What’s Your Yogurt IQ?

Fruit-and-yogurtWhat are the health benefits of yogurt?

Yogurt is a high-quality, low-fat, easily-absorbed protein source. (Try saying that three times fast!) Additionally, yogurt is a good source of calcium and active cultures (probiotics) that can promote a healthy gut. Individuals with lactose intolerance often can consume yogurt without gastrointestinal distress. The translation of yogurt “yoghurt” means “dense and thick”. Yogurt is made by the fermentation of milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. This thicker substance is tangier in taste when compared to milk.

With so many yogurt varieties, is there any difference between them?

Not all yogurts contain live active cultures. The term “made with live/active cultures” is somewhat deceiving because all yogurts are made with live cultures; but live cultures do not survive heat treatment/pasteurization. Look for phrases like “active yogurt cultures” or “contains active cultures” to identify the yogurt varieties that contain the probiotic benefits. Dr. Ted Paradowski, Springfield Clinic Gastroenterologist recommends patients choose Activia yogurt for its probiotic benefits.

One of the main nutritional differences between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is the protein content. A standard-size container (5.3-6.0 oz) of Greek yogurt contains anywhere from 10-20 grams of protein while the same serving of regular yogurt contains only 5-6 grams of protein. Unsweetened yogurt (both Greek and regular) will contain the lowest amounts of sugars; however, most people prefer the sweetened/flavored varieties. Try to find the yogurts with the least amount of ingredients for increased nutritional value. Be careful of kid-friendly varieties such as Go-Gurt. This type of yogurt contains the highest amount of added sugars and is also lowest in protein content. Basically, your kids are getting more calories from the added sweeteners than they are from the yogurt itself. Watch the calcium content difference. In many cases, Greek yogurt contains less calcium than normal yogurt.

To Greek or not to Greek?

Greek yogurt has been a hot trend to take grocery store shelves by storm these past couple years. One thing I’ve noticed at my local supermarket is that the yogurt section appears to be phasing out regular yogurt options to make room for more Greek yogurt brands and varieties.

Many will argue that the term “Greek” is being used too loosely. Typically, Greek yogurt has gone through an extra straining process that removes the liquid whey and milk sugars. This is the reason why this type of yogurt is much thicker and tangier in taste. However, some brands simply add a thickening agent and protein concentrate to their regular yogurt and call it “Greek”.

This year especially, we have seen Greek yogurt products popping up everywhere from cereal to granola bars to veggie dips.  Greek yogurt is most notable for its lean protein content, but do all these additional products retain the same benefits or are they just a marketing gimmick?

Most of the time, the term “made with Greek yogurt” on food items is simply a way to get consumers to buy that product thinking it’s going to be healthier than the item sitting next to it on the shelf. For example, Post has recently come out with Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch cereal. Compared to their standard variety, Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted cereal, the “Greek” variety contains more calories, more carbs and added sugars with just a minimal increase in protein content. Don’t be fooled by frozen Greek yogurt either. Often, these substitutions are simply sweet treats disguised as health foods.

How creative are you with using yogurt?activia-active cultures

It’s thick, creamy texture makes it a great base for smoothies or an excellent swap for mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes. Whether you use regular or Greek yogurt, these healthy recipe substitutions will add more nutrients to your everyday favorites!

  • Try mixing yogurt with herbs and spices to make a protein-packed veggie dip.
  • Add a dollop on potatoes or tacos instead of sour cream.
  • Substitute yogurt for some of the mayonnaise when making tuna, chicken or potato salad.
  • For additional ideas, download this handout: http://oldwayspt.org/sites/default/files/12ways_yogurt.pdf

Healthy Recipe Monday

Potatoes are one of America’s favorite vegetables. They are a good source of potassium and you can get a little extra fiber by eating the skins. Remember to practice good portion control when consuming potatoes by sticking to ½ cup serving sizes. For a balanced meal, be sure to add a green vegetable such as asparagus, green beans, spinach or broccoli along with potatoes.

Garlic Potatoes with Fresh Herbs



  • 1 pound boiling or baking potatoes, with or without skins
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (white preferred)

1. Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut the boiling potatoes in half or the baking potatoes in quarters. Add the potatoes and garlic to the boiling water and return to a boil. Boil for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft all the way through when tested with a knife. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl and the garlic to a small plate, reserving the potato water.

2. Mash the garlic cloves. Add to the potatoes, combining lightly with a potato masher or large fork until coarse-textured. (Do not sure a food processor.) Stir in the remaining ingredients, adding a little hot potato water if needed for the desired consistency. The texture should remain coarse.

Cook’s Tip – For a taste change, substitute other fresh herbs for the rosemary and/or oregano. Parsley and sage are just two possibilities. This recipe doubles well.

Nutrition Information: Calories: 106.Total Fat: 2 g. Saturated Fat: 0.5 g. Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g. Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g. Trans Fat: 0 g. Cholesterol: 0 mg. Sodium: 80 mg. Carbohydrate: 21 g. Fiber: 3 g. Sugars: 1 g. Protein: 2 g.

-American Heart Association, Recipes for the Heart

Drive-Thru Dinners- What’s the Best Option?

We are Americans. We love baseball, 4th of July, Black Friday deals, reality TV shows and eating out. In fact, we love eating out so much, 48% of the money we spend on food is spent on food consumed away from the home. Family meal times have been transformed from the dining table to inside the minivan.



Eating out every once in a while is perfectly normal. However, when this practice becomes habitual, it can have serious health consequences. In general, meals consumed away from the home are lower in many nutrients including dietary fiber, potassium and calcium to name a few. These valuable nutrients are often replaced by meals loaded with saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. Luckily for us, fast food restaurants are slowly meeting the demands of consumers by increasing the variety of healthier menu options and creating dishes with fresh ingredients. If you are looking for healthier menu items, try following these simple guidelines.

  • Winning the war on saturated fat and sodium. It’s very difficult to find menu items that are both low in saturated fat and sodium, but you can at least find options that are lower in fat content. The easiest way to accomplish this is by not ordering anything fried. Here are some quick, easy swaps to decrease the amount of fat in your next drive-thru purchase:
Healthier Items Less Healthier Items
Grilled Chicken Sandwich Crispy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich
Soft Shell Chicken Tacos (fresca style) Hard Shell Beef Tacos
Roast Beef Sandwich BBQ Rib-eye Sandwich
Eggs/Ham on English Muffin Eggs/Bacon on Biscuit/Croissant
Single Hamburger 6 Piece Chicken Nuggets
Turkey Sub with all the Veggie Fixings Meatball Sub
Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken


  • Steer clear from chicken nuggets. For real, turn around and run away as fast as you can. A 6 piece chicken nugget meal contains 281 calories and 18 grams of fat. While 281 calories seems pretty reasonable, it’s the amount of fat that makes this selection a bad choice. After crunching the numbers, we learn that 58% of this 6 piece meal is made from fat. Doesn’t that sound strange to you? After all, chicken is considered one of the leanest and most common sources of protein in our diets. The reason for this disproportion of fat and protein falls back on the way chicken nuggets are made.
  • Try to forgo the cheese. Adding cheese to a sandwich or on a salad increases the amount of saturated fat, sodium and calories in your meal. Just one slice of American cheese adds over 100 calories and almost 9 grams of fat to a sandwich. If you absolutely cannot go without adding cheese, then try to stick to lighter varieties such as natural Swiss or Mozzarella.
  • Go with calorie-free beverages.  Sticking with water or a diet-beverage can help save you hundreds of calories and limit your intake of added sugars. Tea naturally sounds healthier than soda, but unfortunately, sweet tea packs in a whopping amount of its own calories and added sugars. Try to avoid sports drinks too. These extra calories and electrolytes are completely unnecessary outside of a sport or competition.

Cancer Nutrition Series: Dealing with Mucositis (Sore Mouth)

Cancer and its treatment can lead to a variety of side effects and discomforts. But, through proper nutrition, these effects can be alleviated. Amanda Figge, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian with Springfield Clinic, discusses the ways to eat properly while dealing with cancer.

In this video, Amanda discusses eating with mucositis, or mouth sores resulting from cancer treatment.



How to Survive Summer in Illinois

Ways you know you’re from Illinois:

  • When pronouncing “Illinois”, you know the ‘s’ is silent.
  • When asked about a famous president, Abraham Lincoln is always your first thought.
  • Horseshoe = a menu item.
  • You cried during Chief Illiniwek’s last dance at Assembly Hall on February 21, 2007.
  • You know that the weather is unpredictable.

weatherJuly 7, 2012. It was a sweltering 113°F Saturday in central Illinois. People had been cautioned to limit time spent outdoors and were advised to wear cool, lightweight clothing.

Except this girl. This sun-scorching date was my wedding day.

According to the National Weather Service, heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. This number is extremely unfortunate considering that many of these deaths could have been prevented. People most vulnerable to severe heat conditions include young children and the elderly, but don’t forget about our four-legged loved ones too!

Water consumption is one of the most important factors in protecting yourself from a heat-related injury or dehydration. What’s scary is that our bodies can become dehydrated long before we feel the urge to drink something. Water is one of the most important nutrients we need in our diet. Did you know that your body can survive weeks without food, but only a couple days without water? In order to keep our bodies in homeostasis, we need to achieve water balance. Fluid needs increase when excess fluid losses occur from exercise, fever, heat exposure, diarrhea, vomiting or trauma.

We’ve all heard the recommendation that you need eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day. When I first heard this, I thought “why eight? Why isn’t it six, ten or 14 glasses of water?” Here’s the why: one commonly used formula used for determining fluid needs is that we need one milliliter of water per one calorie consumed. The standard reference for calorie intake is 2,000 calories per day. So, that means that one needs to consume 2000 mL of water each day. Here are the conversions:

2000 mL x 1 oz/30 ml = 66.67 oz x 1 cup/8 oz = 8 cups water

Again, this is just an estimate, but at least we know now where that recommendation comes from. The Dietary Reference Intake for fluid needs for adults recommends 2.7 L/day for women and 3.7 L/day for men. Keep in mind that we can also consume fluid through our food. Warning: if your doctor has you on a fluid restriction or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink when the weather is hot.

Here are some helpful reminders for how to protect yourself with extreme temperatures:

  • Wear loose-fit, lightweight clothing, especially if you will be in the sun.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Don’t drink fluids that contain alcohol or high amounts of sugar—these can actually increase fluid losses.
  • NEVER leave any living thing—person or animal—in a parked car.
  • Try to avoid doing things outdoors during the hottest parts of the day.
  • If your home does not have air-conditioning, think about visiting your local library or taking a walk at the mall for cooler air relief.
  • Take extra precaution with certain medications.
  • Protect your skin by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

hot carIf you exercise in hot temperatures, remember to take frequent breaks in the shade and consume at least two to four cups of water each hour. For any form of exercise, your body requires training to adapt to exercising in extreme temperatures. One of the coolest sports-training techniques I have been able to witness is the climate-controlled room at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. A runner came to the scientists to see what his fluid needs would be for an upcoming marathon he was training for in Africa. In order to determine as accurately as possible his needs, they created Africa’s weather in their climate-controlled workout room. The runner was able to run on a treadmill as the scientists recorded his fluid losses and calculated what his needs would be for the marathon. If you are exercising for long periods of time in hot weather, it is a good idea to consume a sports drink with electrolytes to replace your losses. In very rare cases, too much water can cause an imbalance of electrolytes in the blood stream, which can cause serious complications.

Tips for drinking more water:

  • Seek out a personalized water bottle. Even the mere sight of a water bottle next to us can influence fluid consumption.
  • Drink and drive (water, that is). Always keep a water bottle in the car or in a small cooler for those busy days.
  • Have water with meals. We always do at restaurants, right?
  • Combine habits. Get in the habit of consuming a glass of water while doing some of your other habitual activities.
  • Add some flavor. Adding cucumber, orange or lemon slices to water gives it a light refreshing taste.

Was my wedding day ruined by the extreme temperatures? Absolutely not. The only thing that changed was that we didn’t get to have the traditional bride and groom send-off outside of the church and no outdoor bridal party photos. However, quick-thinking and improvising made “plan b” just as good.

Wedding Plan B

Wedding Plan B