In my client practice, where I work with parents to help them fit healthy cooking and family eating into their busy lives, I get tons of questions about which foods are the best to start solids. Hands down, moms are most surprised by my suggestion to consider yogurt. Unlike drinking cow’s milk, which should wait until baby is at least 12-months-old, yogurt is a wonderful food to share from baby’s first bites.
A significant source of calcium, vitamins B2, B12 and B5, zinc, potassium and protein, yogurt also contains live cultures thought to provide a wide range of health benefits. No wonder we’ve been making cultured milk products for nearly 5,000 years. (Really! There’s evidence that yogurt was produced by medieval Turks in the 11th century.)
Yogurt has become seriously big business with options ranging from squeezable smoothies to crunchy toppings, from Greek-style to Swedish-style, not to mention every flavor under the sun. And with big business comes serious marketing. Yogurt is sold to us using everything from novelty packaging to over-the-top (and sometimes unsubstantiated) health claims. But, as it turns out, many of the products you’ll find in the yogurt aisle are packed with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and/or artificial dyes.
So, are all yogurts created equally? Most definitely not.
It may not be the most exciting option in the yogurt aisle, but plain yogurt—made with whole milk for children under 2—is, hands down, the best yogurt for your family. It’s also the most reliable way to get the most of yogurt’s health benefits. And this isn’t just about skipping the neon green yogurt snacks. Ounce per ounce, plain yogurt is also more nutritious than the simplest fruit- and veggie-added options. It has fewer calories, no fillers, no added sugar, and often more calcium or protein.
My family’s favorite way to enjoy yogurt is straight out of the container with added fresh fruit, but it’s also a great ingredient for cooking. You can use yogurt (particularly Greek-style) to make dips, sauces, marinades, and salad dressing. You can even bake with yogurt! (Just keep in mind that cooking yogurt kills the live cultures, so be sure to include plenty of un-cooked yogurt in your diet, too.) Even when heated through, yogurt is nutritious and often a great substitute for fattier ingredients like sour cream or mayo.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use yogurt:
- Blended with avocado for this quick and easy Yogurt Avocado Sauce
- Made into Cilantro Yogurt Dressing for slaw
- Mixed with lots of dried mint, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil for a spread on middle-eastern style lamb burgers (that also make a great finger food!)
On top of all of this, yogurt also makes an amazing edible finger paint for little ones!!
So many uses and so much time: yogurt is a healthy ingredient for life!
Looking for more ideas and recipes? Join the “Starting Solids 101” program for expectant moms and moms to babies up to 12-months-old. Participants get exclusive 6-month access to my private Starting Solids 101 group where they have me “on call” to answer questions, share the latest research on infant feeding, and cut through the heaps of information and opinions on how to feed baby safely. We also have one hour-long Q&A call a month so that you can get in-depth answers. It’s like having a family feeding expert on speed dial, plus a new community of moms who care as much about starting baby on a healthy eating adventure as you.
Email [email protected] for more info. Mention Dr. Greene’s site for an exclusive discount!