Oh, and then there was the time I said sugar is as bad for kids as cigarettes…but I still eat cookies.
I DO still like sweet treats, but it’s my constant goal to consume as little sweetener as possible, especially when I’m not eating an official dessert. I think that white sugar is going to wreak havoc on my health, and alternative “natural” sweeteners are very expensive and not always that much better for you.
Don’t get me started on why I don’t bother with artificial sweeteners – not only is there a big question about their safety in general, but research is showing that when we eat sweet things and don’t get the calories of a sweetener, our bodies are not satiated and we want more. Then we overeat and crave more sweet things, often becoming obese in the process.
One of the many sweetened foods that we eat when it’s not dessert time is YOGURT. It’s one of our family’s favorite foods!
When I tell people to make homemade yogurt, it’s not only about the dollar savings – it’s about the unexpected ways you can improve so many areas of your diet with it, and reducing sugar is one of them, if you’re SMART about it!
Yogurt is truly a staple food in our house, for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Because there’s not the stigma of “using the little cups that are perfect for traveling or lunches,” we eat it for morning or afternoon (or even late night) snacks, and almost every lunch has a side of yogurt.
I strongly believe our family’s nutrition has been improved by our consumption of yogurt, with all its beneficial bacteria, calcium, and other nutrients. Plus we don’t eat other snack-y foods or fillers as much because we always have jars of yogurt in the fridge!
Since it’s so easy and inexpensive to make, I’m happy to provide my family with this good, REAL food!
Our whole family eats yogurt totally straight up now, no sweetener at all, but when I first started making yogurt, I still wanted it sweet. My husband took even longer to come around to unsweetened. It took strategizing!
I can’t exactly trick myself, but here are FIVE ways to reduce the sweetener with your yogurt:
1. Start Kids Young and Don’t Give Options.
My babies eat plain yogurt.
They are not offered anything with sugar when they are 8 or 9 months and we’re introducing yogurt, so although I remember Leah made strange pucker faces at the taste of the tart yogurt for the first few weeks, she got on board with the project, as did all our kids.
In fact, joy to my heart, at age 9 Leah cannot even stand the sweetness of vanilla yogurt on her tongue!
2. The Fruit on the Spoon Trick
It sounds mean and sneaky to trick your kids, but you know we all do it when the outcome is in their best interests. This tactic is a little diversionary tool – provided your babies/toddlers like fruit, you talk up the fruit and show them how it’s right there on the spoon.
The fruit goes right at the front of the spoon at first, in front of the yogurt so it stands out. Later bites find the fruit more towards the back, so that the child has to take yogurt in his/her mouth in order to get to the fruit.
This trick works for adults, too. Even by age 4, my oldest son learned to ration the pieces of frozen fruit in his yogurt so he had some in every bite and a bit left over at the end to eat last. I enjoy my yogurt a whole lot more if there’s something very cold and pleasantly sweet in each bite.
3. The Honey on the Spoon Trick
Since I lucked out and didn’t get my kids used to sweetened yogurt, we adults had a harder time cutting the sugar out. So don’t feel badly if the big people in your house need a bit more sweet “trick” to get them eating almost plain yogurt!
If you like to add a little honey to your yogurt, try this:
Put just the right amount (or a little less, especially as time wears on) of honey right on your spoon. You won’t need much!
With every bite of yogurt, your lips and tongue absorb just a little bit of that honey (preferably raw honey) along with the yogurt and maybe fruit. It’s just enough to get some sweetness, and you usually can use less honey than if you put it right in the yogurt.
Ultimately try to wean down to NO honey, but this is how to use LESS at first!
4. Try Cinnamon Applesauce
Applesauce and yogurt is not perhaps a standard combination, but when my son was little it was an easy way to use our 2-part food containers and still give him 3 foods. And he continued to like it – see pic from when he was about 5 years old! The face is just because he’s being silly, not a reaction to the food. 😉
My homemade applesauce has a boat load of cinnamon in it, which adds just enough sweetness and depth of spice to trick my body into thinking it’s getting sweetener (as I mentioned in my eBook Healthy Snacks to Go). I really like the mixture of applesauce and yogurt, and at first, it was the only way I could go with ZERO sweetener in my plain yogurt.
The good news! It’s been YEARS since I added a sweetener to my yogurt, and I just love the taste now. Add some frozen raspberries and it’s almost as good as ice cream.
5. Use Stevia Drops
I am not a huge fan of stevia with kids, mostly because I don’t think they should need the sweet flavor and partly because I’m still a little unsure of the possible contraceptive effects. I had no qualms in buying the purest liquid stevia available and providing it for my husband to help him wean off sweetener – and it worked!
For a few years, my husband used 4-5 stevia drops in a bowl of plain yogurt, and now after we did a Whole30, he uses none at all. Such a huge success for a guy who used to drink at least one soda a day!!! Believe me, there is hope for even the heaviest sweet tooth!
Part of my Journey
It’s neat to look back at old posts to see how far I’ve come. Here’s what I wrote a few years back:
I’m just finishing a bowl of yogurt, and my fruit didn’t make it to the end. I can tolerate and even enjoy the “just plain” stuff at the bottom of the bowl. You might think that’s absolutely crazy, but it’s all a matter of training.
I didn’t like yogurt of any kind until five years ago, so anything’s possible with some baby steps and a little dedication to weaning off the sweeteners. (If only I could find cookies and ice cream that had no sweetener but still tasted good!)
Ways to Use Plain Yogurt
When you make homemade yogurt, you might as well make a lot of it! Here are ways we use it up:
- In a dish. With frozen fruit. Daily! (fresh fruit is great too)
- Green smoothies
- On, under, or with homemade granola
- Make yogurt cheese, which is great as frosting, in dips, in a sandwich (yogurt cheese and jam is awesome!), or as a simple substitute for cream cheese.
- Sub for buttermilk in recipes
- Substitute for sour cream if you’re out – especially if you drain out a little whey to make the yogurt thick, the same method as in yogurt cheese above, but less time.
- Dehydrate it (with fruit too, usually, pic below)
You can also use it in recipes when you make homemade and it doesn’t feel like you’re spending too much money on an ingredient!
Yogurt with Grains:
Yogurt with Vegetables:
- Garlic Yogurt Dip: We like this one with up to 1 tsp. of dill and sometimes throw in cilantro. It’s a great dip for veggies for any party!
- Creamy Garlic Dressing: My favorite homemade dressing, and good for keeping the sick bugs away because of the fresh garlic.
- Yogurt Ginger Carrot Baby Food
Yogurt for Dessert:
- Fruit Pizza (uses yogurt cheese)
- Probiotic Yogurt Frosting (coming soon)
…But what if you don’t have time to make homemade, even though it’s only about 20 minutes a week? Is store yogurt ok or are the beneficial bacteria dead? A lot of people have misconceptions about that, but I’d love to clear it up: