I'll admit it: I'm an addict. I get a fix nearly every day, and I feel a little bit off if I don't. I'm talking about Greek yogurt, people, and I know I'm not the only one out there. You too are likely bordering on addiction yourself, and it's people like us who have grown the Greek yogurt industry to 2 billion dollars a year.
Maybe it's the creamy, rich consistency, or the slight tang that we love so much. Or perhaps you're drawn to Greek for the added protein, health-boosting probiotics or versatility – it can be used in savory or sweet recipes. Whenever I'm in SoHo, I find myself inexplicably drawn to 150 Prince Street, which is where the Chobani store is located. If you haven't been, it's a gorgeous little storefront that serves delicious Chobani concoctions like figs, honey and walnuts in dreamy glass bowls. And you'll often find a line of addicts out the door.
There's good news for those of us who love the tangy stuff: There are increasingly more brands and varieties of Greek yogurt being launched all the time, as well as their cousins, kefir and skyr, which is an Icelandic yogurt. Whether you're going for a traditional Greek yogurt, or want to try something new, you can find high-quality stuff nearly wherever you go these days. It's also fantastic news for the area where I was raised – upstate New York – which has been dubbed the "Silicon Valley of Yogurt" for being the fastest-growing yogurt producer in the country.
You may already be familiar with Siggi's, founded by a then-29-year-old Siggi Hilmarsson, the first Icelandic-style yogurt to be introduced in the United States. Smari is the latest Icelandic creation, started by another enterprising young man, Smari Asmundsson. Smari's skyr is made from organic milk from grass-fed Jersey and Guernsey cows who pasture in Wisconsin. While it's similar to Greek yogurt in texture and protein content, skyr is always made with non-fat milk. The plain variety, Pure, tastes a lot like sour cream, and is very filling at 20 grams of protein per 6-ounce container. The strawberry, blueberry and vanilla flavors are sweetened with organic cane sugar and range in calories from 120 to 140, and offer 17 to 18 grams of protein per serving.
Another new entrant into the Greek yogurt category is Evolve. You may know the company for its kefir, which is cultured milk. Their new product is spoonable Greek kefir, which is made by mixing 12 cultures into pasteurized, 1 percent low-fat, rBST-free milk. (Recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, is a hormone that causes dairy cows to produce greater quantities of milk. There's been controversy around whether it's safe and healthy.) The milk mixture is then incubated to create drinkable kefir and strained (like Greek yogurt) to produce a thick, higher-protein product. While plain Evolve definitely has a tang to it, the flavor is a bit softer than the Smari. Each 5.3-ounce container has 90 calories, 1 gram of fat and 16 grams of protein. They also make strawberry, peach and blueberry with 120 calories, 1 gram of fat and 13 grams of protein per cup.
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Taking a more decadent turn in the dairy aisle is Noosa Yoghurt, which is Australian in style but made in Bellvue, Colo. The company says Aussie-style yoghurt has a "uniquely sweet/tart tang and thick, velvety texture." I'd have to say that while it is thick-ish, it's nowhere near the spoon-supporting levels of Greek yogurt. It's more like a medium thickness, but Noosa sells it in lovely 4-ounce tubs, which make it feel much more like a personal dessert. It's made with a combination of rBGH-free pasteurized milk, cream and skim milk, along with fruit (awesome flavors like passion fruit and strawberry rhubarb), which sends the fat to 6 grams per serving. Since it's not strained, you won't get the protein wallop that we've come to expect from Greek. It only provides 5 grams a serving. But I have to admit that I have fond memories of eating yogurt while sitting on the Australian surf when I lived there, and for that, I will be indulging in Noosa every now and then.
[Read: Unusual Uses for Greek Yogurt.]
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Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, is a best-selling author and nationally recognized health expert, and the former Food and Nutrition Director at Health magazine for nearly eight years. Prior to that, she was part of the editorial team at the Discovery Health Channel and was managing editor at FoodFit.com. Frances is the author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide and co-author of the best-selling The CarbLovers Diet and The CarbLovers Diet Cookbook. Her cookbook, Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family will be published in January 2014. Frances earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York.