Going Greek may sound like you’re pledging a fraternity or sorority, but at Schneck Medical Center, it’s a healthier way of cooking and eating.

Staff from the hospital’s nutrition services department recently presented a midweek program at the pavilion during the Jackson County Fair on the multiple benefits and uses of Greek yogurt.

Attendance was down at the annual cooking show July 29 due to the temperature in the mid-90s and heat index more than 100 degrees.

But the hot weather didn’t keep registered dietitian Leslie Kendall and intern Rachel Dupire, a graduate student at Ball State University, from demonstrating some cool ways to incorporate Greek yogurt into your diet. 

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“Thinking about it, I probably shouldn’t have picked Greek yogurt knowing how hot it was going to be, but a lot of people ask about it, and there’s a lot of benefits to it,” Kendall said.

One of the biggest benefits is that Greek yogurt is a high source of protein, Kendall said.

“Eating a lot of protein can help maintain lean muscle mass and a healthy weight,” she said.

The yogurt doesn’t have to be the main ingredient in the recipe to get the full benefits of using it, either, Kendall added.

“It may just be a small part of it, but we tried to pick simple recipes that are practical,” she said.

Those recipes included Greek yogurt pancakes, corn and zucchini tacos, garlic mashed potatoes with chives and Greek yogurt and peanut butter cup banana smoothie.

Greek yogurt originated in Greece but has become popular in recent years in the United States with a variety of flavors available at local grocery stores.

There are many differences between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt, Kendall said.

“The consistency is thicker, and that’s because they strain it more than they strain regular yogurt,” she said. “So you’re taking out the liquid, and it’s getting thicker.”

Often, it has a tangy and more bitter taste, too.

“Some people don’t like it because of that,” Kendall said. “They want their yogurt to be really sweet.”

But Greek yogurt also has a higher concentration of protein and less fat, she added.

The low fat content can help to decrease the risk associated with heart disease and help with weight maintenance.

Greek yogurt also is a great source of calcium for bone health, muscle contraction and nerve function and vitamin D for bone health, calcium absorption and heart health, Kendall said.

So how can you add more Greek yogurt into your life? Simply by using it as a substitution in many recipes, she said.

For example, Greek yogurt can be used in place of mayonnaise in chicken, ham, tuna, egg or potato salad. It can also be mixed with powdered sugar and vanilla extract to make icing for cakes and cupcakes.

Other ideas include using it to make a creamy sauce for a pasta dish, a healthy smoothie with fresh fruit, with peanut butter for a nutty dip and freezing it for kids.

In preparing the mashed potato recipe, Kendall said the Greek yogurt replaces other ingredients and mixed with the chives gives it a baked potato flavor.

“There are different mashed potato recipes out there, some have chicken broth, some use sour cream, but we’re going to put the Greek yogurt in there,” Kendall said. “It’s kind of like using sour cream, but there’s more protein, more calcium, less fat and calories. So that’s the benefit of it.”

When using Greek yogurt to make pancakes, it keeps them moist and gives them added flavor but helps keep calories down and is higher in protein.

The added protein also makes it more filling, she said.

“And you can make it whatever you want, flavor-wise,” she said. “I used mixed berry yogurt because that’s what I had on hand, but I think vanilla or strawberry would work, too. You can make it different every single time you make it if you want.”

Kendall said this was her 10th year being involved with the hospital cooking show at the fair, which was started by Jane Schepman, who retired last year.

“We wanted to continue that tradition,” Kendall said.

She was a 10-year 4-H member in Orange County, which led to her career as a dietitian.

“I took the foods project for 10 years and found I was interested in nutrition,” she said. “So this feels like home to me.”

Going Greek with Greek yogurt recipes

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

1 egg

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup fresh blueberries

5.3 oz. Greek nonfat yogurt, any flavor

Mix yogurt and egg in medium bowl until blended and smooth. Add flour and baking soda and stir until dry ingredients are mixed. The batter will be thick.

Preheat griddle to medium heat. Spray with nonstick spray. Use a ¼ cup measure to scoop batter into the pan. Spread each of the batter scoops into a circle. Place a few blueberries or other toppings on top of each pancake. Cook for about 3 minutes or until golden brown, then flip and cook other side for about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.

Yield: 5 servings

Serving size: 1 pancake

Nutrition: 135 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 6 grams protein, 276 milligrams sodium and 24 grams carbohydrates

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Chives and Greek Yogurt

2 pounds russet (or other) type of potatoes

1 teaspoon sea salt

5 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup chopped chives

black pepper to taste

Peel and cut potatoes into ½-inch pieces. Bring potatoes to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes can be pierced with fork.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add butter to skillet and allow to melt, and then add minced garlic. Stir frequently and cook for about 2 minutes or until soft and light gold. Remove from heat and set aside.

Drain potatoes with colander. Pour potatoes into a large bowl.

Add the garlic butter mixture to potatoes. Mash to break down pieces of potato.

Stir in the Greek yogurt, remaining salt and black pepper. Continue mashing potatoes to desired texture.

Stir the chives into the potatoes and then place in a serving dish and serve warm.

Yield: 4½ cups

Serving size: ½ cup

Nutrition: 100 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 15 grams protein, 272 milligrams sodium and 19 grams carbohydrates

Corn and Zucchini Tacos

1 tablespoon olive oil

2¼ cups frozen corn or 3 ears fresh corn, cut from husk

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon hot chili powder

½ cup minced sweet onion

1 medium zucchini, diced into ½-inch pieces

2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced into ½-inch pieces

1 tablespoon fresh, minced oregano

¼ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

¼ cup salsa

6 corn tortillas, 6-inch shells

In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil over medium heat. Add corn and saute for three minutes. Add the cumin and chili powder saute for 2 minutes. Remove the corn mixture from skillet.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and add onion. Saute the onion for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the zucchini and saute for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute for 2 minutes. Add the oregano and saute for 1 minute. Stir in the reserved corn mixture.

Divide the corn mixture among the warm tortillas. Top each taco with 2 teaspoons Greek yogurt and 2 teaspoons salsa.

Yield: 6 servings

Serving size: 1 taco

Nutrition: 100 calories, 3.5 grams fat, four grams protein, 112 milligrams sodium and 17 grams carbohydrates

Peanut Butter Cup Banana Smoothie

1½ cup Greek yogurt, nonfat, vanilla

3 tablespoons peanut butter, reduced fat or 2 tablespoons PB2 peanut butter substitute

1 cup skim milk

1 banana

1 to 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened

Cut banana into small pieces. Place in freezer for 30 minutes

Measure Greek yogurt, peanut butter, cocoa powder and milk. Set to the side.

Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend to preferred consistency.

Yield: 3 servings

Serving size: 8 oz.

Nutrition: 245 calories, 7 grams fat, 19 grams protein, 173 milligrams sodium and 31 grams carbohydrates

Nutrition services at Schneck Medical Center

Nutrition Services at Schneck Medical Center

Diabetes Self-Management Training

Provides overview of diabetes, complications, medications, glucometer testing and basics of nutrition and meal planning. The two-hour session is taught by a registered nurse/certified diabetes educator and a registered dietitian. Physician referral is required.

Call 812-524-3365 or email lharrison@schneckmed.org

Weight Management/Nutrition

Schneck offers a comprehensive weight management and lifestyle program, covering essentials for healthy eating, physical activity and behavior modification strategies for success. Physician referral is required.

Call 812-522-0456 or 812-522-0718 or email lkendall@schneckmed.org

On the Web

To watch this year’s fair cooking show in its entirety, visit Schneck Bariatrics on Facebook.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.