What’s Hot in the Frozen Food Aisle?

October 15, 2014 2 comments

Before your next grocery store outing, plan ahead for you week of meals for easier shopping.

When you walk through the frozen food aisle of the grocery store you will find more and more choices for frozen meals. Back in 1954 Swanson introduced these meals as a convenience and their popularity has certainly grown since. Frozen meals can be a quick go-to and as a registered dietitian, I sometimes eat them too. Most people think all frozen meals are unhealthy, however like most foods, there are better choices. Another common misconception is that they are highly processed and very high in sodium. While all frozen meals are “processed,” it is not always the case that all brands are extremely high in sodium or unhealthy. After reading this blog on how to assess and select better frozen meals, you can be the judge!

Less Sodium
The sodium count in many frozen meals can climb to 800 to 1,200 mg of sodium. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. That said, one meal takes a big chunk of your daily sodium allowance. When a product is marketed as “light” or “lean,” it may still have upwards of 700 milligrams of sodium. Try to look for less than 600 milligrams of sodium per entree. You might be surprised to find that many of the lower sodium dinners do not come up short in the taste department. Food companies use flavorful ingredients to spice them up.

Low Saturated Fat
Excess fat and saturated fat can be a big issue with “traditional” frozen meals, especially those containing cheese such as lasagna, mac and cheese and enchiladas. Luckily there are “lighter” options to choose from. Look for 3 grams or less saturated fat per meal or sandwich.

Veggie Power
Most frozen meals are skimpy when it comes to vegetables. A typical entrée may contain at the most 1/2 cup of cooked veggies which is only one serving of the five to nine fruit and vegetable servings recommended for the day! Here are some things you can do to get more veggie bang for the buck. You can add a salad with greens, nuts and a light salad dressing. Try microwavable steamed vegetables in single serving packages, such as broccoli or green beans. Some of the newer entrees provide protein and salad fixings and all you have to do is add your own lettuce. How easy is that!

Go for Lean Protein
Our protein needs go up as we get older. Many low-fat frozen meals have 10 to 20 grams of protein that usually comes from chicken breast, fish, turkey or lean beef. When you opt for vegetarian meals the beans or low fat cheese are the main protein sources but you may only get 9 grams of protein or less per entrée. Go ahead and supplement the vegetarian meals with a non-fat Greek yogurt to bump up the protein content of the meal (it’s also a delicious dessert!).

Check out healthier frozen meal options below that contain no more than 450 milligrams of sodium and 3 grams of saturated fat per entree. They also contain whole grains.

 So if you’re in the market for a frozen meal you can indeed find healthier choices as long as you know what to look for! What are a few of your favorite frozen meals that meet the criteria for “healthy?” Please share your comments.

Learn how to navigate the grocery store with a Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian to make healthier food choices and achieve your nutrition goals. Download our brochure, call 972.560.2655 or request an appointment online. Book your tour today!

Taco Soup, Our All-Time Favorite Recipe

October 4, 2014 Leave a comment

So have you heard that October 4 is National Taco Day? According to the National Taco Day people, last year we ate more than 4.5 billion tacos. While taco is essentially the synonym for a sandwich in a tortilla, I want to take this one step further and talk about a sandwich in a bowl, what we call Taco Soup.

If you’re like me, a soup named “Taco Soup” sounds a little spooky—it connotes Tex-Mex flavors, but then I have images of previously crisp taco shells mixed with lettuce, tomato and cheese floating around! However, this poorly named soup is actually the number one, hands down favorite “go-to” recipe for legions of people who have attended our week long Cooper Healthy Living program over the years. It’s a workhouse of a dish exactly like all the various kinds of soft tacos. We incorporate leftover bits of protein with fresh crisp vegetables and salsa! But I digress.

Nutrition is a huge interest for most people, and in the Cooper Healthy Living program we spend about a third of our time either talking about food, or eating! In addition to workshops on optimal nutrition, stocking your pantry and refrigerator and dining out, each session includes two cooking schools and numerous healthy eating cooking demonstrations. This soup often turns up sometime throughout the week and so far, everyone loves this soup!

The recipe makes serious cooks scoff—definitely a semi-homemade recipe, if ever there was one! And yet it tastes delicious, healthy and somehow unhealthy all at once. You know what I’m talking about when I say it tastes “unhealthy”—it’s so delicious it’s hard to believe it’s really a terrific option when you’re trying to eat well and maybe even lose a few pounds!

When we talk with all the folks who have come to Cooper to live a healthier life, a concern for most is that they just don’t have time, or are simply too overwhelmed to figure out how to get a great, good-for-you meal on the table every night. Enter Taco Soup, dinner in a bowl.

Director of Nutrition for Cooper Healthy LivingKathy Duran-Thal, RDN, LD, was thinking about the harried home cook when she concocted this soup. This recipe is quick and easy and it’s adaptable, exactly like building individual tacos. Do you like things hot and spicy? Add a can of green chilies or a can of Ro*Tel®. Hate bell pepper? No problem, just leave it out! Does your kid think they really only like corn? Add an extra can! Want to expand the recipe as you’re having more people for dinner than expected? Again, not a problem!—Add a couple more cans of beans, corn and/or hominy.

All of us on the Cooper Healthy Living team make this recipe and we all make it a bit differently. At my house, I always use two cans of fire roasted tomatoes, a big can of green chilies and three cans of beans (usually one each of pinto, red kidney and black). I sometimes add a second can of hominy (and yes, the yellow and white taste the same). All of us like to make as big a pot of soup as possible as, sans the garnishes, it freezes beautifully.

On nights when we get home late, or are just too tired or busy to think about dinner, I pull out a dinner-for-two sized container from the freezer and pop it into the microwave. As the soup heats, I set out bowls and dig through my pantry and refrigerator for garnishes. While fresh lime, chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream are my favorites, fresh diced raw onion (any type) and pickled jalapenos are also wonderful.

In Cooper Healthy Living we teach the science of nutrition, but within the framework that healthy food should taste good and be easy and attainable. And this soup fills that bill. With a little bit of lean protein, beans for fiber, corn and tomatoes as vegetables, and a little bit of fat, this magic combination makes for an entree that will keep you full for the next 5 or 6 hours. It’s truly a perfect example of healthy eating.

If you need help in making sense out of your health and incorporating some healthier habits into your routine, think about coming to spend the week with us. Until then, enjoy a delicious bowl of Taco Soup. Share in the comments how you and your household adjust this recipe to make it your favorite soup, too!

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced (we like red)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lean (97/3) ground beef or turkey
  • 15 oz. can low sodium pinto beans, undrained
  • 15 oz. can low sodium corn, undrained
  • 15 oz. can yellow hominy, drained
  • 15 oz. can Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 package reduced sodium taco seasoning mix
  • 1 package (dry) Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix
  • Fresh lime (optional as garnish)
  • Chopped Cilantro (optional as garnish)
  • Light Sour Cream (optional as garnish)

Directions

  1. Saute yellow onion and bell pepper in olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Cook ground beef and drain.
  3. Combine vegetables and meat into a medium soup pot. Add beans, corn, hominy, tomatoes, and chicken broth (optional).
  4. Stir in taco seasoning and Hidden Valley Ranch mix. Cook until warm and combined, about 10 minutes.
  5. To serve, fill bowl and garnish with fresh lime, chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.

Nutritional Analysis
One Serving | One Cup

Calories: 134
Protein: 6 g
Fat: 1 g
Sodium: 650 mg
Carbs: 28 g

Fitness Trends

September 23, 2014 Leave a comment
Mary Edwards, MS, Fitness Director at Cooper Fitness Center

Mary Edwards, MS, Fitness Director at Cooper Fitness Center

One of the things I enjoy most about working at Cooper is the opportunity to keep learning! To that end, I try to attend as many lectures and presentations as possible, with the idea that it broadens my base of health and wellness information, and stretches my mind to learn and think about new and different ideas. (For all of us worried about dementia and Alzheimer’s, there seems to be some research that our brain, just like our other muscles is one that we need to “use or lose”!) This month, Mary Edwards, MS, fitness director and professional trainer at Cooper Fitness Center, presented the continuing education session held for the Cooper Clinic physician team.

Patients who come to Cooper Clinic are typically more physically active than the general population, so it’s not unusual for the physicians to be asked specific questions about fitness and exercise. So Mary’s presentation goal was to educate the physicians on some of the top fitness trends for 2014. As a basis for her talk, Mary referenced the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) survey completed by 3,815 health and fitness professionals worldwide. Here are some of the highlights:

High Intensity Interval Training (HITT)is the number one trend of the year. In a HITT workout, there are short bursts of high intensity work, followed by a period of recovery. The heart rate is typically at 80 to 95 percent of maximum, and the goal is to drive the heart rate quickly up, and then back down. There are all kinds of HITT programs in the marketplace – P90X (the 90-day home workout plan); Circuit Training with 10- or 15 stations that also includes cardio; CrossFit; and outdoor boot camps, are all examples that incorporate HITT.

Twenty minutes of HITT is enough time for a workout, so Mary says this exercise is great for busy people! There’s also the bonus that science shows this type of exercise helps reduce abdominal fat, an issue for many of us. The downside of HITT is that it is potentially dangerous for non-conditioned people – taking an ill-conditioned heart rapidly up and down is a recipe for disaster, so you should discuss your interest in this type of exercise program with your doctor before diving in.

Number two on the list is Body Weight Training. Exactly like it sounds, body weight training requires little (if any) equipment and is strength training that can be done anywhere. In addition to squats, lunges, push-ups, and the like, modern day body weight training typically includes core conditioning – where there’s a focus on strengthening the “core” or trunk of our body. Total Resistance Exercise (TRX) classes, which use a suspension system for exercise, are an example of a popular body weight training program. Mary provided the factoid that TRX classes were started by a U.S. Navy SEAL who wanted to stay fit in a small, confined space, so he sewed together pieces of parachute material and made straps (which he suspended) for exercise. The exerciser uses their body weight and the suspended straps for an all-over body workout. Initially called “suspension training”, the former Navy SEAL came home and built the TRX business on this initial concept.

Cooper Fitness Center members posed for a fun group shot after a ViPR workout.

Mary reported that many outdoor boot camps focus on body weight training, with potentially the addition of terrain, and/or a few pieces of equipment. Boot camp classes cover the gamut – everything from “Mommy & Me” classes to military-style classes where participants use sandbags, truck tires and logs as their exercise equipment!Another general trend is Strength Training. Mary reports that strength training has been popular since the first ACSM survey in 2007, and that this exercise is appropriate for all ages and athletic and/or conditioned ability. In traditional strength training, exercisers use their body weight plus all kinds of toys – dumbbells, kettle bells, TRX, Sandbells and ViPR equipment. Sandbells are neoprene discs filled with sand that can be used as one would typically use a free weight, but they can also be thrown, caught, slammed and gripped. ViPR, which stands for Vitality, Performance and Reconditioning, is a weighted rubber tube with built-in handholds that looks much like an oversized “pool noodle,” and is used to perform task-oriented movement patterning – for example, scooping the ViPR across and up and over the body, or potentially holding the ViPR to do a squat and then overhead raise. Watch video demonstrations from our trainers with the Sandbells and ViPR equipment. Mary also told us about how kettle bells, a weighted metal device that looks like a small purse (with handle) to me, were created in Russia back in the 1700s!

With the numbers of aging baby boomers it’s no surprise that Fitness Programs for Older Adults is another trend. In addition to balance, yoga, Pilates and resistance training (AKA strength training), fitness programs for older adults also purposefully include “brain fitness” exercises, that focus on coordinated movements. So, for example, I might hold the ViPR in front of me and do a Romanian deadlift (RDL) combined with an overhead raise and a leg raise when I do the overhead raise. If my description sounds complicated, I think that’s the point – the idea is that the exerciser really has to focus and think about what they’re doing!

Good fitness programs for older adults also incorporate lots of functional exercises, designed specifically to help us prevent from turning a “trip” into a “fall”, or building muscle strength so if we’re down on the ground we can get back up. So, it’s not a surprise that Functional Fitness was another big trend. Mary shared how the trainers at Cooper Fitness Center have been focusing on functional fitness for years – the whole focus of conditioning in the gym is to support a great life outside the gym!

Yoga class in Cooper Fitness Center’s Mind/Body Studio. Hard work happens in this calm and serene environment. The accordion doors open for fresh air and cool breeze during seasonal weather.

The economy is likely influencing the trend towards  Group Personal Training. Like it sounds, two to four people share a trainer and work out together in group personal training. Larger than one-on-one personal training, but much smaller than a traditional group exercise class, group personal training allows the exercisers to have interaction and glean support from one another, but also reduces the cost of personal training. Here at Cooper, we launched Small Group Training in February, 2014. Professional Fitness Trainers conduct the classes, and are adept at customizing exercises based on specific injuries, limitations or disability. Mary reports that Small Group Training is perfect for those who are cost-conscious as well as anyone seeking the camaraderie and support of a group. Small Group Training allows for more personalized service than in a larger traditional group exercise and many of the sessions are targeted to specific exercise goals, be it weight loss, or being lean and toned for skinny jeans!

Mary mentioned that Yoga, another trend for 2014, is part of a 7 billion dollar mind/body business segment! Some classes are technically difficult, while others focus more on the breathing and relaxing, meditative aspects of the practice. The most popular type of yoga in the United States is Iyengar, where individual poses are held.

Mary talked too, about how the fitness industry continues to evolve, with more and more focus being put on certifications and credentials. At Cooper Fitness Center, Professional Fitness Trainers hold a college degree in an exercise related field and have a minimum of two years’ work experience in addition to industry certifications. (Many of the trainers also have graduate degrees.) When the gym adds a new member, the on-boarding process includes a physician supervised exercise Treadmill Stress Test at Cooper Clinic. From there, a Professional Fitness Trainer conducts a functional movement screening developed by Gray Cook of seven tests to assess movement of the body. The seven tests are squatting, stepping, lunging, reaching, leg raising, push-up and rotary stability. Each movement is scored between zero and three points. A zero is assessed if the movement causes pain, and a three is assessed if the person performs the movement perfectly. Anyone with pain gets immediately referred out to a medical specialist for treatment before continuing any exercise. The research shows that a score under 14 is a prediction of injury if the person just jumps into exercise, without undergoing corrective work first. Gray Cook, the founder, says “first move better, then move often.”

The old advice “don’t start an exercise program without first seeing your physician” is still good advice, and all the more important if you’re committed to re-engaging aggressively with physical activity.

Cooper Offers a New Way of Doing Wellness

September 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Cooper Wellness Strategies (formerly Cooper Consulting Partners), announces a new name to align with the launch of its expanded suite of wellness offerings for employers, insurers, providers and individuals. Read the full press release here.

Earlier this week, the teammates (employees) of Cooper Wellness Strategies invited teammates from the Cooper Aerobics campus to share the exciting news!

Led by Tyler Cooper, MD, MPH, Founding Partner of Cooper Wellness Strategies and President and CEO of Cooper Aerobics, Cooper Wellness Strategies focuses on creating customized wellness plans for groups and individuals based on strategic consulting, leader training and lifestyle education, including new personalized online education programs and mobile health applications. The new name reflects the use of an expanding continuum of tools to positively impact health risk factors with market leading solutions. Cooper Wellness Strategies has serviced more than 100 Fortune 500 companies since 1995 including organizations such as Chick-fil-A, National Instruments, Devon Energy, H-E-B and Mary Kay Cosmetics.

“Cooper Aerobics is committed to creating a world where people can live longer, healthier lives. Each of our businesses focus on helping individuals of all ages and corporations reduce health risk factors based on scientific research through The Cooper Institute, “ said Dr. Tyler Cooper. “Cooper Wellness Strategies realizes communication is essential to a successful program and employers need to use their wellness dollars responsibly.”

To learn more about Cooper Wellness Strategies clients and services visit cooperwellness.com or call 972.560.3263.

 

Hoop it Up at Cooper Fitness Center

September 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Led by Basketball Pro Coleman Crawford, Fall Basketball Academy will give your kids and teens an extra “edge” the rest of the team won’t have! With 30+ years of coaching experience, Coach Crawford has the proven ability to bring out the best in young players.

Most recently, Coach Crawford returned from Hong Kong to visit friends in the basketball community to sharpen his coaching skills and learn from the large basketball community in China. Each year, he utilizes his time in August to explore international coaching to bring new techniques to the basketball program at Cooper Fitness Center. Aside from China, Coach Crawford has also visited Africa, Belgium, South Korea and several other countries to explore his passion for coaching young athletes.

Through basketball strength training, agility and footwork drills and scrimmage play players learn the mental and strategic aspects used in a game setting at Fall Basketball Academy. If you’re looking for an opportunity for your all-star player to sharpen their skills, sign up at Cooper Fitness Center, Sept. 21-Nov. 16. There is limited space available so register today!

For more information, visit cooperyouth.com/dallas or call 972.233.4832, ext. 4380.

Go Oats!

September 13, 2014 2 comments

Breakfast eaters are 30% less likely to develop obesity or insulin resistance compared to breakfast skippers.

Oatmeal is a favorite breakfast staple in my home and as a registered dietitian I recommend it to my patients on a regular basis. Not only does this great grain provide soluble fiber to lower cholesterol, it has also been found to reduce post-meal hunger for up to four hours! That’s great news for those of us who get hungry soon after eating breakfast. One study found that people who ate oatmeal were less hungry later than those who ate cold cereal. Both groups were served the same number of calories, but it’s likely that the oatmeal with soluble fiber and more protein than the other cereal helped stave off the morning munchies.

With so many choices lining the cereal aisles, what do you need to look for when making a healthy choice? Whether you select slow cooked or instant, plain or flavored, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds, nutrition goals and even match one’s morning schedule (some of us would rather not spend 20-30 minutes slow cooking oats on a busy work morning). Check out these things when reading food labels.

Calories

First look for the number of calories per serving. Most plain oatmeal with a standard one cup cooked serving size has 150 calories. Flavored oatmeal in packets or single-serve microwavable cups run the gamut for calories ranging from as low as 100 calories to a high 260 calories per serving.

Sodium

In general oatmeal is not high in sodium unlike dry cereals that can contain upwards of 300 milligrams! In fact old fashioned oats have no sodium, while a packet of instant oats can have between 240-350 milligrams. It’s ideal to get the lowest amount of sodium possible, less than 100 milligrams per serving, especially if your medical needs require that you keep your sodium count low as part of a healthy eating plan. Generally people with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes need to keep sodium below 1,500 milligrams a day. Speak with your registered dietitian to find out how much daily sodium you need.

Total Carbohydrates

Further down the list of nutrients are total carbs and sugars. If you are trying to be carb-conscious you will notice that whether you prefer plain oats or flavored, there are about 30 grams of carbs per serving. The exception is some of the “new” single serve cups (ex. Quaker® Real Medleys) that contain closer to 50 grams of carbs (and 260 calories). If you have diabetes you may need to watch carbs more closely. A registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator can work with you to match carbs for your personal meal plan to help manage your blood sugars.

Fiber

  • Dietary Fiber: Aim for at least three grams total dietary fiber per serving. This is fairly standard however some cereals can have as much as six grams of fiber. That’s more fiber bang for your buck and we know that fiber helps with fullness- another great reason to choose oatmeal as a breakfast of champions!
  • Soluble Fiber: If you are trying to lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol by as much as three to seven percent, it takes three grams of soluble fiber to clinically do that. Slow-cooked oats have a clear advantage over the instant kind. You need 1 ½ cups slow- cooked oats (equal to 3/4 cup dry) compared to three packets of instant to reach this soluble fiber goal. That’s a big bowl of oats! The downside to slow-cooked oatmeal is it takes longer to cook and if you’re like me, trying to get out the door in the morning, it’s far more convenient to cook the instant for 1 ½ minutes in the microwave. Tip: if you plan ahead you can cook some the night before in a crock pot so it’s ready to eat when you wake up.

Sugars

Sugar is an important component on labels of all cereals and oatmeal is no exception. If the sugars exceed eight grams per serving put the box back on the shelf! You will not find more than one gram of sugar in slow-cooked oats. The 100 calorie packets of OatFit by Better Oats® also has zero grams of sugar as well. My personal favorite is Quaker® Weight Control Oatmeal with one gram of sugar. The above mentioned flavored cereals are sweetened with artificial sugars keeping the sugar count low. Quaker® Lower Sugar flavored oatmeal has 4 grams of sugar and Quaker® Higher Fiber Oatmeal has seven grams of sugar. Most packets of flavored oats contain at least nine grams of sugar per packet. That’s one whole teaspoon worth!

Whether you go plain or flavored, there’s no such thing as a “boring” bowl of oats. If you want to “spice” it up here are some ideas for delicious mix-ins:

  • Fresh or frozen mixed berries
  • Chopped walnuts and sliced bananas
  • Raisins or dried cranberries and sunflower seeds
  • Sliced almonds and chopped dried apricots
  • Diced pear and ground cinnamon
  • Chopped dates and pecans

I couldn’t properly end this blog on my favorite breakfast food without sharing what I like to mix in. For crunch and texture I add about a teaspoon of nuts, either chopped pecans or walnuts and for a natural sweet flavor I throw in a handful of mixed berries. That’s what I call a great bowl of oatmeal! It leaves my taste buds buzzing and I’m satiated all morning.

How do you like your oatmeal? Please share your comments.

Carla Sottovia Named IDEA Fit’s Program Director of the Year

September 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Cooper Fitness Center’s Carla Sottovia, PhD, was recognized as IDEA Fit’s Program Director of the Year! Carla is the CooperPT Mentorship Director and Cooper Fitness Center Director of Fitness and Personal Training Education along with Senior Professional Fitness Trainer, Pilates Instructor and Wellness Coach.

To say that she is busy is an understatement and with more than 20 years of experience she is helping individuals all over the world achieve their personal wellness and fitness goals.

IDEA Fit is recognized as the world’s largest association for fitness and wellness professionals. Prior to being named Program Director of the Year, Carla was recognized as IDEA’s Personal Trainer of the Year in 2005.

Last week Cooper Fitness Center members and Cooper Aerobics teammates (employees) gathered in the newly-renovated fitness center to celebrate Carla’s accomplishment with cake and punch!

Next time you’re in Cooper Fitness Center, say congratulations and sign up to try a Pilates session with Carla.

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