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Skyr Yogurt: Why You Don’t Always Have to Go Greek

Skyr YogurtI love to travel. Besides the sights and sounds of a new place, one of my favorite things is to experience new food. I think I love visiting grocery stores in foreign places about as much as I like museums and natural wonders. I know, it’s weird, but I enjoy learning about how other people live, and a huge part of that is how they eat.

Recently I was fortunate enough to take a quick trip to Iceland (sans kids!) for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. It was a bit of a whirlwind; some might say not worth it for just 4 short nights, but that was still time to experience the flare and food of another culture.

One food I noticed right away was the abundance of Skyr yogurt. I had seen and tasted this in the States, but of course I wanted to taste it in the Motherland. Given I have a dairy sensitivity this was no small consideration, but I ate it and enjoyed every bite (paid for it later, but that’s another story).

What is Skyr yogurt? As you might guess, it is similar to Greek yogurt in many ways, but don’t tell that to someone from Iceland. Technically it’s not even a yogurt but more of a smooth, soft cheese made with skim milk fermented with Skyr culture. It’s then filtered to concentrate the protein. Greek yogurt on the other hand, traditionally uses full fat milk and different cultures but is also filtered to increase the protein. Similar, yet different.

The other thing about true Skyr yogurt? It’s made from the milk of Icelandic cows feeding on Icelandic grass. You can’t replicate this product elsewhere and get the same product. You just can’t. A few producers in the States have tried, but of course it will never be considered a true Skyr yogurt by the people who invented it.

So all that to say, I tasted it … and it was delicious. Creamy and tangy, especially when mixed with homemade granola. Dairy sensitivity be damned. I was going to enjoy this rare treat. Apart from using it as you would a regular yogurt like I did, I’m told Icelandic folks also use it for dips, as a beverage, and as a topping for desserts.

If you want to try this high protein treat for yourself, apart from buying a ticket on Icelandic Air (which is not a bad idea I might add), you will have to make due with the “inferior” products on the market here. I say “inferior” only because it may not be the exact same thing, but let me just say it’s pretty close. The one exception? I recently read that Skyr Iceland is now exporting to select Whole Foods in North America, so it is possible you might find the real deal … for a price. Other US-based options include Siggi (my kids LOVE this one), and Smari. Both are produced by Icelandic expats with a clear love for the yogurt of their homeland. Both also use high quality milk from family farms and add very little sugar compared to typical yogurts. In fact, Smari says they only use grass-fed milk, which is awesome. Like I said, it may not be the same, but it’s pretty darn close.

So, are you ready to ditch sugar-laden yogurts for something healthier? Then I recommend having a browse for Skyr yogurt next time you are at the grocery store. If you are a client, ask me for a Siggi’s $1 off coupon next time you stop by. If you try it, let me know what you think! Let’s support these small producers who are doing the right thing and getting healthy, low sugar dairy products on the market!

About Danielle VenHuizen

Registered Dietitian, Certified LEAP Therapist