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Making yogurt more fun

A yogurt "sundae"
A yogurt "sundae"
Photo by Cindy Ord

Yogurt is a creamy, nourishing, health-boosting food—IF you get the kind with active yogurt cultures and without the added sugar. My favorite yogurt with active cultures is Fage, which has a much better flavor than most yogurts, even plain. It just doesn’t have that sour aftertaste. However, even Fage adds sugar to its flavored yogurts. To get yogurt without any added sugar, you have to buy the plain variety. Then you can add your own fruit and other ingredients to dress it up. You can even make a yogurt "sundae" like the one in the picture, by slicing up some strawberries, bananas, and blackberries into the yogurt and sprinkling some raw shredded coconut and palm sugar over it. To make it even more decadent, drizzle some raw caramel on top.

Here are some of my tricks for making plain yogurt exciting. I always add a few drops of vanilla (I use organic) and a sprinkle of stevia or another natural sweetener to plain yogurt and stir it well. To this base, I add one of the following fruits or combinations:

• Fresh organic pineapple, cut into small chunks
• Fresh organic cherries, pitted, a drop of almond extract
• Fresh blueberries and a pinch of cinnamon
• Raw cacao or regular cocoa powder, plus a pinch of organic turbinado sugar; also good with fresh fruit added
• Shredded carrots, chunked fresh pineapple, organic raisins, a little cinnamon, and a sprinkle of coconut palm sugar
• Sliced apples, cinnamon (or apple pie spice), a sprinkle of coconut palm sugar
• 1 T. cacao nibs, a drop of peppermint oil
• Sliced bananas, chopped walnuts (optional), a sprinkle of coconut palm sugar

Don't forget about superfoods like maca, chia seeds, and goji berries for an extra dash of nutrition.

If you want yogurt that’s more like the commercial fruit-on-top yogurts, you can blend fresh fruit with a little stevia or agave nectar in your blender and pour it on top of plain yogurt. Mixing it in makes it like typical blended yogurt.

Plain yogurt is also a great addition to healthy smoothies. Here’s one adapted from Nicole McDermott’s Chocolate-Almond-Date smoothie, substituting the yogurt for tofu.

¼ C. raw almonds
½ C. pitted dates
¼ C. cacao or cocoa powder
½ C. hot water
1 small container Fage plain yogurt
3 ice cubes

Mix the almonds, dates, cacao or cocoa, and hot water in a bowl and let rest unblended for 5-10 minutes. Then add to your Vitamix or blender along with the yogurt and the ice cubes and blend into a yummy shake. If you want to go strictly raw, use the cacao instead of the cocoa and lukewarm instead of hot water. The hot water—boiling even, if you wish—will make the cocoa powder dissolve better, though.

When you eat active-culture yogurt without the sugar, you get probiotic benefits from it. It’s a live food that balances the fauna and flora in your intestines, which is where your immunity is built. If you’ve been on a binge and eating a lot of unhealthful foods, eating some yogurt can help you get squared away and start feeling better again.

When you start experimenting with different ingredients to add to your yogurt, though, you’ll just eat it because it’s a treat. I especially like it when I’m hungry at bedtime but don’t want to eat something heavy. Yogurt is a light snack that will satisfy your hunger without keeping you up. Try some of your own favorite ingredients in your yogurt. You may come up with a recipe you’ll want again and again.

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