Healthy Yogurt

For a long time, I was in denial about my yogurt policy.  I try my very best to feed my kids the highest quality, most nutritionally dense food without driving myself insane.  So, of course, I fed them yogurt.  It’s a superfood, yo.

I also knew, though, that commercial yogurt was often– always?– loaded with sugar.  But I turned a blind eye, continually feeding my kids organic but commerical yogurt, afraid to look at the labels.  And I would shake my head disapprovingly (and hypocritically) with other like-minded moms: “Oh my WORD, have you SEEN how much sugar is in that yogurt?  SHAMEFUL.”

The turning point for me was when the 6 year old decided he hated milk.  Where will he get calcium, Remarkably Domestic husband asked?  So we cobbled together a full day of calcium for him without milk, and this regime included yogurt at the end of dinner.  Since he was eating it every night, I decided enough was enough, and I needed to investigate this sugar deal.

I discovered that, indeed, the yogurt I was buying had a tremendous amount of sugar, anywhere from 13 g to 20 g.  For those of you doing the math, on the low end there that’s over three teaspoons of sugar.  It doesn’t sound like a lot, but imagine dumping a heaping tablespoon of table sugar onto your kid’s broccoli, say.  And usually we’re talking about a FOUR ounce cup o’ yogurt.  So, not the end of the world, but I can do better.

I started buying plain organic yogurt and adding in my own sweeteners.  This way, I can control how much sugar goes in, we can vary our flavors a lot more, and I can use healthier sweetening options, instead of that white devil, refined sugar.

So here are my suggestions for making your own yogurt the easy way.  There’s lots of options for plain organic yogurt out there, and once you’ve got that, all you need are the add ins.  Starting off easy, these are things you can buy that you can just throw in to make a delicious yogurt:

  • agave nectar: healthier than sugar and a little sweeter, so you need less.  Adding agave, which has a pretty neutral flavor, just gives you sweet plain yogurt.
  • maple syrup: the 6 year old’s FAVE.  He loves maple syrup, and adding it to yogurt is like heaven for him.  Now, while maple syrup is basically just sugar, too, it does still have some minerals and vitamins in it and isn’t nearly as refined as the white stuff.  And you can control how much you put in.  I usually use a teaspoon or two in about 6 – 8 oz of yogurt.
  • pumpkin butter: I’ve really only found this stuff in the stores during the fall, but I HORDE it all year.  It’s delicious with almond butter on a sandwich, and you can add it to yogurt, too!
  • no sugar added jams and jellies: there are plenty of these on the market, but look for ones that don’t have artificial sweeteners.

Now, if you want to get cooking a bit, you can also make some of your own add ins.  We have three that are favorites now in our house.

from L to R: persimmon-apple sauce, blueberry compote, cranberry sauce

Persimmon-Apple Sauce, Blueberry Compote, and Cranberry Sauce.  I plopped a little of each option on top of some yogurt here, but when I serve it I mix it in.  No fruit-on-the-bottom (or top) here.

The first option, Persimmon-Apple Sauce, I got from Swell Vegan.  I adapted the recipe a tiny bit, but it’s super delicious and requires NO extra sweeteners at all.  Just pure fruit goodness!  Thanks, Swell Vegan!

Persimmon-Apple Sauce

  • 4 ripe persimmons, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large apple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 10 cardamom pods

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan over low heat.  Cover and let simmer until all ingredients are soft and broken down, about 45 – 60 minutes.  Cool the mixture and remove all the cardamom pods.  Puree the mixture in a food processor until it forms a chunky paste.  (You can puree longer if you want it to be smoother.)

For the blueberry compote, I always use the frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joe’s– they are available all year round and they are affordable.  On top of the fact that wild blueberries apparently have about 50% more antioxidants than cultivated blueberries.  You could also use any other frozen berry mix; I know TJs has mixed berry, blackberries, black raspberries, yadda yadda.  I also add in a little bit of cornstarch to thicken the juices, even though I puree the whole dang thing.  I put in a little agave nectar for sweetness, but you can mess around with the amounts; one tablespoon gives you a relatively sweet mix in, so you can go without if you want or up the agave to two tablespoons if you really want your yogurt to be sweet.

Blueberry Compote

  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Put all the ingredients except the cornstarch in a saucepan over low heat.  Simmer until the blueberries are soft and the ingredients are melded, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the cornstarch and cook for another 5 minutes.  Let cool, and puree the mixture in a food processor.

For the Cranberry Sauce, I just found a traditional recipe that I use, but I reduced the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup.  You can add in a couple tablespoons of agave nectar if you want a sweeter sauce, but we like the tartness in our house and it gives us a slightly different kind of yogurt, one that’s less dessert and more savory, if you will.

Cranberry Sauce



Leave a Comment

  • December 9, 2009, 9:48 pm Erika

    Thanks for the recipes. Yogurt is by far Devin’s favorite food group, but I’ve been getting the flavored ones. Sometimes I mix it with his peas or other veggies. I’ll have to try this with the plain and see what happens.

  • December 10, 2009, 8:05 am Becky

    This is much tastier than my current solution: mixing. Hank is a yogurholic, and I mix half plain yogurt and half vanilla. He is happy with that ratio, but I am always trying to reduce the amount of vanilla and see if it’s still acceptable.

    I am a mixer in general, come to think of it. Juice mixed with water, sweeter cereal mixed with unsweet, plain yogurt mixed with flavored, and there are probably others I could think of. We do what we gotta do!