Pumpkin: A Healthy Seasonal Option

October 26, 2016 Leave a comment

Pumpkin is a key ingredient in many holiday recipes. Did you know pumpkins are really a fruit, and the flowers are edible? They are 90 percent water and a good source of fiber. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a clear sign that it is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene, which is eventually converted to vitamin A in the body. Beta- carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and may protect against heart disease. Pumpkin is also a terrific source of potassium.

When it comes to pumpkin production, Illinois smashes the competition. About 90-95 percent of the processed pumpkins in the United States come from Illinois. Morton, Ill. is known as the pumpkin capital of the world. Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the U.S. is available in October. When it comes to the pumpkin market, Libby’s takes the cake…or in this case, the pie or parfait.  Approximately 5,000 acres are planted each year exclusively for Libby’s. Pumpkins can be boiled, steamed, baked, roasted and microwaved.

There is a difference between pumpkins you eat and ornamental pumpkins. Ornamental pumpkins possess decorative appeal. Bright orange, smooth flesh pumpkins are perfect for carving. A few varieties offer uniquely colored flesh or warty texture in an array of colors. Look for pumpkins labeled as “pie pumpkins” when purchasing pumpkins for consumption.

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts: 1 cup cooked

  • Calories: 49
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrate: 12 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Potassium: 564 mg
  • Vitamin A: 2650 IU

This Pumpkin Parfait recipe is delicious! It is thick, creamy and light, and a perfect addition to your holiday and winter dessert menu.

Article provided by Kathy Duran-Thal, RDN, LD, Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.

Healthier Pasta Options

October 17, 2016 Leave a comment

By Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE, Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services

Is there really such thing as healthier pasta? Absolutely! From a nutrition standpoint, many types of pasta have a lot to offer as long as you know about smarter options and correct portion sizes. So, pasta lovers, before you pull out your cooking pot, learn what to put in your grocery cart.

Health Benefits of Pasta

Energy: Carbohydrates found in pasta convert to glucose, which is your body’s prime energy source. Selecting complex carbohydrates such as those found in whole grain pasta offers a slower release of sugar, which keeps you fuller longer. Look for higher fiber varieties.

Vitamins: White pasta products are stripped of their whole grain component and then enriched (nutrients are added back in) with folic acid, iron and several B vitamins. Whole grain pasta is superior to white and is naturally higher in fiber.

Heart Healthy: Naturally low in sodium and fat, pasta can be a heart healthy choice. Too much sodium and fat can cause higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels which contribute to inflammation, heart disease and other health problems.

Protein: This is a bonus feature found in some of the “newer” pasta varieties containing legumes, chickpeas and edamame. These offer a noteworthy amount of protein–in some cases, as much as what is found in 2-4 ounces of cooked chicken or fish.

Different Pasta Options

Think outside the pasta box by trying different varieties. Look for higher fiber and protein numbers. A standard serving is 2 oz. (dry) which makes 1 cup cooked, averaging 200 calories. If you’re calorie conscious, try not to consume more than this amount.

Nutritional Guide for Pasta Types (per 1 cup cooked):

  Fiber (g) Protein (g)
White pasta 2 7
Veggie pasta 2 8
Quinoa pasta 4 4
Whole wheat pasta 6 7
White wheat pasta 6 6
Protein pasta 4 10
Chickpea pasta 8 14
Edamame pasta 12 27

Below are the specifics with brands and their comparison to white pasta:

Veggie Pasta (i.e. Ronzoni) – Don’t be fooled by the “veggies.” The spinach and zucchini puree don’t add anything to the fiber value, matching the 2 grams of fiber found in white pasta. Note there is one extra gram of protein.

Quinoa Pasta (i.e. Ancient Harvest) – Made from a blend of corn and the “ancient” grain quinoa, this pasta is gluten-free for those who are sensitive to gluten. Since it’s a blend of these grains, it is not as high in protein as quinoa itself, but it does have a more desirable texture. The same amount of quinoa has 8 grams of protein per serving as compared to 4 grams in this product.

Whole-Wheat Pasta (i.e. Barilla) – Made from 100 percent whole wheat, one cup cooked has about the same protein as white pasta but has three times as much fiber.

White-Wheat Pasta (i.e. Barilla White Fiber) – White wheat is actually a whole grain with the same fiber count as whole wheat. It’s lighter in color and milder in flavor, much like white pasta, which makes it an appealing choice.

Protein Pasta (i.e. Barilla) – This pasta is made from a blend of wheat (but not whole wheat), oats and legumes. The legumes drive up the protein to 10 grams per cup and the fiber is double that of white pasta.

Chickpea Pasta (i.e. Banza Chickpea Shells) – This clever take on pasta is high in fiber and protein thanks to chickpeas and pea protein. One serving has an impressive 8 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein (as much as in 2 oz. of cooked chicken).

Edamame Pasta (i.e. Seapoint Farms) – Power-packed with protein and fiber and made exclusively from soybeans, edamame pasta is loaded with more protein (27 grams) than any other on this list.

Sauce Recommendations

Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian Nutritionists agree that one of the best tomato sauces is made by Cucina Antica. Hard to beat in both taste and nutrition, it is widely available in stores and online. Use this breakdown for the Cucina Antica Tomato Basil Sauce to compare against other sauces. The main components to look for are fewer calories and less sodium, but it’s also helpful to look at smaller amounts of sugar.

Cucina Antica Tomato Basil Sauce:                  Classico Tomato & Basil Red Sauce:

½ cup serving                                                            ½ cup serving

40 calories                                                                   45 calories

1.5 grams fat                                                               0.5 grams fat

240 mg sodium                                                         400 mg sodium

6 grams carbohydrate                                             8 grams carbohydrate

1 gram sugar                                                               5 grams sugar

Partner Pasta with Healthy Options

  • To save calories and add nutritional value, swap out half of the pasta called for in a recipe for double the vegetables. So instead of 2 cups of cooked pasta, use 1 cup of pasta and 2 cups of vegetables such as zucchini, carrots or broccoli. This adds volume and lots of filling fiber to your plate and reduces the overall calorie count.
  • Add a lean protein such as diced chicken or extra lean ground turkey breast. You can also go vegetarian with edamame or dried beans to pump up the protein in the dish. Serve with a large salad for extra quantity and color.
  • As an alternative to sauce, lightly drizzle with heart healthy olive oil, toss in fresh or dried herbs and garlic and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese. This makes for a delicious lower sodium dish.


Off the Court with Tennis Pro Corey Noel

October 14, 2016 Leave a comment

corey-noelCatching Cooper Fitness Center Tennis Pro Corey Noel anywhere outside of the courts can be a challenge, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. With more than 15 years of experience coaching tennis and a variety of tournament championships under his belt, Corey brings expertise and focus on the game to adults and children alike through Cooper Fitness Center’s tennis programs. Get to know Corey on a more personal level:

When were you first introduced to tennis?

I started playing tennis when I was 15 years old, which is a little late to begin. I joined my high school team and loved it! It’s never too late to try a new sport, especially a lifelong sport such as tennis.

What is your favorite memory of playing tennis?

I once played a match in college in which my opponent was very unpleasant and bickered quite a bit. The official eventually came out and gave him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. We continued playing, and I won. Immediately after the match ended, my opponent was upset about losing and was issued another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Since our match was over and the rules called for the penalty to be applied to another match, the official gave the penalty to his teammate playing on another court. The teammate then lost his match as well. I like to say I won two matches at once because of the incident!

What is your favorite memory of coaching tennis?

Coaching is challenging. I once had a job of coaching a high school tennis team full of beginners. We had 12 students on the team, and by the time the season ended, eight of them went to the state championship. It was extremely rewarding to see the improvements they made that season as individuals and a team.

Who has been your biggest influence in the world of tennis?

My college coach, Bryan Whitt, helped me develop as a player and later helped me kick off my career as a tennis pro. He has offered me plenty of coaching advice over the years, and still coaches at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Who is your biggest role model?

My dad is my biggest role model, because he is kind and respectful in all circumstances. He fully lives by the rule of treating others as you would want to be treated.

What’s your favorite workout, other than playing tennis?

I love to cycle. I’m usually very competitive when it comes to sports and exercise, but riding a bike is one of the only times I’m able to let go and just enjoy the activity.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment professionally? Personally?

On the personal side, I’m proud of how I paid for my degree myself. I worked all through college and never had to take out a student loan. As a professional, being named Tennis Pro at Cooper has been incredible, and it was also amazing to be selected to sit on the Dallas Professional Tennis Association Board of Directors.

If you could play a match against one tennis celebrity, who would it be?

Andre Agassi. He’s always been my favorite player.

How long have you worked at Cooper?

Three years.

What is your favorite part about working at Cooper?

The people at Cooper are amazing and very friendly. Everyone here is passionate about exercise and self-improvement, which is a culture you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

What would you tell someone who is new to playing tennis and looking to improve their game?

Learning to play tennis is all about commitment and repetition. Get out on the court three or four days a week or as much as possible in order to work on all aspects of the game. It can be tough, but well worth it.

What’s your favorite thing to do in down time when you are not on the courts?

What’s down time?! Just kidding! I like to relax and watch TV or Netflix, and I’ve been traveling more.

If you weren’t coaching tennis, what other profession would you have gotten into?

I actually studied to be a teacher, so I would likely be teaching high school English and coaching tennis at the high school level.

What do you believe you teach/offer besides just technical tennis skills (i.e. confidence, teamwork in doubles play, etc.)?

As a coach, I try to teach problem solving. Tennis is the only major sport in which coaches are not allowed to actually coach during a match, so it’s important to teach my players independence and how to make decisions to improve their game on their own. There’s a lot of psychology that goes behind the game of tennis.

Corey points out that one of the most important things to know about tennis is that it’s a sport anyone can play, no matter of age, gender or experience. This makes it different from most sports, but is what he likes most about it. He says it’s rewarding to see his students grow and pick up new skills quickly, and then enjoy playing tennis as a lifelong sport.

For more information about Corey and the tennis programs at Cooper Fitness Center, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com or call 972.233.4832, ext. 4311.

Fighting Childhood Obesity through Play


Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Unhealthy kids are growing into unhealthy adults, causing a major health care problem in the United States.

When it comes to helping kids form healthy habits, it’s best to start young. Studies have shown that different types of exercise affect a child’s mental capacity in a variety of ways. A simple 20-minute walk can immediately affect a child’s attention, function and academic success. However, the reverse is true for highly structured, rule-based exercise, such as a sport or coordination drills. This type of exercise may be too taxing for children immediately before a test or other activity that requires sustained focus. Instead, higher intensity exercises seem to build a child’s attention span gradually over time. Children who are physically fit perform better in attention tests–even small improvements in fitness lead to noticeable changes in the brain.

Participating in sports or other fitness-driven activities, especially right after the school day, can be a natural and less forced outlet to allow children to build up their attention span while having fun. Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! program combines fitness, sports, movement and games to help improve athletic performance for this purpose. In the long run, children are learning how to focus for future tests and other tasks that require concentration.


Kids develop athletic skills during Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! program.

Various studies have linked academic performance to overall health and fitness in children. Data taken from students in California show the following relationships between fitness and academics:

  • Higher levels of fitness = increased math testing scores
  • Higher levels of fitness = increased language arts testing scores
  • Healthier lunches = increased math and language arts testing scores
  • Higher levels of fitness = higher school attendance rate
  • Higher levels of fitness = fewer negative school incidents

A study of more than 2.4 million Texas students found that students who are physically fit are more likely to do well on the state’s standardized tests and have higher school attendance. Physically fit students are also less likely to have disciplinary problems. The Cooper Institute developed FitnessGram, the first “student fitness report card,” in an effort to improve school physical education programs and children’s health.

“The impact exercise has on the growing brain is unparalleled,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics. “Increased exercise improves cardiovascular health, and that helps the brain function more efficiently and enhances its ability to learn.”

Playing sports such as tennis or basketball can help children improve their attention while also helping them reach a higher level of fitness, which is beneficial to them at both a young age and as they grow into adults.


Improving skills on the court with Cooper Fitness Center Tennis Pro Corey Noel.

It is recommended that students do at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity every day, with more than half occurring during regular school hours and the remaining outside of school. Estimates suggest only about half of U.S. children meet this guideline.

Cooper Fitness Center offers various after-school youth programs to help kids get up and moving while boosting their brain power. Learn more about sport-specific programming and other youth programs at cooperyouth.com/dallas.

Stand Up to Cancer Through Prevention

September 9, 2016 3 comments

By: Cynthanne Duryea, RDN, LD

According to a study from JAMA Oncology, half of all cancer deaths are preventable. This is great news, but currently in the United States one person per minute loses their life to cancer. We must empower ourselves through cancer prevention, education and making lifestyle changes to lead healthier lives.

American Cancer Society (ACS) serves as one of many resources for Stand Up To Cancer and provides “Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity” to prevent overall cancer risk. The four cornerstones are:

  1. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life. However, for those who are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has benefits and is a good place to start.
  2. Be physically active. Specifically, ACS recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week, ideally spread throughout the week. Sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, television watching and other forms of screen-based sedentary entertainment should be limited.
  3. Eat a healthy diet, with emphasis on plant food. Further advice in this area includes:
    • Choose foods and drinks in amounts that help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Limit the amount of processed meat (such as lunch meats and cold cuts) and red meat in your diet.
    • Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits daily, amounting to 5-9 servings.
    • Choose whole grains over refined grain products.
  1. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake. ACS recommends no more than one drink per day for women or two per day for men.

Some of these recommendations may seem familiar, as they overlap some of the guidelines for healthy blood pressure, optimal heart health and diabetes prevention. So, following them not only reduces your overall cancer risk, but can prevent other chronic diseases. The key is how to implement these guidelines.

My Story and Experiences

As a registered dietitian nutritionist who is a breast cancer survivor, I now view nutrition and fitness quite differently than I did prior to my diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong….I ate purposefully for the most part, aiming to eat a variety of nutritious foods and only eating more indulgent foods on the weekends. I have also always enjoyed being physically active, but my diagnosis changed the way I think about food and activity.

Although I have maintained a healthy weight most of my adult life, I am at an age where this is more of a challenge than ever before. As much as I enjoy sweets, my intake has been markedly decreased. Savoring a special sweet treat on a weekend is much more rewarding than grabbing some ordinary boxed cookie from my pantry regularly…and results in not consuming extra calories routinely.

Exercise, as mentioned earlier, was something I always did for stress relief, bone density improvement and to preserve muscle mass. But now I view exercise as a soldier that will help me fight off cancer risks, and vast research proves the power of exercise in the war against cancers. So, rain or shine, tired or energetic, I diligently plow through workouts, visualizing the strength I gain from exercise to beat cancer and win.

I also pay a bit more for minimally-processed meats with no added nitrites to use in sandwiches. Ideally, when time allows, I slice up freshly-prepared meats for sandwiches instead of packaged lunch meats.

Colorful fruits and vegetables are my plant “superheroes.” They contain nutrients and antioxidants that can decrease cancer cell formation and actually inhibit the growth of microscopic cancers. Now I hyper-focus on fruits and vegetables, recognizing they are part of my “armor” in the battle of avoiding reoccurrence.

My grain choices have primarily been whole grain for years, but now I aim to have all my grain products be 100 percent whole-grain products. I also enjoy experimenting with various grains in the kitchen.

Cynthanne’s Personal Strategies and Favorite Food Products to Fight Cancer

For minimally-processed sandwich meats:

  • Applegate Natural and Organic Meats
  • Use freshly sliced prepared meats/poultry as a Deli meat replacement.

To ensure a minimum of 2 ½ cups of vegetables and fruits (but the more the better!):

  • Create “meal patterns” such as one fruit serving at breakfast; one vegetable serving at lunch; one fruit serving as part of afternoon snack; and one fruit and two cups of cooked or raw vegetables with dinner. Added bonus–when ordering an entrée salad out, ask for spinach as your lettuce greens to boost the nutrient content.
  • Favorite food products:
    • Any unsweetened frozen berries/fruits to add to smoothies
    • Reduced sodium canned beans
    • Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 (a colorful blend of eight fresh vegetables finely chopped; sold in the refrigerated produce section; makes a fantastic Asian slaw with added edamame and slivered almonds).

To increase whole grains:

  • Uncle Sam’s Cereal and Post Shredded Wheat are both low sugar cereals and are 100 percent whole-wheat products. Topped with berries, they are satiating powerhouses.
  • Ezekiel Breads. My personal favorite is toasted Ezekiel Cinnamon and Raisin bread topped with almond butter and sliced banana.
  • Ronzoni Healthy Harvest 100% whole-grain pasta. Top it with a bottled marinara sauce of your choice for ease, but add fresh mushrooms, diced bell pepper, canned tomatoes and sliced olives to add more nutrients.
  • McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal with Bob’s Red Mill Oat Bran cooked together with diced apples, pears and assorted dried fruits added to the cooking water. Topped with nuts, this makes a most satisfying breakfast!

These are just a few practical ideas I hope help you implement the American Cancer Society Guidelines and lessen your cancer risk as well as other disease risk. Bon appetite!

For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

Cooper Connections at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games

The closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games is finally upon us, following countless displays of athleticism and sportsmanship these past two weeks.  The United States leads the final medal count, with American athletes earning 121 total medals – 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze. We take a look back now at some fun facts and Cooper connections to the celebrated Olympic Games through the years.

  • Did you know Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper was selected to participate in the Olympic torch relay through Arlington, Texas, for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia? Prior to every Olympic Games, the Olympic flame is transported with the Olympic torch from Greece to the designated host city via the Olympic torch relay.DrCooperOlympicsTorchRelay
  • This year was the first time that Brazil served as host for the Olympic Games. Dr. Kenneth Cooper has visited Brazil many times and first traveled to Brazil to train the Brazilian national soccer team with Coach Cláudio Coutinho in 1970. That year the Brazilian national team went on to win the World Cup, and because of Dr. Cooper’s introduction of aerobic exercising to Brazil, in Brazil they refer to “jogging” as “Coopering” or “doing your Cooper.”
  • The five Olympic Rings symbolize the five regions of the world: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas. At least one of the colors of the Olympic rings – blue, yellow, black, green and red – appears in every flag in the world. Dr. Cooper’s message has reached almost every corner of these regions; his 19 books have been sold in 52 countries and translated into 40 languages. The most recent book, Start Strong, Finish Strong, was co-authored with his son, Tyler Cooper, MD, MPH, President and CEO of Cooper Aerobics.
  • Of the 28 sports in the Summer Olympics, Cooper Fitness Center Sports Pros offer training in five of these sports – aquatics, basketball, boxing, martial arts and tennis. You may not be an Olympian, but you can certainly train like one at Cooper.
  • The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” When translated from Latin to English it means “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Most athletes make use of the top five aerobic exercises – cross-country skiing, swimming, running/jogging, outdoor cycling and walking – in their training to help them build endurance for optimal performance. Training with one of our 28 professional fitness trainers at Cooper Fitness Center can help you become faster, higher and stronger.
  • There is no limit to the number of athletes a team can bring to the Olympics; nations can bring any and every athlete that qualifies. Did you know Cooper Fitness Center Boxing Pro Derrick James accompanied boxer Errol Spence, Jr. to the London 2012 Summer Olympics? 


    Fitness has been the foundation of Dr. Cooper’s teachings since 1968 when he coined the term “aerobics” and sparked an international fitness revolution. We hope you’ll learn more about Cooper Aerobics and Dr. Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized as the sun sets on the Olympic Games in Rio and the countdown begins for the next Olympic Games – 547 days and counting until PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, followed by Tokyo 2020 for the next Summer Olympic Games.

What Cooper Fitness Center Sports Pros Love About the Olympics

Every four years, the Olympic Games provide an opportunity to watch the best athletes in the world compete against each other and showcase their incredible skills. Cheering your country on to victory brings about a sense of patriotism and appreciation for physical fitness that is unmatched.

Cooper Fitness Center Sports Pros are no exception–they love the summer and winter Olympics alike, and each of them has special memories of specific games. Learn more about our Pros’ favorite Olympic moments below, and make sure to comment and share your favorite Olympic sports and what you’re most looking forward to seeing take place in Rio this year.

What is your favorite Olympic sport to watch?

Who is your all-time favorite Olympic athlete?

  • Mike: Rafer Johnson (Track & Field)
  • Marni: Michael Johnson (Track & Field) – I got to see him set records at Baylor in the late 1980s.
  • Corey: Venus Williams (Tennis)
  • Coleman: Jessie Owens (Track & Field)
  • Derrick: Muhammad Ali (Boxing)

If you could compete in an Olympic sport, which one would it be?

  • Mike: Fencing
  • Marni: Cross country skiing (Biathlon)
  • Corey: Well, besides tennis…swimming.
  • Coleman: Basketball
  • Derrick: Boxing

Do you have a favorite Olympic memory?

  • Mike: I attended the 1960 Olympics in Rome, where I had the opportunity to meet Rafer Johnson.
  • Marni: When Muhammad Ali lit the torch at the 1996 games in Atlanta!
  • Corey: 1992 Dream Team. Michael Jordan and those guys were incredible.
  • Coleman: 1992 Dream Team. It was the first time all professionals from the United States participated in Olympic basketball.
  • Derrick: I went to the 2012 Olympics in London, where one of the boxers I train was competing.

What do you like most about the Olympics?

  • Mike: The overall patriotism and positive attitude of athletes and spectators.
  • Marni: I love the fact that amateur athletes who have worked so hard have the opportunity to come together to compete, and it’s their chance to perform their best. It’s their time to shine!
  • Corey: I like all the patriotism. It’s nice to see the country come together and work together toward a common goal.
  • Coleman: The Olympic Games are an opportunity for all countries to compete on a level playing field. The games give athletes a chance to compete against other talented athletes from all over the world, who they may not face in other competitions.
  • Derrick: The Olympics are in the name of sports and friendship. It’s the greatest event in the world.

For more information about Cooper Fitness Center’s Sports Pros and sport-specific training, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com/ProZone.