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How to Cut Down on Sugar: Eat Plain Yogurt with Little or No Sweetener

Eat plain yogurt

You all know that I’m not a big fan of sugar, and my healthy Halloween party plan along with its cousin the healthy school Christmas party post are evidence of that.

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 and Instant Pot 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.

The Perfect Easy Homemade 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.

happy yogurt e 1405838091898

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

Fruit makes plain yogurt so much better!

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 (use the code Katie15 for 15% off at that site!)) 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

A young boy eating yogurt with 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 still question the safety of stevia. I’m 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!)

Wish making your own homemade yogurt sounded as easy as drizzling raw honey? I’m honored to guest lecture with my super simple, no dishes homemade yogurt method in the GNOWFGLINS Cultured Dairy & Cheesemaking eCourse. Click HERE for more info.

So let’s start making yogurt!Homemade Yogurt Tutorial 1

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:

Homemade Yogurt Cheese 4
  • 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!

How To Dehydrate Yogurt

Yogurt with Grains:

Yogurt with Vegetables:

Yogurt for Dessert:

Fruit P Izza

Don’t forget the many yogurt cheese recipes I shared and what to do with whey that you’ll get from making yogurt cheese (the easiest process you’ll ever meet, I kid you not).

And why would one even want to eat so much yogurt, you ask? Check out the health benefits of yogurt, which are quite incredible if you ask me. So…let’s get going and Make Homemade Yogurt!

…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:

Monday Mission Just Eat Some Yogurt Already

43 thoughts on “How to Cut Down on Sugar: Eat Plain Yogurt with Little or No Sweetener”

  1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    Great strategy! It worked for me, too! 4 years ago, I started making this Easy Fresh Apple Yogurt (a way of cooking apple to add to purchased plain yogurt) and I always sweetened it. But at the time, I was pregnant with a baby who “made” me add a little sweetness to a lot of things, like coffee, that I’d normally have unsweetened. It wasn’t until I thought about it just now that I realized I’ve been making my apple yogurt for breakfast every other day this apple season, without sweetening it at all! Apples are sweet, and full-fat yogurt has lots of milk sugar, and the combination is just delicious!

  2. Applesauce or scraped ripe pear, or mashed peach or banana is great in yogurt, as is mashed beans; believe or not, babies eat it right up. Avocado in yogurt is another savory yogurt dish. S&P it too. The tzakiki sauce that ppl make with cukes is nice to just eat, in a thickened form. Just add scraped cuke to the yogurt with s&p. I put vinegar in it from the get go as its great for anyone. Little onion and garlic powder maybe too.
    Always think of nonsweet, savory ways to redo sugar dishes! We never eat sweet oatmeal. Well i do make baked oatmeal once in a while but its rare.

    1. Also eating lowfat or nonfat yogurt without sweetner is DISgusting. Eat fullfat yogurt only and half the battle is won. Serious.

  3. I like my homemade yogurt with a drizzle of local raw honey and a handful of homemade granola. This is my main breakfast and go to snack. My 4 year old daughter loves it with just honey. Trying to wen her off of the amount of honey she wants though… :p

  4. Pingback: 3 Reasons to Snack on Probiotic Foods | daily digest

  5. I was just wishing I could happily eat the plain, whole-milk yogurt in my fridge like my husband can, without Stevia or something. (since Stevia is healthy, ya? But expensive!)
    So this was a very helpful post. Thank you!

  6. I started out adding maple syrup to mine along with fruit. I realized that a ripe banana mashed up and stirred in is enough to sweeten the yogurt for me and for my kids. Now other yogurt tastes too sweet!

  7. I don’t add any sugar to our yogurt when I make it. We do like to eat yogurt with granola and maple syrup though.

  8. I started making my own yogurt about 6 months ago, and my absolute favorite way to eat it is plain. No sweetners, no fruit, no vanilla, just plain. Store bought yogurt, however, is a different story!

  9. Julie via Facebook

    Since I switched to making yogurt with raw milk, the taste seems so much stronger that I need more sweetener to stomach it. Anyone else notice this?

  10. For those who have little ones already eating a sweetened yogurt and want to switch them to plain. Try mixing the sweetened and the plain, slowly adding more plain than the sweetened. Eventually, the plain is all you’ll have and it won’t be as large a shock. I also double triple quadruple agree with a whole milk yogurt. The higher fat content helps it not taste so bitter. There’s also nothing wrong with making a fruit sauce and mixing it into plain yogurt before eating; therefore making your own “flavored” yogurt.

  11. Alaina via Facebook

    I add fruit. It takes away the need for sugar for me. If I’m feeling like I need the sugar I add a drizzle of maple syrup.

  12. Beth via Facebook

    The apple sauce really works. I thought it would be kinda gross, but I really like it! Although, for the moment I’m trying dairy free 🙁 So very, very sad. Hoping I can add it back in soon.

  13. Debra @ Sweet Kisses and Dirty Dishes

    For me if there is enough fat in the yogurt I will eat it plain.

  14. I started making my own yogurt, very recently, and love it. I usually eat it with fruit and oats for breakfast. Two of my girlfriends also make their own. One researched it a little deeper and discovered that home made yogurt, when allowed to sit the 24 hours produced something like 30 billion probiotics per millilitre! as opposed to a few hundred in the store bought stuff (which apparently begin to die off with in days). After discovering this, my other girlfriend brought up the question – when sweetened with honey, the only way her kids currently eat it, are the probiotics killed off by the antibacterial nature of honey?

    1. Tanja,
      There’s an excellent question! I never thought of that – although we just add the honey right when we eat it, so I don’t think it would have time to do very much damage. Maybe maple syrup if it needs to be sweetened in advance? 🙂 Katie

      1. My question is why can’t you just blend your fruit before you add it to the yogurt and then you would have a very fruity yogurt without having to have one bite of fruit at the time.

        I ask the grocer for bananas that has began to have speckles which they usually remove from the display and do not sell, and they usually sell me a 5 pound bag for under about $1.50. I sometimes freeze them whole in the skin or I peel them, cut into chunks and dip in lemon juice and freeze on a flat baking sheet. (The lemon juice keeps the banana from turning brown) When frozen I add the banana chunks to zip lock bags and return to freezer. When they are in chunks you can remove just the amount you need.

        Taste a banana that has a very yellow skin, then taste one that has a speckled skin and you will see the older the banana gets the sweeter it gets. I use the riper bananas in breads, desserts, smoothies and yogurt.

        One of my favorite things is to mash and spread an overripe banana on a slice of whole grain bread and add peanut butter or almond butter to the other slice.DELISH!

  15. Thanks for the tips on getting kids (and adults) to eat plain yogurt. It was just the advice I needed!
    Pam

  16. No one mentioned that the ability to eat plain yogurt lies in the fact it is FULL FAT yogurt — no skim or 2% yogurt. ONLY Whole Milk. It’s not nearly so sour. Cinnamon and vanilla help too, and of course applesause or peachsauce is great too but only whole milk yogurt has that not-overly-sour taste.
    I personally need no sweetener to eat it. I like sweet stuff, don’t get me wrong. 🙂

  17. I like to feed my kids plain yogurt in smoothies. They especially love Banana Shakes, which I make by tossing some frozen bananas, yogurt and orange juice in the blender. Another great thing to do is make a half and half blend of yogurt and orange juice to drink. It’s almost like an orange julius.

  18. I’m worried about kids eating flavored yogurt from the supermarket and they believe it’s the real thing. They are just loaded with sugar. THank you for your tips here.
    .-= Divina´s last blog ..28 Day Real Food Challenge: Week 3 Evaluation =-.

  19. Hey, the real reason agave is a problem isn’t that it’s processed, I mean, the stuff we do in our kitchens is technically food processing too. The real problem is it’s massively high in fructose. Low-carbers have been saying for years that fructose causes a lot of health problems even though it’s low on the glycemic index and what do you know, the scientists are finally admitting it (or, the media is finally acknowledging them).

    The tiny amounts of fructose you get in fruit, even modern hybrid fruit, are OK. The concentrated fructose in things like agave and honey and sugar isn’t so hot. It leads to things like fatty liver and type 2 diabetes.

    Hope that helps.

    1. Dana,
      Thank you! Sweeteners is one frontier I have yet to cross on my own, so I’m happy for the help!
      🙂 Katie

  20. Pingback: Slightly Indulgent Tuesday – 1/12/10 : Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free

  21. I’ve been weaning myself off sweetener in my yogurt, too. I love 7 Stars plain as it’s so not tart, but I still used to add a T. of maple syrup to every bowl-full. Recently I discovered that a 1/2 to 1 t. of vanilla does the trick for flavor without sweetening!
    .-= Lisa Z´s last blog ..Are We Raising Our Children To Be Parents? =-.

  22. Hi Katie. My future DIL got me a yogurt maker for Christmas so I am just thrilled. I normally buy the gigundo container of plain fat free yogurt and eat it with homemade jam that I made over the summer. It’s made with agave nectar so it’s low on the glycemic index and good for you. If you don’t have any homemade jams, try thawed frozen fruit or fresh fruit mixed with a little agave if you need it. So good with mini shredded wheat or toasted oatmeal.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      I just wanted to let you know that agave syrup is actually pretty rotten stuff…it’s as heavily processed as corn syrup and does about the same things to your body. And your body NEEDS good animal fats and unprocessed (cold pressed) vegetable fats! Sometimes I add coconut oil to my yogurt…it’s sweet and delicious, and an excellent source of very healthy fats.

      1. Stacie,
        Thank you for jumping in – I never tried c.oil in the yogurt. Interesting idea…do you use it in its liquid form? I second everything else that you said!
        🙂 Katie

    2. Cindy,
      I hear agave is very processed and not so good for you :(…I have homemade raw raspberry jam sweetened with raw honey, and that’s a great way to use it as it goes bad faster than cooked jam. Thank you!
      🙂 Katie

  23. I can eat plain homemade yogurt fine but the store bought stuff tastes tart to me. The kids like a touch of maple syrup and vanilla.
    .-= Mindy M´s last blog ..Crispy Nuts =-.

  24. yum, 10% fat yogurt is the best, its lowerin carbs, higher in fat and i think protien too! try fage total fat brand. delish
    .-= emily´s last blog ..Curried Coconut Mussels on a Sea of Green =-.

    1. Emily,
      Fage might have been the brand I tried! It was def. at the store when I looked – I’ll have to check now. I thought is was amazing.
      🙂 Katie

  25. I haven’t made yogurt in a long time, but where I live I can buy 10% fat yogurt…its ssssoooo good, and the fat makes it sweeter too. I don’t buy it much though because my daughters can’t eat milk products, but now that I’ve stocked up on sheep’s milk yogurt maybe I’ll indulge some more. I love yogurt with applesauce! And on pancakes too!

  26. This morning we had plain homemade yogurt with sugar free fruit sweetened granola for breakfast. All three children ate it right up! A little honey on this is good too if you need a touch of sweet.

    You’re blog helped me make my first batch of yogurt a few months back and I’ve continued to ever since. Thanks!

  27. Activia plain yogurt is so good i can eat the whole 24 oz carton and never look back, and why not use it for a starter.

  28. i have now trained MYSELF to need no sweetener in my plain, whole milk yogurt. I used to douse on the maple syrup like it was going out of style! stevia does the trick too, just one drop or so per bowl.
    .-= emily´s last blog ..Curried Coconut Mussels on a Sea of Green =-.

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