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Best Foods to Fuel Your Workouts

July 6, 2015 2 comments

blogFood is fuel, and this is especially true when you’re exercising. Whether or not you’re an athlete, the goal is to maximize your body’s potential by feeding it the right foods before, during and after your workouts. Nutrition makes a big difference in not only how you feel, but how you perform–aim for leaner, faster and stronger!

In general, try to eat “whole” foods instead of processed foods. For example, grab a piece of fruit instead of drinking fruit juice or eat a Greek yogurt instead of a protein shake. You don’t need packaged foods to get the best bang for the buck! However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t opt for convenience bars or shakes when you’re in a time crunch.

The three macronutrients in the diet include carbohydrates, protein and fat. These play unique roles when it comes to exercise. First, carbohydrates are the best fuel source for your muscles because your body requires and absorbs them fairly quickly. You need carbs before your workout. Second, protein plays an important role in muscle recovery and is critical after your workout, but not as a stand-alone fuel source. You need a combination of protein mixed with carbs to maximize your recovery and fuel muscle repair and glycogen storage. Studies indicate we should strive to refuel after a vigorous workout within 30-45 minutes.

Pre-workout foods:

  • Fruits
  • Fruit smoothie (e.g., fat-free yogurt blended with berries)
  • Low-fat or fat-free yogurt (regular or Greek variety)
  • Plain English muffin, toast or a mini bagel
  • Oatmeal or other hot cereal
  • Snack bar (ex: Kashi Chewy granola bars, Nature Valley bars or Nutragrain bars – skip the very high fiber bars with more than 4 grams of fiber)

Note: Avoid too much fiber prior to working out because it may cause gastrointestinal distress. And beware of too much fat (ex. peanut butter) because it digests slowly and is not as efficient in getting energy to your muscle quickly enough to use during your workout.

Mid-workout foods:

  • Energy gels or chews
  • Low-sugar sports drink
  • Small serving of plain crackers
  • Low-fiber granola bar

If your workout lasts less than one hour, you may not need to refuel until afterwards. If you’re putting in a longer workout (such as a long walk, run or bike ride), use quick pure-carb options like those mentioned above.

Post-workout foods:

  • Fruit with a low-fat cheese stick
  • Fruit with peanut or almond butter
  • Greek yogurt and low-fat granola
  • Peanut butter or cheese toast
  • Protein smoothie (fruit blended with Greek yogurt and optional unsweetened almond milk)
  • One cup low-fat 1% chocolate milk
  • Half of a turkey sandwich
  • Trail mix (mix nuts with your choice of dried fruit)

Your body will perform at its peak with the right type of fuel, so experiment with various options. What works well for one person may not work as well for the other. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey of working out and have fun!

To get a tailored plan from a Cooper Clinic registered dietitian nutritionist, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

 

Categories: Cooper Updates

Refreshing Summertime Foods

CherriesSummer is here, and there’s no better time to lighten up your meals with some refreshing foods. Enjoy these delicious low-calorie picks that begin with the letter “C.”

Cherries

Sweet cherries include the popular Bing and Rainier varieties that are ripe for the picking from May to August. Sour or tart cherries are only available for a week or two in June. Select firm cherries with stems attached and refrigerate up to 10 days.

Twelve cherries have only 51 calories and almost 2 grams of fiber. They are a good source of vitamin C and potassium.

Tips to enjoy:

  • Create a cherry shake by blending with a banana and fat-free vanilla yogurt.
  • Make a fizzy cherry spritzer by combining cold seltzer, ice, water and pureed cherries.
  • Grab a handful of washed whole cherries for an on-the-run snack.

Corn

Summer is not complete without corn on the cob! Corn is at its peak of freshness when picked from the stalk, so try to purchase at your local farmer’s market. Refrigerate corn with husks on or use within one or two days.

Corn contains a good amount of B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Its sweet flavor makes it seem high in calories, but there are only 80 calories in a small ear along with 3 grams of fiber.

Tips to enjoy:

  • Make a corn relish as a summer side dish by combining with chopped red bell peppers, red onion and tomatoes.
  • Skip the butter and add flavor with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and herbs, such as chili powder or cayenne pepper, for a kick.
  • Throw corn on the grill to really bring out its natural sweet flavor. Go easy on the butter and use light butter or buttery spray instead.

Cucumbers

The expression “cool as a cucumber” is not without merit. Cucumbers can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. No wonder they are such a refreshing summer vegetable!

Cucumbers are also one of the lowest calorie and carb vegetables per cup on the market, with only 8 calories and less than 2 grams of carbs per ½ cup sliced. Refrigerate in a plastic bag and eat within a week.

Tips to enjoy:

  • Create a “cool” coleslaw by adding thinly sliced, peeled and seeded cucumbers to your favorite slaw recipe.
  • Stuff cucumber slices in a whole wheat pita along with chopped tomatoes and red onions. Don’t forget the turkey for a summer sandwich treat.
  • Did you know that you can even sautee cucumbers and serve warm with a dash of chopped dill!

Cantaloupe

These orange melons are high in vitamins A and C, and offer a good source of folate and potassium. Pick only fragrant, symmetrical fruits with yellow or cream undertones. Refrigerate cut melon in an airtight container for up to 5 days or store at room temperature for up to one week. One cup of cantaloupe balls has 60 calories and about 15 grams of carbohydrate.

Tips to enjoy:

  • Create a light summer salad by combining cantaloupe, mangos and avocados with red onion, a splash of 100 percent orange juice, lime juice and cilantro.
  • Make melon popsicles by pureeing cantaloupe with a dash of sugar and lime juice. Pour into molds and freeze.
  • Cool off with a chilled melon soup. Puree cantaloupe and add a hint of lime juice and mint.

For more information about how to use these foods and others in creative, yet healthy, ways, check out the great recipes on our website.

Categories: Cooper Updates

Spring into Seasonal Produce

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This spring, fill your refrigerator with some fresh produce standouts that mark this time of year. Buying seasonally is optimal to receive the richest nutritional benefit and highest quality products because there’s less transport time from farm to table. Here are some tips on what to look for this season.

Asparagus

  • These spring spears come in several colors: green, white and purple.
  • They are good sources of fiber, folate, potassium and vitamins A, C, E and K.
  • A half cup serving (or 5 spears) contains 2 grams of fiber and only 20 calories.
  • To properly store asparagus, wrap the stem ends in damp paper towels for several days. To further extend their freshness, refrigerate the stalks with the tips side up in a cup of shallow water.
  • Enjoy grilled, roasted or sautéed using a small amount of olive oil, or simply steam and then season with a dash of sea salt for a low-calorie side dish.

Peas

  • There are three types of peas: English (or green), snow (Chinese pea pods) and snap (or sugar snap) peas.
  • English peas, sometimes called sweet peas, can be eaten raw, but are often served cooked.
    • The pods need to be removed before eating, unlike their counterparts.
    • They are higher in protein and fiber with a 1/2 cup cooked containing 62 calories, 4.4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.
    • You can find them in frozen individual serving size containers for a convenient microwave side dish.
  • Snow peas are flat and contain very small peas inside, but the whole pod is edible.
    • They are a classic ingredient in stir-fry recipes.
  • Snap peas are a cross between snow peas and English peas and can be eaten whole in their pods.
    • You may need to remove the stringy seam before eating, but stringless varieties are also available.
    • This popular pea (and my personal favorite) is a delicious crunchy snack or steamed side dish.
    • Both snow and snap peas have a similar nutrient profile: one cup raw has 26 calories, 2.5 grams of fiber and 1.8 grams of protein.

Radishes

  • As a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, radishes are available year-round, but are smaller, sweeter and crunchier in spring.
  • They are one of the easiest and fastest vegetables to grow in your garden, which is perfect for novice or young budding gardeners!
  • One cup of sliced radishes has only 19 calories.
  • Proper storage is the key to retaining flavor and freshness of these little bulbs. They can last up to a month in the refrigerator!
    • Cut the tops off the radish and leave ½ inch of the stem attached to the top of the bulb.
    • Place them in a perforated plastic storage bag or open plastic bag to allow for air circulation.
  • Beyond serving crunchy radishes raw in salads or as a low-calorie snack, try incorporating them in stir-fry recipes, soups and stews.

Strawberries

  • These sweet-seeded berries are in their peak from April to June.
  • They are a nutrition powerhouse for vitamin C–exceeding 100 percent of our daily recommended needs.
  • Strawberries are also a good source of folic acid, potassium and fiber.
  • For only 55 calories per cup (or eight medium-sized berries), they offer 3.5 grams of fiber.
  • Strawberries are best when purchased from a local source because they tend to retain their sweetness when handled delicately, and they tend to endure less damage during a shorter transport.
  • I enjoy sliced strawberries on fresh spinach salads, but you can also indulge in a bowl with a light whipped topping for a guiltless dessert!

Other Spring Produce Stars:

  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Fava Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Rhubard

What are some of your favorite springtime vegetables and fruits?

Categories: Cooper Updates

Low Calorie Pasta Swap: Shirataki!

March 12, 2015 1 comment

Who doesn’t love pasta! But an average serving contains so many calories and carbs that most of us either splurge to the point of excess or skimp to the point of deprivation. What if there was actually a noodle that was low in calories and can satisfy your carb cravings? Introducing the Shirataki noodle.

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What are Shirataki Noodles?

Tofu Shirataki noodles are translucent, gelatinous Japanese noodles made from konjac yam. They come pre-cooked and pre-packaged in small refrigerated bags. Though a bit watery at first with a slight odor, once prepared, these noodles absorb the flavors of what they are cooked in. Because they are pre-cooked, their consistency and texture is softer than regular noodles. They come in fun shapes like fettuccine, spaghetti, macaroni, and angel hair (but watch out for the tangles in the angel hair!). Once only found in Asian markets, you can now buy them in many grocery stores in the refrigerated section, by the produce, near the tofu and other vegetarian items.

How to Prepare:

There is an art to preparing these little noodles, but it’s fool proof if you follow a few important steps:

  • Empty noodles into a strainer, and rinse them with running water to get rid of the liquid in the package.
  • Dry them as thoroughly as possible by blotting very well with paper towels. Remove as much liquid moisture as you can- this is VERY important!
  • Cut up the long strands with kitchen shears- it’s actually pretty fun!
  • Heat noodles for a minute or two in the microwave or in a skillet on the stove. Blot noodles once more if you use the microwave.

Shirataki Nutrition Facts:

Per serving (4 oz., ½ bag):

10 calories, 0.5g fat, 15mg sodium, 3g carbs, 2g fiber, 0g sugar, <1g protein

There are a lot of recipes available using these “magical” noodles. Explore a range to fit your taste, such as Low Mein, Fettuccine Alfredo, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Chicken Pad Thai, Shrimp Scampi with Fettuccine, and the list goes on. Remember to use low fat ingredient swaps for healthier leaner pasta dishes. Also, bulk up your entrée with tons of veggies for a filling, satisfying dish that rivals other high calorie pasta meals!

So now you really can have your pasta, and eat it too!!

Categories: Cooper Updates

Heart Health Boosting Foods

February 17, 2015 Leave a comment

This month we celebrate heart health. There are many powerful foods that deliver big benefits to reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are a few super-stars that you may want to incorporate into your routine. All of these foods are loaded with heart-protective components that will keep your heart strong and pumping.

Salmon
This fatty fish ranks high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats may reduce inflammation throughout the body which can cause damage to your blood vessels and lead to heart disease. These healthy fats may also lower cholesterol, blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and risk for heart failure. Try to eat fatty fish, like salmon, two to three times a week.

Blueberries
These berries are bursting with antioxidants, specifically the phytonutrient polyphenol. Anti-oxidants are potent substances that reduce inflammation in the body and reduce the risk of heart disease, along with other chronic diseases. Add blueberries to yogurt or smoothies. Frozen blueberries are just as nutritionally packed as fresh!

Avocados
Everyone loves avocados! These fruits are packed with mono-unsaturated fat that bumps up your good HDL cholesterol and lowers risk of heart disease. Recent research shows a link between consuming avocados daily and reducing bad LDL cholesterol. Avocados also contain vitamin B 6 and folic acid which are also beneficial to your heart. Enjoy avocados in salads or as a sandwich spread instead of mayo several times a week.

Walnuts
Walnuts contain a wealth of omega-3 fats in the world of nuts. If you’re not a fan of salmon or other fatty fish, this is a great way to fit these fats into your diet. Walnuts also contain vitamin E which is an antioxidant that may protect your heart. Enjoy walnuts on salads or as a crunchy snack. Try to eat nuts at least 3 times a week- 4 or five times is even better!

Oatmeal
Oatmeal is good news for your heart. The type of soluble fiber in oats, beta-glucans, forms a gooey mass in your stomach, trapping cholesterol and transporting it out of the body before it can get absorbed into your blood, thus lowering your LDL cholesterol levels. It takes about 1 ½ cups of cooked oatmeal (equal to ¾ cups dry) to get the maximum benefit. Try to eat oatmeal several times a week. Top with blueberries and walnuts- two other star foods on the list!

For information on nutrition consultations at Cooper Clinic visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

Bean Basics

January 20, 2015 1 comment

Depending on the variety, a half cup of cooked dry beans has about 120 calories, 7-8 grams protein and about 6 grams fibKnower.

Known as nutritional “powerhouses,” there are so many reasons to celebrate beans! Beans are low in fat and high in fiber and protein and also serve as good sources of folate, calcium and iron. Beans fit under not one but two food groups: vegetables and meat/protein. Nutritionally higher in carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables, beans also count towards the goal of getting 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Benefits of Beans

Weight:
Beans promote a healthy weight because of their high protein and high fiber content. Fiber creates a feeling of fullness that keeps you satisfied from one meal to the next. Depending on the variety, a half cup of cooked dry beans has about 120 calories, 7-8 grams protein and about 6 grams fiber. Check out the nutrient profiles for several beans in the table listed.

Reduce risk of disease: Research has shown that eating just a half a cup of beans several times a week helps reduce your risk of heart disease. There are also correlations between eating beans and reducing risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

How to Fit Beans into Your Routine

  • Pick a meatless meal (like the popular Meatless Mondays) for the week and use beans for your protein.
  • Buy frozen, dry or canned beans- they are all healthy! Rinse canned beans to reduce sodium by almost 40 percent.
  • Reduce gas-producing side effects with the following tips. If you are cooking dry beans, discard the soaking water and rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking. Take Beano, an over-the-counter gas remedy, prior to eating your first bite.
  • Kidney beans are great for chili and three-bean salad.
  • Pinto beans can be refried for dips or served as side dish. They are also popular in stews. You can buy fat-free refried beans for a healthier option.
  • Navy beans are perfect in soups, stews, or baked beans.
  • Lentils are great in soups and stews.
  • Garbanzo beans can be tossed into salads or used to make hummus dip.

Nutrient Profiles of Various Dried Beans: (Per ½ cup serving)

Baby Lima   Black Beans Black-eyed Peas Baby Lima Beans Pinto Beans Red Kidney Beans
Calories 114 calories 100 calories 115 calories 118 calories 109 calories
Carbohydrates 20g 18g 21g 22g 19g
Protein 8g 7g 7g 7g 8g
Fiber 4g 6g 6g 6g 4g
Fat 0g 0g 0g 0g 0g
Sodium 0g 3mg 3mg 2mg 4g
Iron 2mg 2mg 2mg 2mg 2mg
Folate 128mcg 179mcg 137mcg 147mcg 65mcg

You really can’t go wrong with any type of beans. Try incorporating these little gems into your routine and you will reap all the potential health benefits. Set a goal; aim to eat beans 4 times a week!

For information on Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services call 972.560.2655 or visit cooperclinicnutrition.com.

Saluting Spaghetti Squash: A Power Food

December 30, 2014 2 comments

Ten fruits/vegetables a day will help lower blood pressure (from potassium) and can cut a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer by almost half.

Winter is the perfect time to try out different varieties of fall and winter-type squash. There are many to choose from and some of the popular standouts are acorn, butternut, pumpkin and spaghetti. My personal favorite is spaghetti squash. Like its namesake it can be a perfect swap for noodles in various recipes which call for pasta. It’s a great way to bump up your veggie intake while trimming down on carbs. I love it because it’s delicious and easy to prepare. Spaghetti squash is also referred to as squaghetti, vegetable spaghetti and noodle squash.

What is spaghetti squash?
Spaghetti squash is an oval shaped yellow fruit that contains a stringy flesh and a mild taste. It can also be found in ivory or orange colors; the orange kinds have higher beta-carotene content. The center contains many large, edible seeds.

Nutrition Facts
Spaghetti squash is packed with nutrients including folic acid, potassium, vitamin A and beta carotene. It’s low in calories and fairly low in carbs, especially compared to starchy noodles. In fact, spaghetti has about five times the calories as spaghetti squash

Nutritional Analysis | One cup, cooked
Calories: 42
Fat: <0.5g
Sodium: 28 mg
Carbs: 10 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugar: 4 g
Protein: 1 g

Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven or Microwave

With a very sharp knife, chop off the top or bottom of the squash so it will stand flat and secure on your cutting board. Be very careful as you slice it in half lengthwise. Then use a spoon to scrape out all of the seeds.

To bake in the oven: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush the inside of each half with olive oil and optionally sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Place the cut sides down on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the squash with a fork. Cool for about 15 minutes, or until squash is cool enough to handle. With a fork, scrape out the spaghetti-like strands and prepare as desired.

Or to microwave: Place squash cut sides down in a microwavable baking dish. Fill the dish with about one inch of water. Microwave on high for about 12 minutes, or until you can easily pierce with a fork. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the squash. Cool for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is cool enough to handle. With a fork, scrape out the strands and prepare as desired.

Preparation Tips

  • Toss cooked squash in chunky marinara sauce
  • Top with lean protein such as 97% lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
  • Lightly toss strands in olive oil and spices and top with grated parmesan
  • Make a tomato basil spaghetti squash bake
  • Prepare spiced squash pancakes
  • Save the seeds and roast them with olive oil and salt or for a sweet, spicy kick mix in honey, paprika and cayenne pepper

Spaghetti squash is versatile vegetable that is easy to make, delicious to eat and has a high nutrient profile you can’t beat. Try it this season to balance out all the calorie-laden carbs and sweets. You might surprise yourself how good it is and make it a new fall favorite.

Find more recipes from Cooper Clinic Dietitians here.