In defense of yogurt

Eating dairy may be the secret to slimming down and toning up. Yogurt mogul Siggi Hilmarsson shares suggestions for thinking outside the carton.

We've long suspected that yogurt may be the perfect food: high in protein, low in carbs and sugar — if you opt for plain, that is — and, perhaps most importantly, portable. But with every celebrity swearing off the stuff in the name of health (read: weight loss) and every new diet saying you should ditch it, dairy has been getting a bad rap.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition, however, we shouldn't discount dairy quite so quickly — since it may actually help, not hinder, the slim down/tone up process. For four months, study participants did five days of cardio and two days of strength training per week; half ate a low carb, high protein diet rich in dairy and the others downed dairy-free low carb, high protein foods. The verdict: those who dined on dairy lost twice as much belly fat and tacked on more lean muscle than the dairy-free group.

So, grab that yogurt and go. But what’s the best way to eat it daily without getting bored? We turned to Siggi Hilmarsson, the founder of Siggi’s skyr yogurt, an Icelandic-style variety known for being high in protein and low in sugar. Click through the slideshow above for his favorite ways to eat the stuff — from a smoothie recipe to a savory dipping sauce.

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  • Cooling Condiment

    Cooling Condiment

    Hilmarsson lives near Tribeca's highly regarded Pakistani Teahouse and loves its Chicken Jalfrezi. When he orders delivery, he dollops plain yogurt on top to chill down the dish's spiciness. "It works equally well with Mexican food as a substitute for sour cream," he says.

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  • Easy Appetizer

    Easy Appetizer

    Hilmarsson makes spelt blinis as a holiday dish for friends and family. "I like to dollop them with Plain Skyr that has chopped red onions and capers mixed into it," he says, "then top them with some smoked salmon."

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  • Sweet Dessert

    Sweet Dessert

    Roast figs in the oven and caramelize sliced almonds in a tiny amount of butter on the stove to make Hilmarsson's favorite dessert. "I pile the almonds warm on top of the roasted figs with, you guessed it, a large dollop of Plain Skyr (around one tbsp. per fig.)," he says. "The temperature and flavor contrast is awesome.”
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  • Bedtime Snack

    Bedtime Snack

    Hungry late at night? Skip the ice cream and go for yogurt with decadent flavor instead. "I like our Orange and Ginger as a snack before bedtime," says Hilmarsson. "I generally need something at night, and it’s easy to digest and satiating without being heavy."

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  • Sandwich Spread

    Sandwich Spread

    Hilmarsson adds a touch of creaminess to his favorite sandwich (turkey, avocado, tomato and sprouts) with a layer of plain yogurt. "I like to add freshly chopped herbs, like basil, chives and thyme and use it as a sandwich spread,” he says.
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  • Fruit Smoothie

    Fruit Smoothie

    After his weekly Tuesday-night basketball games or a hard workout, Hilmarsson says this smoothie recipe is "a must."

    Throw the following ingredients in a blender:

    ½ c. coconut water
    Handful of frozen strawberries
    1 banana
    1 c. Siggi’s Blueberry Skyr
    1 scoop of protein powder (Hilmarsson likes Jarrow unflavored whey protein), if desired.

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  • Breakfast Parfait

    Breakfast Parfait

    If granola with yogurt is your go-to, mix things up with Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal. Says Hilmarsson: "I usually start the day with two cups of Grapefruit Skyr (it's hard to say but I think it’s my favorite) with Ezekiel's, walnuts and fresh blueberries from the fruit stand by our office."

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