It’s my constant goal to consume as little sweetener as possible, because I think that white sugar is going to wreak havoc on my health, and alternative sweeteners are very expensive and not always that much better for your health.
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 has become 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. My son even likes yogurt cheese and honey sandwiches, which makes a usually non-car-friendly food easy to travel with.
I’ve been thinking lately about the trade-ins, the “foods” we don’t eat because we’re having so much “real food” homemade yogurt:
- Cereals (expensive and debatable nutritionally)
- Munchy things like goldfish, pretzels, and chips. Not that we don’t have these things in our house at all, but we certainly don’t go through them very fast.
- Applesauce cups, a traditional lunchtime item, but virtually zero on the nutrition scale.
- Packaged cheese and crackers
- Fruit snacks
- Granola bars (except sometimes homemade)
- Even ice cream sometimes!
- What else do people pack in lunches that I’m not sad to be missing out on? Our lunches are usually leftovers, fruits, maybe veggies, and 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. 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 though!
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 Lovey Girl may have made strange pucker faces at the taste of the tart yogurt for the first few weeks, she is now on board with the project.
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 my 4-year-old son has learned to ration the pieces of frozen fruit in his yogurt so he has 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
We all know adults are going to have a harder time than kids going to plain yogurt from whatever they’re used to. The big people 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 the 2-part food containers and still give him 3 foods.
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 it’s the one way I can go with ZERO sweetener in my plain yogurt.
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, but 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 he uses none at all. Such a huge success for a guy who used to drink at least one soda a day!!!
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!)
I’m happy to invite Erin from The Green Phone Booth to share some of her tips to use it all up:
So You’re Making Your Own Yogurt…Now What?
When I started making my own yogurt, I quickly learned that the key to making yogurt from my own starter is to make a lot of yogurt. If I make a quart of yogurt a week, my yogurt always turns out great. If I make it every three or four days, even better. But if I go too long between batches of yogurt, my starter loses its “starting power:” I get runny yogurt, or the yogurt doesn’t set at all.
But unless you loooove yogurt, a bowl of tangy, thick milk with fruit gets old fast. So I’ve come up with lots of creative ways to use up our yogurt so I always have a fresh starter…
Mix it with fruit.
- This is the ultra-basic way to eat yogurt. Stir in some cut up berries or bananas, and you’ve got a simple, healthy snack. I especially think this works well with frozen fruit because the the fruit gets slightly mushy and mixes well. (See 4 tips for eating your plain yogurt without any sweetener.)
- Here’s my basic smoothie recipe: Add 1 banana, 2 cups canned fruit such as peaches, pears, or apples (preferably in jars not cans), 1 cup berries, 1 cup juice, and 1 cup yogurt to your blender, and blend until smooth. (Katie’s green smoothies)
Plop it on your granola.
- Enough said. (Katie’s granola recipe)
Substitute, Substitute, Substitute:
Substitute for Buttermilk
- Like buttermilk, yogurt has a tangy flavor, so it’s an easy substitute if you don’t have buttermilk on hand. I actually never have buttermilk on hand, so I use yogurt all the time. My favorite way to substitute yogurt for buttermilk is in this recipe for Homemade Ranch Dressing: Mix 1 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade), 1/2 cup yogurt, 1 tsp. dried chives, 1 tsp. dried parsley, 1/8 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper.
Substitute for Cream
- Yogurt has a tangy flavor, so it’s not a perfect substitute for cream. But it works great in ice cream recipes to make frozen yogurt!
Substitute for Sour Cream
- My husband likes the taste of yogurt on his burritos and other Mexican entrees. I personally prefer real sour cream, but since we always have yogurt and rarely buy sour cream, it’s a pretty good substitute.
Substitute for Evaporated Milk
- I’ve gotten mixed results with this one. I’ve been using yogurt as a substitute for the evaporated milk in my bread recipe for several months now, and it gives the bread a sourdough-ish flavor. On the other hand, I tried substituting yogurt for evaporated milk in pumpkin pie, and it made it into more of a pumpkin cheesecake.
If you’ve advanced to making yogurt cheese, you can use it as a simple substitute for cream cheese.
(Tip: If you incubate your yogurt for less time, it tastes less tangy and your yogurt cheese will taste more like cream cheese.) We use yogurt cheese to make vegetable dips, spread it on bagels, and even mix it with fruit preserves to make a simple sweet dessert.
Here are some of my own recipes to use homemade yogurt:
Yogurt with Grains:
- an option in my cornbread recipe
- can use in homemade biscuits
- to soak Baked Oatmeal
- Oat Cranberry Muffins
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 for Dessert:
- Fruit Pizza (uses yogurt cheese)
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.
- The Basics: How to Make Homemade Yogurt