There are many health benefits of yogurt; it is a rich source of calcium, protein and probiotics. However, some people who are lactose intolerant may not be able to eat dairy, or some people just don’t like the taste/texture of yogurt.
Best alternatives to yogurt
Here are some of the best yogurt alternatives, dairy and non-dairy.
Kefir type drinks have been popular for centuries in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Kefir is made from cow’s milk and is similar to yogurt. Kefir is not as thick as yogurt, and is usually more like a drink.
Kefir is similar in taste to yogurt, but will be tangier and could be sour. The benefit to drinking kefir is that it is usually higher in probiotics compared to yogurt and is a rich source of calcium like yogurt.
Most grocery stores carry kefir, and there are a variety of flavors available that can help mask the strong sour taste if you’re not used to it. Kefir can be used as a yogurt alternative that will still provide probiotics and calcium.
If you’re looking for a different texture profile for yogurt, you could try cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is similar nutritionally to yogurt in that it is high in protein and has some calcium.
If you use yogurt as a base to stir in fruit, nuts or oats, change it up with using cottage cheese as a replacement for variety. Cottage cheese can be an easy replacement for plain yogurt. Here are some ideas to add in to cottage cheese or plain yogurt for flavor:
-Chopped apples, raisins and ground cinnamon
-Berries, chia seeds and some slivered almonds
-Tomatoes, ground pepper and dried basil
-Sliced peaches or pears
Keep in mind cottage cheese and kefir are dairy products. Some people who are lactose intolerant may be able to eat kefir or cottage cheese, but some people with more severe lactose intolerance won’t be able to. See also: Health benefits of cheese
For those who can’t tolerate dairy or are cutting dairy products out of the diet, there are other non-dairy yogurts on the market. Soy yogurt contains a similar amount of protein to regular yogurt, and soy yogurts are often fortified with calcium. Some soy yogurt brands are also fortified with live cultures, similar to regular yogurt.
Most soy yogurts are vegan, which can make an easy, convenient replacement for yogurt for people going onto a vegan diet. All soy yogurt brands are slightly different, and some may notice soy yogurt can have a distinct taste.
Coconut or almond based yogurts are similar to soy in that they are dairy free and vegan. However, coconut and almond yogurts are lower in protein compared to soy yogurt. Most coconut/almond yogurts are fortified with calcium, like soy yogurts.
Coconut and almond yogurts may not have the live and active cultures (probiotics) like regular yogurt, but coconut is thought to have anti-fungal properties.
Chia seed “pudding” can have a similar texture to yogurt gooey consistency as yogurt, and is a vegan, dairy free alternative. Already made chia seed puddings are becoming more available in stores, but you can also make your own chia seed pudding. Pre-made chia seed products are usually a lot more expensive compared to regular yogurt.
To make chia seed pudding, combine about 2 c of liquid (like dairy alternative milk) with 1/3-1/2 c of chia seeds. You can add in flavorings like honey, cocoa powder, protein powder, fruit, vanilla, etc. Mix ingredients together and store in refrigerator. See also: Health benefits of Chia seeds
Watch the sugar
Keep in mind, whether it is yogurt or a yogurt alternative, these products can be very high in sugar. Check nutrition labels before buying. It’s best to buy a plain variety and add your own sweetness instead of buying something pre-sweetened.
Even plain dairy products will have some sugar in them because lactose, found in dairy, is a carbohydrate. Yogurts and yogurt alternatives can be sweetened heavily, and choosing plain and adding your own sweetener can save you many calories.
Here are some different ways to add taste to yogurt or yogurt alternatives:
-Dried or fresh fruit
-A touch of natural honey
-1 tbsp of fruit preserves and 1 tbsp of nut butter
-Add cereal or muesli to plain yogurt
-Blend plain yogurt or yogurt alternative in a homemade smoothie
Yogurt has many health benefits, but if for some reason yogurt can’t be a part of your diet or you’re looking for an alternative, there are many healthy options. Kefir or cottage cheese can be dairy based alternative, and kefir provides a source of probiotics similar to yogurt.
Non-dairy based yogurt alternatives like soy/almond/coconut yogurts are also vegan. Soy yogurt will have the protein amount most similar to regular yogurt. Coconut yogurt could provide benefit similar to probiotics because coconut may have anti-fungal properties.
Whatever your yogurt or yogurt alternative choice, watch the added sugars in these products. Buy plain flavors as often as you can. Also read: Is greek yogurt good for you?