My Best Bets for a Healthy Yogurt (and Giveaway!)

Yogurt is a staple in my refrigerator and I know I’m not the only one who can’t live without it. It’s full of great bacteria for your gut, is an excellent option for a morning protein punch (or snack), and can be added to your favorite dips in lieu of not so healthy condiments.

Hundreds of Yogurt Brands
Hundreds of Yogurt Brands

Despite all of its positive traits, the industry has found a way to make the majority of yogurt found in the supermarket equivalent to eating a piece of cake. Their deceiving packaging is confusing for many who view yogurt as a simple and healthy addition to a meal or snack.

The shelves are lined with over a hundred different types of yogurt, many claiming to be non-fat, low fat, and the magic pill to a slimmer waist. It’s frustrating to see commercials that associate weight loss with eating a yogurt that tastes like key lime pie. (You know what I’m talking about!) I’m not sure if they have good intentions, but I do know that our yogurt craze is turning into an unhealthy craze.

Sugar is one of the main points of contention for yogurt lovers. Yogurt does contain naturally occurring sugars (lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in milk products while fructose is a naturally occurring sugar in fruit). For example, one cup of plan low-fat yogurt has about 12 grams of naturally occurring sugar. However, it’s the added sugars that you need to watch out for such as sweeteners.

Key Lime Pie Label
Key Lime Pie Yogurt

If you look at the image below you can see that one serving of the light and fat-free key lime pie yogurt has 11 grams of sugar. Obviously, a very small portion of that is natural (a serving is 6 ounces so about 6 grams). Now, if you look at the ingredient label you’ll see that the second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, which means that’s the second largest ingredient in the yogurt. Then the 9th ingredient is aspartame. (If you don’t know what aspartame is, please check this article out. Aspartame contains three different components: methanol, phenylalnine and aspartic acid, all of which have been shown to either stimulate brain cells to death, severely disrupt hormone balances in the brain or act as a dangerous nerve poison. It also accounts for over 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA, which included seizures and death. And think of how many kids are eating these “fruity” yogurts everyday because it’s “good for them.”) Then there’s Yellow #5 and Blue #1, which both are chemicals derived from petroleum (yes, the stuff you put in your gas tank in your car). They have been show to have long-term health problems such as asthma, skin rashes and migraines.

So after reading what’s actually in your yogurt that tastes like something it’s not, I want to share with you the good news – you can still eat your yogurt, get all of the benefits for your gut flora and consume a lot less sugar with no artificial ingredients. All you have to do is choose the right yogurt and most importantly, always read the ingredients!

greek-yogurt-berries
Simple and Healthy

First off, the probiotics in some yogurts balance the micro flora of your gut which can you keep you regular and maintain a balanced digestion system. Now, you’re not going to get the benefit of yogurt bacteria in those popular “low fat, low carb, lose 10 lbs. immediately by eating 15 grams of added sugar” yogurt. What I recommend is purchasing plain yogurt, either regular or Greek style, and then sweetening it with some honey or your own fruit. You’ll save on the calories and know exactly what is in your yogurt so you’re not wondering why you waistline won’t go down or why you’re experiencing migraines everyday even though you’re eating what the marketing companies have touted as “healthy yogurt.”

Here are some of my favorite brands:

Stonyfield Organic Greek Yogurt – Stonyfield is a home run for those looking to purchase organic. They pride themselves on being “obsessively organic” and offering consumers tasty, wholesome and nutritious food. This is a mainstay in my refrigerator.

navigating-the-yogurt-aisle-Siggis-plain-pg-fullSiggi’s Icelandic Style Skyr Plain Yogurt – This has become another favorite. Skyr, pronounced “sk-eer” is the traditional yogurt of Iceland that has been made for over 1,000 years. It’s rich and creamy with a high protein count; actually it’s the highest ratio of protein to sugar of other flavored yogurts. In the plain yogurt, there’s only 4 grams of sugar (all naturally occurring) and if you want to try their other flavors such as orange and ginger (one of my favorites) there’s only 9 grams of sugar, 14 grams of protein and 100 calories. On top of that, the milk is made from grass fed cows in upstate New York without the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), they use no aspartame, sucralose, gelatin, artificial colorings, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and they’re certified gluten-free. In one two words: deliciously healthy.

Fage Greek Yogurt – Simple and delicious. Fage is one of my favorite Greek yogurts; one serving has 7 grams of sugar and is all naturally occurring. No added sugars here! All you get is milk and live active yogurt cultures.

Noosa Finest Yoghurt  –  This rich and creamy Aussi style yoghurt that is made in Colorado was a surprise home run for me. It’s definitely a treat with 11.5 grams of sugars in a serving of the honey noosa, but it’s flavored with honey and organic cane sugar. Basically what you would be adding to your yoghurt at home.

Yogurt Giveaway!

In honor of my rant on yogurt, I’m giving away a Siggi’s gift package of gift certificates, coupons, and a free 40-minute health consultation to the first five people who comment below.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on yogurt!

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Who Keeps Me Healthy?

The other day I was asked by the American Recall Center to share my own story about “Who Keeps Me Healthy?” So many people come to me for nutrition advice, that it’s interesting to think about the person or people who keep me on my toes. I had some thinking to do.

My Husband and Layla, Leading the Way

I thought back to when I made my first conscious decision to optimize my own health. I’ve always had a passion for food and health, but when a loved one gets sick, it somehow always cements the point and pushes you onward and upward.

Growing up, my grandparents mainly cooked “old fashioned” meals of mashed potatoes, vegetables, and meat. I remember it also being sprinkled with some fast food treats and my favorite, cinnamon twirls. I’m not sure exactly what it was that caused the cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease, but I knew that somehow, it was related to how well you treated your body. (This is not to say that my grandparents ate unhealthy foods, actually they ate pretty well, always with their grandkids in mind). Then and there, I decided I would take care of my body to the best of my ability and enjoy my life, all so I could live a long and healthy life.

Cooking for My Family
Cooking for My Family

I realized that just like any other relationship, how you treat your body is how your body will treat you. Treat it well, with the best of food, exercise, and mindfulness and you’ll be rewarded with a relationship that flourishes. Treat it like a garbage dump and you’ll eventually land there too.

Flash forward a few years; I began to sense how my own body began reacting differently to certain foods, while others would allow me to operate at an optimal level. My body wasn’t able run on “junk” without stalling. Days of eating bagels and cream cheese for breakfast were updated to steel cut oats with apples and peanut butter or my “smoothie of the day.” It was a gradual process, but one that my body is still thanking me for.

Staying Happy and Healthy
Staying Happy and Healthy

Today, I don’t just stay healthy, both physically and mentally, for myself, but mainly for my family. I want to put my best self forward so I can support them in whatever they need now, tomorrow, next week, next month, and 10, 20, 40 years from now. Whether it’s my husband who’s looking for a healthy and delicious meal, my dog who desperately wants to go for a run everyday, my dad who’s looking to lower his high blood pressure, or my brother who wants to supplement his training with healthy meals, I have made a commitment to be there as their guide to living and enjoying a healthy life.

So in honor of the American Recall Center’s “Who Keeps You Healthy” campaign, I want to thank my family for keeping me on my toes and being my “Health Hero.” I may drive you crazy when I tell you the sugar content of that power bar you’re about to tear open or how much sodium is in that white bread or when I try to sneak in vegetables to your meal, but in the end I know I’m not only keeping myself healthy, but you healthy too. After all, what’s the point of staying healthy if no one is enjoying the ride with you?

To my family, you continue to come to me for advice, challenge me with countless questions, and make me realize the importance of staying healthy.  Thank you for fueling my passion, being my inspiration and being my own “Health Hero.

“Bee” Well,

Melissa

Winter Health: Staying Happy and Healthy with Vitamin D

Winter has shown very little signs of relenting in the Northeast. In Philadelphia alone, a 130-year-old record was shattered when, for the first time in history, the city had four different 6+-inch snowfalls in one season. However, it’s the bitter cold that has driven many of us into hibernation and some of us into having the winter blues.

130213_AF_BearHibernation.jpg.CROP.article568-large
We’re All Sick of Hibernating

This winter we’ve experienced below freezing temperatures for days at a time, high wind gusts, and overcast days. As a New Jersey resident, I expect snow and cold, however, when it comes on without any 40-50 degree breaks, it can be extremely depressing. Well, since we’re, yet again, in a bitter cold blast as the reporters like to say, I wanted to share my favorite “Winter Pick Me Upper” that will leave you feeling a little brighter. After all, spring is just around the corner!

Vitamin D – The Winter Blues Cure?

One of the best supplements to add to your routine, especially in the winter, is vitamin D. Our body needs the sun to produce vitamin D, however depending on where you live, the recommended levels can be almost impossible to achieve with the winter sun. The hormone is made in the skin after being exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light. Even in the summer, when the sun is out the longest and at its peak, many people still don’t get enough vitamin D because many sunscreens block the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Don’t get me wrong, wearing sunscreen is an absolute must in the sun, however going out during off peak hours for just 30 minutes (morning or evening) without sunscreen can help you rev up your vitamin D levels.

Staying Happy and Healthy for Spring's Arrival
Staying Happy and Healthy for Spring’s Arrival

So I’ve told you how difficult it is to get the recommended levels of vitamin D in your system, but why would you care and what does this have to do with staying happy in the winter? Well, I’m happy you asked! vitamin D has been shown to increase brain health and emotional well-being. According to Dr. Weil, “Receptors for vitamin D occur throughout the brain, and it appears to play an important role in the development and function of that organ, including the activity of neurotransmitters that affect mood.” Not surprisingly, low levels of vitamin D are related to seasonal affective disorder.

Not only can vitamin D elevate your mood, but it can also help you combat the flu and the common cold. Countless studies have continued to find the extraordinary benefits that vitamin D provides. One study found that vitamin D tempers the damaging inflammatory response of some white blood cells, while it also boosts immune cells’ production of microbe-fighting proteins.

These are just two of the many ways vitamin D supports your body and immune system.

Adding Vitamin D to Your Diet

TWL-01224-1Now the next question becomes, since it’s almost impossible to get naturally, how do you achieve the proper levels of vitamin D in your diet? And there’s only one answer – supplements. Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get your daily dose by eating foods rich in vitamin D. Some great options are adding fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, fortified milk or juice, egg yolks, liver, and my favorite, cod liver oil to your daily diet. However, the best way to make sure you’re getting your vitamin D levels is by adding a supplement to your diet. I take about 2,000 IU per day (from a combination of my multivitamin, vitamin D, and cod liver oil).

Farm Fresh Eggs
Farm Fresh Eggs

Always be sure to check with your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet, an excessive intake of vitamin D (what excessive actually defines is different according to many doctors some put it at 4,000 IU while others are well above 10,000 IU) can cause problems such as kidney damage. You can also contact me for more information and guidance.

If you’re feeling blue this winter, try adding some vitamin D to your diet. It will leave you feeling happier and healthier, just in time for spring’s arrival!

‘Bee’ Well,

Melissa
info@MBeeWell.com