Tag Archives: Dairy

Secrets of Greek Yogurt

Q: Is there a difference between Greek yogurt and regular, conventional yogurt?

A:All yogurts are a great source of calcium, protein and beneficial bacteria (“probiotics”), which aid in digestion. However, for those of you who dislike the thinner, runnier texture of conventional yogurt, Greek yogurt is a good alternative, because it’s richer and creamier. Three popular brands of Greek yogurt are Fage, Chobani and Stonyfield’s Oikos. No matter what yogurt you choose – conventional or Greek – make sure to purchase the low-fat or non-fat variety!

Let’s take a look at the specific differences in nutrient content…

Dannon’s Plain,    Non-fat (Regular Yogurt) Stonyfield’s Oikos Plain, 0% fat (Greek Yogurt) Fage’s Plain, 0% fat (Greek Yogurt)
Serving Size 6 oz 5.3 oz 6 oz
Calories 80 kcal 80 kcal 90 kcal
Sodium 120 mg 60 mg 65 mg
Sugar 12 g 6 g 7 g
Protein 9 g 15 g 15 g
Calcium 300 mg 200 mg 200 mg
  1. Greek yogurt contains about half the sodium of regular yogurt.  In general, yogurt is a great heart-healthy snack, but since we get way too much sodium in our processed-food diets as it is, Greek yogurt is a great option for salt-sensitive people.
  2. Greek yogurt is quite low in sugar.  With half the carbs of conventional yogurt, Greek yogurt won’t spike your blood sugar as high as a regular yogurt might.
  3. Greek yogurt is very high in protein. Dairy is always a solid source of protein, but with 15g of protein per 6-oz container, Greek yogurt will make you feel fuller longer than conventional yogurt.
  4. Greek yogurt is lower in calcium than regular yogurt. Unfortunately, conventional yogurt beats Greek yogurt in this category, at times packing 100 added milligrams of bone-building calcium per serving. While it’s important to meet your calcium requirement, adding any type of low-fat yogurt to your daily routine will bring you one step closer to a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Update: Upon further investigation of food labels, I’ve found a big difference in the calcium content of Greek yogurt flavors. The plain, 0% fat variety may contain 20-25% of the daily value (DV) of calcium, which is approximately 200 – 250 mg*, but honey & fruit flavors can have much less! The honey, cherry and peach flavors of Fage Greek yogurt contain only 10% of the DV! On the other hand, all of the low-fat Greek yogurt flavors made by Chobani contain 200 mg of calcium per 6 oz container. Clearly, it’s important to comparison shop by reading the nutrition label! Since yogurt packaged with fruit or honey will be higher in sugar, your best bet is to buy the plain, non-fat yogurt and add fresh fruit of your own!

*Remember: Adults should aim for 1,000-1,2000 mg calcium per day to maintain healthy bones!


Filed under Dairy, Heart Healthy Choices, Vitamins & Minerals

Building (and maintaining!) healthy bones

Q: How much calcium should I be getting and what are the best sources?

A: Adults (19-50 years old) should consume a minimum of 1,000mg calcium daily and adults 51+ years are recommended to get at least 1,200mg. Intakes for children and adolescents should be a little higher, since they are still accumulating bone mass. Aim to meet food pyramid recommendations and you’ll be well on your way to reaching calcium guidelines.

Most of us know that calcium is an integral part of bone structure, but this mineral does much more than that! Calcium plays an important role in maintaining normal blood pressure, blood clotting, muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve signals. The body tightly regulates blood calcium levels, and when intake is inadequate, the body draws on calcium stores in bones and teeth.

It’s important for kids and teens to get enough calcium, so that they are able to achieve their height potential and an optimal bone mass, which is reached by age 30. After age 40 or so, bone density inevitably begins to decline and a person with insufficient calcium stores is at risk for osteoporosis. Fortunately, bone loss can be slowed by a diet adequate in calcium and with regular physical activity!

It’s always best to obtain vitamins and minerals from food sources, rather than by taking a supplement. In fact, calcium supplements may be less effective at building strong bones, which may be due to the fact that other micronutrients found in a well-balanced diet – including vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium and phosphorus – all play necessary roles in bone metabolism.

Some of the best sources of calcium come from the dairy group, but there are great vegetarian sources as well! Besides milk, yogurt and cheese, broccoli, collard greens, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale are also excellent sources of calcium. Note that spinach, rhubarb and Swiss chard appear equal to milk in calcium content, but they actually provide little calcium to the body, because these foods also contain compounds that prevent absorption of the mineral.

1 cup milk = 300mg calcium

1.5 oz cheddar, mozzarella, muenster cheese = 250mg calcium

1 oz (~1 slice) American cheese = 160mg calcium

1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt = 300-400mg calcium

3 oz sardines (with bones) = 324mg calcium

1 cup enriched soymilk = 350mg calcium

1 cup soymilk, unfortified = 60mg calcium

1 cup calcium-fortified orange juice = 300mg calcium

1 egg = 25mg calcium

½ cup tofu = 275mg calcium

½ cup black-eyed peas (cooked) = 105mg calcium

1.5 cup broccoli (cooked) = 90mg calcium

100% whole grain waffle = 100-200mg calcium

So, what if you don’t drink milk? If you’re lactose intolerant, lower-lactose or lactose-free products are available, as well as enzymes that can be taken orally or added to the milk. Calcium-fortified juice and soy beverages provide calcium as well, but they may not provide other important nutrients found in dairy products.


Filed under Dairy, Medical Conditions, Vitamins & Minerals

Helpful hints when choosing your foods

My previous post on understanding the food pyramid provided guidelines on how many servings from each food group should be consumed per day.  Use that information, along with the tips below to make your diet as nutritious as possible.

Food Group Helpful Hints!


-Make half your daily grain choices whole grains.-Good sources: whole grain or whole wheat bread or pasta, oats, rye, barley, couscous

-Poor sources: enriched wheat flour (e.g. white bread), cookies, cakes, doughnuts

-When preparing mixed dishes, such as soups or stews, include whole grains such as barley or quinoa. Use whole grain bread crumbs in meatloaf and use whole wheat flour for up to half of the flour used in pancake, waffle and muffin recipes.


-While 100% fruit juice counts towards daily fruit intake, try and limit consumption to less than ¾ cup per day (1.5 servings). Juice lacks the fiber that whole fruits provide.
-When selecting canned items, be sure the fruit is canned in 100% fruit juice or water, rather than syrup

-While french fries technically count as a veggie, it’s important to mix it up! Be sure to also eat dark green and orange veggies, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots and squash.

-Milk choices, including fluid milk, cottage cheese and yogurt, should be fat-free or low-fat.
-Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, including cream cheese, cream and butter are not included in this group. Instead, they appear under “oils,” because of their fat content.


Meats, poultry, fish, nuts
-Choose lean or low-fat cuts and remember that preparation method matters! Baking or grilling a cutlet is a lot healthier than deep-frying it!-Wondering how many nuts make up ½ oz? It’s 12 almonds, 24 pistachios or 7 walnut halves.

-Good sources: beans, tofu, fish, chicken without skin, eggs, lean meat, peanut butter, seeds

-Poor sources: baked beans, fried eggs, sausages, spare ribs

-Eat fish at least twice a week and select fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring.

-Organ meats, including liver, as well as egg yolks are high in cholesterol, but egg whites are cholesterol-free!

-Processed meats, such as ham, sausage, hot dogs and deli meats are high in sodium, so limit your intake.


Oils -It’s best to steer clear of solid fats, like butter and lard, because solid fats are high in trans fat and saturated fat, which increase your risk for heart disease. Instead, use liquid fats, such as canola, corn and olive oils. (Note: coconut and palm kernel are the two oils high in saturated fat and should be used sparingly.)

-When choosing margarine to purchase, look for one with zero grams trans fat.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food Groups

Making Sense of the Food Pyramid

Q: How do I interpret the USDA’s food pyramid? What are appropriate portions for each food group?

A: The food pyramid consists of six major categories: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat & beans, milk and oils. The guidelines below are based on a diet containing roughly 2,000 calories per day – enough for the average adult. By visiting MyPyramid.gov, you can create a personal food pyramid and menu plan! Try keeping a food diary for a day or two and see how your diet matches up to the following recommendations. Then you’ll be able make substitutions and adjustments where necessary.

Food Group Single Serving Size
Grains – 6 servings per day 1 slice of bread = ¼ typical bagel = ½ English muffin = 1 cup of cereal = ½ cup cooked oatmeal, rice or pasta = ¼ cup granola 
Fruit – 4 servings per day ½ cup fruit slices = 1 medium-sized banana/apple/peach = ¼ cup dried fruit = ½ cup fruit juice 
Vegetables – 5 servings per day ½ cup cooked veggies = ½ cup raw veggies = ½ cup vegetable juice = ½ cup legumes = 1 cup raw, leafy greens (e.g. spinach, lettuce) 

Note: Legumes will also appear in the meat group because of their high protein content, but technically, they are vegetables.


Dairy – 3 servings per day 1 cup (8 fl oz) milk = 2 oz processed cheese (e.g. American) = 1 cup yogurt = 1.5 oz natural cheese (e.g. cheddar, mozzarella) 
Meats, poultry, fish, nuts – 6 servings per day 1 oz lean meat, chicken or fish = 1 slice of deli meat = 1 egg = ¼ cup legumes or tofu = 1 tbsp peanut butter = ½ oz nuts or seeds 
Oils – 6 servings per day 1 tsp oil = 1 tbsp mayonnaise = 2 tbsp light salad dressing = 1 tsp margarine

1 Comment

Filed under Food Groups