The Great Greek Yogurt Experiment

IMGP0055Whenever it’s discussed the conversation is always the same….Greek yogurt. …it’s so good…but so expensive.

I guess I’m not a good yogurt eater.  I buy it and I eat it, but don’t necessarily like it.  I know it’s good for me, it’s a good snack when I want something healthful, low fat and a good source of calcium.  I’m always trying to get folks to eat yogurt for all those reasons, but yogurt was really not on my “yummy” list.

That was until I tried Greek yogurt.  I had it the other morning with strawberries. Wow was it wonderful. I felt like licking the bowl .  The texture is amazing. I had vanilla with the strawberries and just can’t describe how good it tasted.

So, what makes it so good?

Real Greek yogurt is made with sheep or goat  milk and is a blend of cream and milk. In the US most Greek yogurt is made from cow’s milk.  Greek yogurt is also strained. This straining removes more water (whey) from the yogurt and is what helps gives it that desired dense, firm and creamy texture.

In the US there is no legal definition of Greek yogurt. Because it has become so popular, you can now purchase a wide variety of what is called “Greek-style” yogurt. Be sure to read the ingredients label, some lower fat versions have added thickeners to improve the texture and some of the flavored versions have added sugars. It’s really up to the consumer to read and heed what they are purchasing.

One of the reasons you pay more for Greek yogurt is that they need more milk to get the same amount of yogurt.  The straining of the whey concentrates both the texture and the nutrients. While most regular yogurts have a protein content of around 5 to 7 grams per 8 ounce serving, Greek yogurt usually averages anywhere between 12 to 21 grams. It also has more calories. One cup of a popular brand of plain Greek yogurt has 260 calories compared to plain regular or non-fat regular yogurts that can range from 90 to 150 calories.

I decided to make my own. Although I have made yogurt in the past from fresh milk, for this experiment  I started with one cup of already made plain non-fat yogurt. I placed it in a strainer lined with a coffee filter, covered it all with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.  I was amazed at how much whey strained out.  From one cup of yogurt I got just over ½ cup of thick plain “Greek” yogurt and 7 tablespoons of whey.  IMGP0174IMGP0170

How did it taste?  I have to admit, it was tart. Texture-wise  it was thick, really thick and it just didn’t seem to be as creamy as some of the commercially prepared Greek yogurts. It worked, but really I don’t think I’ll be doing this frequently.  It might be good in a pinch if I wanted a really thick yogurt to add to a recipe, but to make it just to eat it took a lot of yogurt and time for a small yield.

I think I’ll be buying my Greek yogurt in the future.

When weighing the higher cost of Greek yogurt,  remember you’re really getting almost double the amount of yogurt (and nutrition)  for the price. The problem is, it tastes so good can you eat just half the amount?

Favorite yogurt recipes


Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

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Half of what?

Fat-free half and half

A couple of weeks ago I suggested the temporary addition of fat-free half-and-half to skim or 1% milk when transitioning the family to a lower fat milk from whole milk. The purpose is to increase the “mouth feel” of the milk—to make you (or your kids) think you’re drinking the higher fat milk.

This idea inspired some questions. The obvious one is how can half-and-half be fat-free when by definition it’s half milk and half cream?  I looked it up.  The FDA’s Federal Regulations say that half-and-half consists of milk and cream which contains between 10.5 and 18% milk fat.  There are several optional ingredients including emulsifiers, stabilizers and sweeteners.

So how can it be fat-free?  According to the Land O’Lakes website, there is a FDA regulation (in an effort to promote and facilitate healthier food) that allows manufactures to modify a standardized food to meet a nutrient content claim.  In the case of fat-free half-and-half, they are using less cream and nonfat milk/skim in the place of whole milk.  Like the original regulation, they are allowed to add other ingredients that improve texture, flavor and appearance.

Comparing the Nutrition Facts labels, you’ll note two tablespoons of regular half-and-half has 40 calories with 3 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbohydrates. The fat-free version of half-and-half contains just is 20 calories, 0 fat and 3 grams of carbohydrates for the same two tablespoon serving. The ingredients show that the cream has been replaced by corn syrup as the second ingredient.  Folks that love cream (or half-and half) in their coffee need to make their own decision between the two products.  I know it’s not the same…………..but how about using plain skim milk?

Cheryle Jones Syracuse MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Transition skim milk recipe:

  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free half and half

Use the addition of fat-free half-and-half to skim milk just like you you are adding it to coffee: one or two tablespoons per cup. You can also make one or two quarts in advance with the same ratio. As with all dairy products, keep refrigerated.

What is the significance between skim milk and whole milk?

Here is a comparison for one year, keeping in mind most people are supposed to have 3 glasses per day:

  • 1 cup whole milk: 150 calories, 8 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat
  • 1 cup skim milk: 83 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat
  • Savings for switch for a whole year X 3 cups per day: 73,365 calories, 8760 grams fat, 5475 g saturated fat per year!!

Here are more uses for fat-free half and half (besides using it as a coffee creamer):

  • Cream soup
  • Smoothies
  • Custard sauce
  • Home-made ice cream – use it in your favorite ice cream recipe for a delicious treat
  • Sauces – fat-free half and half makes a creamy finish to gravy or any pan sauce that you make at home.

Disclaimer: although we have pictured Land O’Lakes fat-free half-and-half here, we are not receiving any compensation. Many store brands also feature this product. Choose what you like in your store.

Handout: SkimMilkTrick

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Milk Math

IMGP9414I don’t make this stuff up. A friend recently posted this story on Facebook.
Her husband went to convenience store on the corner to get milk. Their family with two young boys usually drinks 2% milk. He reported that the store only had whole milk and 1% milk. This enterprising man (not wanting to drive to a full-service grocery store several miles away) purchased one of each and informed his wife when he got them home that if you’d mix them together you’d get 2%. Her comment on Facebook—“not sure it works that way, but good theory, dear…so be quiet and drink it or leave it!”
Got me thinking about milk. Would his theory work?
Whole milk contains about 3.5% fat. Eight ounces of whole milk has 146 calories with 8 grams of fat.
2% milk is also known as reduced-fat milk. It has 120 calories with 5 grams of fat.
1% milk is low-fat milk and contains 105 calories and 2 grams of fat
Fat-free milk (skim) has 90 calories and no more than 0.2 grams of fat

Reduced-fat, low-fat and fat-free milks contain all of the nutrients found in whole milk but less fat.

So, technically using the husband’s theory of combining the whole with the 1%, they’d get milk that’s slightly more than 2% fat. Not bad.

Despite what many people think about “watery milk” it is not permitted to add water to any of these milks. It’s the lower amount of fat that gives it a thinner “mouth feel”. If you think skim milk tastes “watery” try adding some non-fat milk powder or fat-free half-and-half to help make it taste “thicker” to get the family through the transition to a lower fat milk.

But I like the wife’s comment to the husband to “be quiet and drink it”.  For their health, it would be good for this family to switch to 1% or skim milk.  Kids often mimic their parents.  If the father keeps quiet and drinks the 1% milk, it’s quite likely the kids will, too.

As for buying two gallons of milk and mixing them together?   Families with growing children assure me that this is no problem, but I know I couldn’t drink that much milk before it would spoil.

For more info on “Which Milk Should You Pick?” read Dr. Kenney’s article in the January issue of Communicating Food for Health.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University