I love Greek yogurt and you can, too

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There are a few things I eat on a near-daily basis that make some people want to gag. You probably have things like that, too: pickles (yum). The increasingly popular kimchi. Something more innocuous, perhaps, like mayonnaise.

Food judgment is real, especially if you're someone who likes to eat semihealthy on a regular basis. Let's just say I've never had anyone pressure me into eating a handful of spinach, or, inversely, chide my order of french fries. And I've adjusted to the fact that some of my favorite snacks seem to be foods that elicit strong opinions.

One of them is bananas. People have thoughts about bananas, particularly the idea of consuming them in enclosed spaces (the smell?) and eating anything other than a perfectly ripe, yellow-peeled one. (One bruise does not a ruined banana make.) But bananas are probably doing okay for themselves. If you can't appreciate the perfect compactness and nutrition of the potassium-laden fruit the way other primates do, that's on you.

But the other snack I love needs someone in its corner: plain Greek yogurt, a healthy food that has exploded in popularity in the past decade.

As one of my friends, one who likes flavored yogurt but cannot handle it plain, said: "It seems like yogurt is the food equivalent to the word 'moist.' "

Divisive. Easily dismissed.

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It doesn't have to be this way. I, too, used to despise any yogurt that was not heavily altered with sugar and pectin. But slowly, I learned to love it. Now, I get cranky if I go a week without it. It shows up in nearly everything I cook that calls for a creamy element. I am actually eating some right now as a midmorning snack.

Here's a strategic three-step process to deploy if you would also like to cultivate a yearning for yogurt. (Read this full post on tampabay.com.)

START SLOW AND WORK YOUR WAY UP

Do not just go out and buy some plain Greek yogurt and shovel it into your mouth. You will hate it. Start by making it resemble the kind of yogurt you already eat. First, place some plain yogurt in a bowl and sprinkle up to a tablespoon of brown sugar on top. This will take away some of the tartness right off the bat. Now, if you love strawberry-flavored yogurt, cut up some fresh strawberries, add them to the bowl, mix it up and let the whole thing sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes. The fruit juices will release and help add their natural flavor to the yogurt.

If it's the sensation of plain yogurt without any texture that bothers you, I get it. Things can get gloopy real fast. Consider adding a handful of any of the following to your bowl, with or without the brown sugar/fruit: slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted oats and chia seeds. Or try the bowl listed below, and see if you still miss your container of Dannon.

THINK ABOUT HOW GOOD IT IS FOR YOU WHILE YOU EAT IT

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One of the main reasons to become a plain Greek yogurt lover is that it's just really good for you. It contains a lot of protein — a 5.3-ounce serving generally contains about 15 grams, or 30 percent of the recommended daily intake — a nutrient we often forget about with emphasis on low-calorie, low-fat healthy foods. Protein is a crucial component to everything from weight loss to recovery to hair and nail growth.

Plain Greek yogurt is also available in a variety of fat levels, from totally nonfat to low fat to full fat, the latter being the best to use in more savory preparations. For snacking, nonfat or low fat is the way to go, a cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt containing just 100 calories.

USE IT IN YOUR COOKING

I have not kept sour cream in my fridge in many years. This is because, in all instances, I use Greek yogurt as a substitute. The taste and texture are nearly identical when mixed into something like a baked good, but I also put it to good use atop tacos. Buying full-fat Greek yogurt is best if you want a more creamy flavor. You can try seasoning it with salt, pepper and other spices if it still falls flat to you.

Another savory application? Dips. I've mixed plain Greek yogurt with the following for a light yet addicting condiment: ketchup or salsa (fried food dipper), whole grain mustard (great for pizza crust), cilantro (taco topper) — and honey and cinnamon, a refreshing glaze for sliced fruit. May I suggest a banana?

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Stone Fruit Yogurt Bowl

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cherries, pitted and chopped
  • 1 peach or nectarine, diced
  • 1 plum, diced
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup oats
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • 4 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • Honey

Instructions

Combine fruit in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and let cool completely. It will become thick and jammy.

Place oats, flax seeds and hazelnuts in a large nonstick skillet with a couple of drops of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of cinnamon. Cook for about 5 minutes until toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool.

For 1 serving, place 1 cup yogurt in a bowl and top with ¼ of the fruit mixture and ¼ of the oat mixture. Dust with cinnamon and, if desired, drizzle with honey. Serves 4.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times