Heidi Harkopf

Lighten Up Your Spring Menu with Yogurt

Below are a a few ideas for lightening up your menus for the the warmer months ahead using yogurt!

Why is yogurt a refrigerator staple?

Keep plain yogurt in your refrigerator and you’ll have a versatile ingredient that can help you shave calories while adding much needed protein, calcium and beneficial probiotics. Yogurt can be used in the preparation of cold and cooked foods, as well as in baking. Some types can be stored safely in the refrigerator for several weeks while awaiting use (we recommend always checking the expiration date). Whether strained (think Greek or Skyr styles) or regular, yogurt is a substitute that can be used to boost the flavor and nutritional quality of many different meals.

Yogurt-based salads & salad dressings

Yogurt can replace mayonnaise in your favorite pasta salads or even in chicken salad such as in this Healthy Greek Yogurt Pasta Salad with Ham and Peas or in this Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad with Grapes. Top your salad with a yogurt-based salad dressing and enjoy all the yumminess that creamy dressings offer without weighing down the health benefits with excess calories.  Make an equal swap of yogurt for mayonnaise in any of your favorite dressings or if you are looking for a recipe try the Creamy Italian Yogurt Dressing at the end of this yogurt booklet.

Photo Credit: A Dish of Daily Life

Cooking & Baking

If you are looking to reduce the calories when cooking a meal that has sour cream, replace it with equal amounts of low-fat or fat-free yogurt.  Be sure to add the yogurt towards the end of cooking and use a low heat setting as the yogurt requires a gentle touch. Strained (such as Greek or Skyr) yogurt may also perform better in cooking.

When it comes to preparing baked goods, not only does yogurt add protein, but it will also lighten the crumb and add moisture to cakes. It can also lighten up the frosting.  Since it is a little more difficult to make substitutions in baking, search out cake recipes that already have yogurt as an ingredient and you are sure to discover a treat such as in this Coconut Raspberry Greek Yogurt Layer Cake.

Photo Credit: Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Full-fat or low-fat yogurt?

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans consider low-fat and fat-free dairy to be one component of an overall healthy eating pattern. This is because most dairy products are a source of important nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and more. When it comes to culinary practice, using full-fat yogurt for cooking and baking will likely yield the best results. But in cold applications such as salad dressing, using low-fat or fat-free will work great.

Strained or regular yogurt?

Confused by the difference? No problem. This guide will help you decipher the difference between strained yogurt and regular yogurt.  When deciding which to use as a substitute, aim to match the consistency of what you are replacing. Greek yogurt will have a similar consistency to mayonnaise while regular yogurt may match sour cream more closely.  If using Greek yogurt, you can always thin it with a little milk if needed.  And if your recipe calls for Greek yogurt but you only have regular yogurt, place your yogurt in a sieve lined with a coffee filter, paper towel, or cheese cloth and in two hours you’ll have homemade Greek yogurt!


We’d love to hear about creative ways to prepare, cook, and bake with yogurt!

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Heidi Harkopf

Heidi is a registered dietitian and the Director of Nutrition Programs for New England Dairy & Food Council.   During her free time Heidi can be found in the kitchen or driving her 2 teenage children to activities all over her home state of Connecticut!  A firm believer that healthy food doesn’t need to be complicated or time consuming, Heidi loves how dairy helps her pull meals together in a jiffy. Sound like someone you want to get to know? Contact Heidi at hharkopf@newenglanddairy.com.

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