flaxseeds still deliver Omega-3 fatty acids, and you only lose 1.3 grams of fiber)
    Lower the ground flaxseed to 1.5 tablespoons and save 55 calories (the end result will contain 13 grams of fiber).

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    Perfect Pickings: Yogurt

    I love yogurt but I hate the fat free varieties for three reasons: taste, texture, and gelatin (I’m a vegetarian and fat free yogurt almost always has gelatin).

    What’s the calorie/fat gram count I should be looking for in a “regular” yogurt?

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    I’ll address regular yogurt in a second, but allow me to first recommend nonfat Greek yogurt to you as an alternative.
    Its texture is thick and creamy, it is gelatin-free, and it tastes much better than standard fat-free yogurt.

    On its own, it can be a bit of an acquired taste — it is rather tart — but it is the perfect base for a homemade oat, fruit, and flaxseed parfait.

    Let’s focus on your actual question, though, which is how to spot healthy yogurts at the supermarket.

    The first thing may sound odd, but I must say it — buy yogurt.

    In other words, forget about recent products that also include an additional small container of M&M’s or crushed Oreos, contributing nothing but empty calories.

    The overwhelming majority of yogurts — unless they are specifically low-carb or low-sugar — will fall between 120 and 200 calories, so finding a good yogurt has more to do with other values on the label.

    First, look at saturated fat.

    Aim for no more than 3 grams per serving.

    Sugar is another important value to keep an eye on. Since milk-based yogurts contain lactose — a naturally-occurring sugar — even plain, unsweetened varieties will contain 12 – 16 grams per serving.

    When buying flavored yogurts, look for no more than 8 additional grams (two teaspoons) of sugar .

    Some yogurts contain an additional 16 grams of sugar — that’s equivalent to buying plain yogurt and pouring in slightly more than a tablespoon of sugar!

    Don’t be fooled by “fruit on the bottom” yogurtsyou are better off buying fruit and mixing it in yourself.

    Ideally, yogurt should really just be fermented milk. This will include certain strains of bacteria known as probiotics.

    Probiotics are living microbes that, research has shown, help stabilize gut flora and strengthen our immune system.

    Despite some marketing claims, they do not prevent or revert any diseases!

    In any case, healthy as they are, many probiotics are present prior to yogurt undergoing pasteurization, so although they are listed on the label, you aren’t ingesting any.

    One way to guarantee that you are getting probiotics added after heat treatment is to read the label.

    Either look for the words “live active cultures” and/or make sure the bacteria names come after all the ingredients are listed.

    Keep in mind, though, that labels do not tell us just how many of these bacteria are present.

    In other words, live and active cultures are a great bonus in yogurt, but until more information is revealed on food labels, we don’t know exactly how great of a deal — or not — that is.

    Also, once you start seeing modified corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, and a crop of other add-ons that indicate heavy processing, you might as well eat chocolate pudding.

    As for low-carb varieties, I find it discouraging that people would snub a healthy, wholesome food like yogurt for an artificial version injected with Splenda.

    My pick? Low-fat (2%) Greek yogurt.

    After you taste it, I highly doubt you’ll ever consider buying another brand of yogurt again.

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    Today’s Lunch: Cheerios, Greek Yogurt, and A Clif Nectar Bar

    12:50 PM (Eastern Standard Time)

    So my flight to the West Coast — for what was originally some much-needed four day R&R — is now delayed by five hours.

    Well, when life hands you a lemon airplane (apparently some cables were loose, or so the pilot said), make blog lemonade!

    A view of the Jet Blue terminal food court at John F. Kennedy airport reveals:

    Papaya King (hot dogs and fries)
    Create Your Own Salad (the only truly healthy option)
    Carmella’s Kitchen (lasagna and cheese-smothered pasta, in huge portions, of course)

    Sky Asian Bistro (greasy lo mein under a heat lamp)

    Mex and the City (cute name, greasy food)

    Boar’s Head (cold cuts, cold cuts, and more cold cuts)

    Cheeburger & Cheeburger (you guessed it, a burger joint)

    Adding to the unappetizing factor are all the horribly eighties neon signs.

    Fair enough, I could go make my own salad if I am seeking a healthier option. Except I’m not craving a salad at the moment.

    At least Cibo — a small deli, if you will — offers fruit and nut bars, fresh fruit, sandwiches made with whole wheat bread, and a particularly tasty tray of baby carrots, celery sticks, and broccoli florets.

    Not surprisingly, these nutritious vegetables are accompanied by sodium and saturated fat-laden ranch dressing.

    Alas, I did some mixing and matching and bought a small container of overpriced hummus to use as dip.

    That was my mid-morning snack when the delay was only two hours.

    Lunch time came and, considering my options, I purchased Greek yogurt, a bowl of Cheerios (yay soluble fiber!), and a Clif Nectar bar. The cost? $12.95! Way to encourage healthy eating.

    Rant over.

    UPDATE (6:46 PM, Pacific Coast Time): The second I typed that period at the end of my last sentence, the laptop I was using turned off (turns out the jack I was plugged into at the Jet Blue terminal wasn’t working).

    Anyhow, after a five hour delay, I arrived at my destination.

    Jet Blue thanked everyone for their patience by providing free roundtrip tickets to every passenger and extra snacks during the flight.

    Sodas, cookies, biscotti, Terra chips, and cheese snack mix were happily consumed by many.

    I opted for a small bag of cashews from their selection, water, and my own stash of Flavor & Fiber bars.

    Alas, the lesson here is — next time you pack for a flight, remember to bring some healthy snacks on board. The airport sure isn’t looking out for you!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Late Night Snacking

    The only real issue I have with dieting is stopping late-night snacking.

    I tend to snack on toast and butter, or olive oil and garlic, or cottage cheese… anything creamy, crunchy, and warm. I will usually have 2 or 3 snacks after dinner.

    They are cravings I am having a hard time dealing with. I am sure I could lose weight if I simply eliminated these cravings.

    I am trying to see what triggers this and the only thing I can figure out so far is that my bedroom seems to be set up for everything, not exclusively sleep. I will eat at 6:30 or 7 pm and tell myself, “this is my last meal,” but it never works.

    I have small snacks starting at 9 pm, which continue until around 11 pm. Each small snack delivers a powerful oily punch to my calorie count!

    What do you think?

    — Marta (last name withheld)
    Miami, FL

    Snacking is a very sharp double-edged sword.

    On the one hand, many people find it helpful to gnosh on something small in between meals to prevent hunger attacks that result in high-calorie binges.

    Snacking also adds calories to your day, though.

    Hence, one popular nutrition-related debate is, “Is snacking an effective weight-management tool?”

    I personally vote a resounding “yes.” While research and studies are a great way to support theories, I don’t need to read a clinical research trial to come to this conclusion; I simply base it on personal experience.

    An 8 AM breakfast followed by a 10:30 AM snack leaves me perfectly satisfied until a 1 PM lunch. Leave out that mid-morning snack, though, and I am famished by lunch. Result? I not only eat more, but also crave greasier, unhealthier foods.

    I don’t think your issue, Marta, is late-night snacking itself, but the types of after-dinner snacks you are enjoying.

    Toast and butter (or olive oil) can be very high in calories and do not help you feel as satiated as other options.

    A cup of non-fat Greek yogurt is a great snack. Despite being fat-free, it has a surprisingly creamy texture that will trick you into thinking you are eating a much more decadent snack.

    Sprinkle some ground flaxseed on top and I guarantee it will very likely be the only snack you have before going to bed.

    Creaminess in a low-calorie package can also be achieved by topping fruits with two tablespoons (only 30 calories’ worth!) of Cool Whip Lite.

    If it is crunch you are seeking, I recommend investing in a hot air popcorn popper. Each cup of popped kernels registers at a mere 31 calories!

    So, two cups of popcorn accompanied by a cup of strawberries adds up to only 100 calories and delivers 5 grams of satisfying fiber.

    Baby carrots are great for dipping — especially in savory hummus. One ounce of corn chips (about 12 of them) add up to 140 calories. Meanwhile, a cup of baby carrots only contributes 52 calories!

    Also, if you are up until 11 PM, I would recommend having dinner a little later than 6:30. It is not at all surprising that you would feel hungry four hours after finishing dinner!

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    Quick and Healthy Recipes/You Ask, I Answer: Heart-Healthy Waffles

    Over the past few weeks I’ve received a handful of e-mails asking me to post some easy, quick, and nutritious breakfast recipes.

    “I want to have a healthy breakfast on the weekends, when I don’t have to run out the door after heating up some oatmeal in the microwave. I don’t like to cook, so I don’t see myself making vegetable omelettes. I’m getting tired of cereal,” writes Danielle Rowd of New York, NY.

    Melody Lee of San Francisco, CA says that although she loves “brunching with my friends on the weekends, it’s starting to get expensive. I’m vegan, and I’m always having the same things for breakfast: cereal, a Lara bar, or a fruit smoothie.

    Hopefully, this recipe will help them — and you.

    All you need is a toaster (or toaster oven). This is a perfect example of how some creative mixing and matching can yield a tasty and healthy breakfast.

    INGREDIENTS:

    2 whole grain frozen waffles (some brands I recommend: Nature’s Path, Van’s, Lifestream)
    1 banana (sliced)

    4 tablespoons plain, fat-free yogurt (preferrably Greek; if vegan, try soy yogurt)

    10 – 14 walnut halves

    Toast the waffles.

    Once done, evenly distribute remaining ingredients on them.

    Enjoy! This is one tasty and filling breakfast I don’t even need maple syrup for, since the banana adds the perfect sweet touch, while the yogurt and walnuts provide a variety of textures.

    NUTRITION FACTS:

    425 calories
    1 gram saturated fat

    9 grams fiber

    A good source of: fiber, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, calcium, and potassium.

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    With Love, From Greece

    Although non-fat dairy products are one good way to add calcium and protein to your diet without taking in excessive calories, I find fat-free plain yogurt to have an unappetizing watery consistency and tremendously boring flavor.

    Luckily, Greek yogurt is here to save the day.

    When friends often see me purchasing Greek yogurt, they ask me, “How is this different from regular yogurt?”

    Here is how they compare:

    FAT-FREE REGULAR YOGURT (8 OUNCES)
    127 calories

    13 g protein
    451.7 mg calcium

    FAT-FREE GREEK YOGURT (8 OUNCES)
    120 calories

    20 g protein
    150 mg calcium

    Why the significant decrease in calcium? This can best be answered by explaining Greek yogurt’s texture.

    What fat-free Greek yogurt offers that makes it such a spectacular product for me is its rich consistency, courtesy of having its whey (milk plasma) strained.

    The lack of watery whey increases the protein content but decreases the amount of calcium in Greek yogurt. Still, eight ounces of this Mediterranean nectar provide 15% of our daily calcium needs.

    I should “warn” you in advance that Greek yogurt has a strong, unmistakeable, tart taste.

    I wouldn’t recommend eating it on its own. But, throw in banana slices, a handful of blueberries, some uncooked ready-to-eat oatmeal, and a tablespoon of ground flaxseed and I have a feeling you’ll never go back to “normal” fat-free yogurt again.

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