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Greek Yogurt Information and Recommendations

Do you love Greek yogurt (Greek-style yogurt)? It’s all the rage these days…pushing regular yogurt to the back of the shelf. In fact, it accounts for 1/3 of the yogurt in a typical grocery store. It’s thick and creamy, satisfying and, if you choose wisely, a very healthy snack choice or meal accompaniment. That said, don’t go crazy just yet – there is a huge difference among brands. Educate yourself before you buy. Greek yogurt brands are NOT all equal when it comes to taste, quality or nutritive value.

Greek Yogurt: Traditional versus ‘Faux’

Greek yogurt is traditionally made by straining regular yogurt to remove some of the liquid whey, leaving behind the thick, concentrated solids. This process increases the protein content significantly (15 to 20 grams per 6-oz. serving) but slightly decreases the calcium content (15 to 20% of the Recommended Daily Value or 150 to 200 mg of calcium per serving). Strained Greek yogurt is very similar to Icelandic-style skyr.

Faux Greek-style yogurt is made by adding thickeners to regular yogurt, such as inulin, cornstarch, gelatin and/or pectin. Manufacturers may add whey protein concentrate to bump the protein content up. If not, it will offer the same amount of protein as traditional yogurt, about 6 to 8 grams per 6-oz. serving. More protein per serving is one of the main benefits of choosing Greek yogurt! Unstrained yogurt with added thickeners also contains the same amount of calcium as regular yogurt (25 to 30% of the Recommended Daily Value or 250 to 300 mg per serving).

Greek Yogurt: General Nutrition Information

Greek yogurt can vary in calories, particularly depending upon whether or not you choose sugar-sweetened. Personally, I recommend steering clear of artificially sweetened Greek yogurt, which tastes a bit ‘too’ sweet. Most light varieties are usually made with a combination of artificial sweeteners. These days, folks are second-guessing whether loading up on artificial sweeteners is wise as new research emerges. You can stay conservative on calories, without limiting yourself to only light Greek yogurt varieties.

Most Greek yogurt varieties range from ‘bite-sized’ 3.5-oz servings all the way to generous 8-oz servings. Therefore they range in calorie content, starting at 90 calories and going all the way up to 280 calories. Per serving, Greek yogurt also varies in saturated (bad) fat content, ranging from 0 to 12 grams; a protein content of 6 to 20 grams; a calcium content of 100 to 350 mg and a sugar content of 1 to 4 tsp (includes natural and added sugars). In general, Greek yogurt is lower in carbohydrate than regular yogurt (comparing plain, non-flavored varieties). Stay tuned for ‘Best Picks.’

Our ‘Best Picks’ piece will include a review of dairy-free, lactose-free Greek yogurt substitutes, made with cultured almond, rice or soy milk.

Drawbacks? For those who do not like Greek yogurt and prefer traditional yogurt, particularly more exotic flavors as well as ready-to-eat puddings, etc., may be in a bind. Companies, such as Danone (makers of Oikos) and Stoneyfield Farm are being forced to limit production and eliminate less popular flavors of traditional yogurt to keep up with the Greek yogurt craze…to read more on this in an article published online (Wall Street Journal).

Runners Diet: Best Foods to Fuel Your Run

Everyone, including athletes, should consume a well-balanced diet and a runners diet is no exception. Important dietary factors tied to running performance include how much (quantity), meal timing and specific food selection. Regardless of whether a run in short or long, an adequate intake of carbohydrates is essential for providing energy (the body’s preferred source of energy). However, protein plays an important role in a runners diet since it is needed to build muscle tissue. Many protein-rich foods contain nutrients which enhance muscular function – essential for any runners diet.

Runners Diet Basics

A serious and motivated runner should never underestimate the importance of meal structure and timing when planning his menu. Calories will vary. Carbohydrates are a key player in a runners diet but are hardly the only player. In general, a runners diet should be composed of, on average, 60% of calories from carbohydrate, between 15 and 20% from protein (up to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass or 1/2 gram per pound of total weight), and 20 to 25% fat, primarily foods that offer ‘heart-healthy’ unsaturated fats such as fish, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils and other plant foods. A runner should fuel herself often, eating at least 3 meals and 2 healthy snacks daily. A runners diet should also include a light meal 30 to 60 minutes before a run (on average 200 calories) and a heartier meal within 60 minutes post-run (moderate protein content [at least 15 grams] to repair and re-build muscle tissue).

Important Nutrients in a Runners Diet

Protein, vitamin D and the major minerals potassium and calcium (all found in dairy products) work together to maintain proper muscle function. Vitamin D binds to muscle tissue receptors to promote growth and strength. Another major mineral, magnesium aids in muscle function (contraction and relaxation) while manganese, a trace mineral, works as a ‘helper’ for certain antioxidant enzymes that assist in repairing damaged muscle tissues. Iron and zinc, two trace minerals, are also important in a runner’s diet. Iron helps transport oxygen to muscle tissues and zinc is important for muscle metabolism. Foods rich in these nutrients include lean meats and fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains and leafy green vegetables.

Runners Diet: Pre-Run Meal Suggestion

The optimal runners diet begins with a nutritious pre-run breakfast composed of mostly carbohydrate, some protein and little fat. One suggestion includes 1/2 of a whole-grain English muffin (toasted) topped with 1 TB peanut butter, 1/2 banana and 6-oz. Greek-style yogurt mixed with 1 teaspoon of honey and at least 12 oz of water. This mix of foods and nutrients fuels a run better than a meal composed of only carbohydrate (toast, fruit and juice).

Post-Run Meal Suggestion

A runners diet should include be a heavier, ‘recovery’ meal (within 60 minutes of workout completion). A chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato and 1/4 sliced avocado, 8 oz low-fat chocolate milk and fruit is one suggestion. Pasta is a good post-run meal as well. Just choose whole-grain and limit it to about 2/3 cup, cooked and topped with 2 tsp. olive oil. Pair it with 4 oz grilled fish and lots of non-starchy veggies that are high in absorbable calcium, such as broccoli and bok choy.

All athletes ask about protein supplements and protein powder. You can choose one a part of a healthy runners diet but avoid the low carbohydrate, ultra-high protein powders and look for a whey-based formula. A runners diet wouldn’t be complete without discussing hydration. Drink plenty of plain water and sports drinks as needed for long runs.