Mid-July, when temperatures creep up and your bare skin greets the sun, is a good time to think about healthy eating. Between the backyard barbecue and the heat that keeps you from wanting to cook, it’s a hard time to stick to a healthy diet. Let’s face it: salads can get pretty boring. If you’re looking to eat healthily this summer and try some new, hot-weather friendly recipes, check out The Greek Yogurt Kitchen (Grand Central) by nutrition expert Toby Amidor.
We sat down recently with Amidor, who is a contributor to FoodNetwork.com’s Healthy Eats blog and U.S. News and World Report’s Eat + Run blog, to find out what makes Greek yogurt such a power food, and get her recommendations on the best ways to incorporate this all-start ingredient into our healthy summer diets.
BOOKTRIB: Why is Greek yogurt a good idea for anyone looking to improve their diet?
TOBY AMIDOR: Greek yogurt is a superstar ingredient that is more versatile than people realize. It can replace high fat ingredients like mayo, oil, sour cream, and butter in many of your favorite dishes. Additionally, Greek yogurt contains less sugar, less sodium, fewer carbohydrates and double the amount of protein compared with traditional yogurt. Greek yogurt has numerous health benefits also. The live and active cultures help with tummy issues. Greek yogurt is also considered a lactose-intolerant friendly food. Studies have shown that Greek yogurt can help with heart health, weight control, bone health, and Type 2 Diabetes.
BT: The cookbook contains a lot of recipes that most people would never expect to include Greek yogurt. What were some of the more surprising uses you found for this super food?
TA: Some surprising uses for Greek yogurt that you can find in The Greek Yogurt Kitchen include Eggs Benedict with Lighter Hollandaise, Deviled Eggs, Spanikopita, White Cheese and Broccoli Rabe Pizza, Light and Dark Chocolate Brownies, Mango Guacamole, and Mojito Popsicles. Are you hungry yet?
BT: Over the years, as the popularity of Greek yogurt has exploded, so has the number of different brands and varieties on display in the supermarket. What are the key things people should be aware of when choosing a Greek yogurt either for cooking or for a snack?
TA: First, consider the fat. Choose nonfat or low fat varieties of Greek yogurt. If you love the full fat kind, save it for a very special treat. Next, check out the sugars. All yogurt contains the natural sugar lactose. It is in the added sugar in the flavored yogurts where you need to compare labels. Look for flavored yogurt with no more than 20 grams of sugar listed on the nutrition label. Finally, you may want to think about the thickening process. Some brands thicken their yogurt using traditional straining techniques while other brands use additives to do so. You can read through the ingredient list and if something is added, it will be listed there. Ingredients like xanthan gum, locust bean gum, and cornstarch are usually red flags. Ultimately, this decision is up to you.
BT: In the book you explain that snacking is actually healthy, which may surprise many readers. What is most important for people to understand about snacking and a healthy diet?
TA: Snacks are mini-meals that should provide nourishment and help prevent hunger and stray grazing between meals. Eating a balanced snack also helps maintain our blood sugar levels between meals. If you find yourself going five hours or more between meals, then add a snack during that time frame.
BT: Can you share with our readers your favorite recipe from the book for healthy summer cooking?
TA: I’d be happy to! Check out the recipe below for Avocado Soup with Pineapple-Salsa, which is a refreshing and healthy meal. It does not require any cooking, so it’s perfect for a hot day.
Venture into the world of avocados by making this creamy and oh-so-delicious soup! Topped with a pineapple salsa, it is a unique combination of flavors that work together magically.
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 1 hour refrigeration Cook time: 0 minutes SERVES 4
FOR AVOCADO SOUP
3 medium avocados
2 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
FOR PINEAPPLE SALSA
1 fresh pineapple
1/4 English cucumber, peeled
1/4 medium red onion
1/2 jalapeño pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
To make the soup: Slice the avocados lengthwise, remove the pits, scoop out the
flesh and drop it into the jar of a blender or food processor. Add the vegetable broth, milk, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour or up to four hours.
While the soup is chilling, prepare the salsa: Slice the top off the pineapple and then trim away the skin. Quarter the pineapple lengthwise, remove the core, and refrigerate three of the quarters for another use. Cut the remaining quarter into ½-inch dice. Finely chop the
cucumber and red onion. Halve the jalapeno lengthwise, discard the seeds, and finely chop. Place the pineapple, cucumber, onion, and jalapeno in a small bowl, and add the chopped cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate until the flavors are combined, at least 30 minutes and up to one hour.
To serve, ladle ¼ cup of the soup into each of four soup bowls and top each bowl with
¼ cup of the pineapple salsa.
SERVING SIZE: 1 bowl
NUTRITION INFORMATION (PER SERVING): Calories: 244; Total Fat: 17 grams; Saturated Fat: 3 grams;
Protein: 8 grams; Total Carbohydrates: 19 grams; Sugars: 8 grams; Fiber: 8 grams; Cholesterol: 3 milligrams;
Sodium: 660 milligrams