Why I Believe We Should All Eat More Plain Yogurt

published May 5, 2015
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Hands holding a bowl of yogurt topped with raspberries, nuts, and seeds on a lap
(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Since I’m not a dietitian or a dentist or an expert on childhood obesity, I look at yogurt as a food to consume first and foremost for pleasure, and only second, for health. Food as medicine is a popular topic, and a worthy one, but it’s really not my professional or personal focus.

So what I’m about to say may surprise you: Despite the above caveat, I still think people who consume large quantities of yogurt should consider stocking up on (or making) big tubs of plain yogurt.

If you want to keep buying fruity or flavored yogurt in small cups, for the gym or for work, for an energy hit at the airport or on a train, please … don’t stress about it. Yogurt is a tremendously convenient food that’s both nutrient-rich (we’re talking protein, calcium, probiotics, B vitamins) and available nearly everywhere, and it’s a much better snack than a fistful of cookies or a fast-food chimichanga.

But plain yogurt and many (not all – please, let’s not lump all of these hundreds of products together) flavored yogurts can, in some cases, be very different foodstuffs. The unadulterated, unflavored variety has all of the benefits without the copious amounts of added sugar that turns some yogurt from what could be a pretty peerless choice nutritionally to yogurt that can teeter awfully close to the hypersweetened edge. Some products veer far, far past that line. The range, in other words, is vast.

Plain yogurt is what I turn to again and again because it’s hugely versatile in the kitchen. Flavored yogurt is not. Try making your favorite curry with a Boston cream pie-flavored yogurt and you’ll see immediately what I mean.

You can sweeten plain yogurt all you want – adding your own sugar, fruit compotes, jams, honey, agave, maple syrup – or, you can salt it or spice it or garlic it up or whisk in tahini or drizzle it with olive oil or crown it with raw vegetables … or … or … or … and that’s my point. You can do pretty much anything with plain yogurt while flavored yogurt’s got but a single use.

So while yes, I do think many yogurts have too much sugar for my personal taste and comfort level, my argument for veering towards plain is more practical and less dogmatic: it’s just more flexible, and therefore far easier to customize and play around with.

Learn the easiest way to make yogurt at home

After all, if you read The Kitchn (and all of us here do), we like to play with our food.

So why not start playing with your yogurt?

Next up: Is fat-free yogurt over? New thinking on yogurt and fat.

(Image credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

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