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10 Reasons Why Female Focus Benefits Women’s Health

Cooper Fitness Center

Since 2006, hundreds of women each year have participated in more than 3,000 Female Focus classes, a science-based small group training program designed to help women exercise to gain strength as they manage diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The women who have participated in Female Focus throughout the past 10 years listed the top 10 reasons why the program has benefitted both their physical and mental health:

  1. A sense of accountability to health and fitness and provides motivation to work harder both in and outside of class
  2. Camaraderie and support of women going through similar challenges and life experiences
  3. Personal attention from Colette Cole, the director of the program, and other trainers – staff expertise and experience is unmatched
  4. Improved overall strength, posture, balance, mobility, endurance, functional movement and daily activity movement
  5. Weight loss and maintenance
  6. Enjoyment from a variety of fun workouts
  7. Reduction of injury risk and attention to detail regarding training for specific injuries
  8. Sessions are personalized for both exercise and nutrition
  9. Focus on specific women’s health issues, including improvement of bone density
  10. Stress reduction

The program is based on materials and research from Women’s Health and Fitness Guide written by Michele Kettles, MD, MSPH, Chief Medical Officer of Cooper Clinic, and Colette Cole, MS, Cooper Fitness Center Female Focus Director and Professional Fitness Trainer. Under Colette’s guidance, participants learn how to overcome physical and mental challenges that are often a side effect of health issues.

In addition to learning and growing stronger physically, many of the women are drawn to the program because of the bonds they form with each other. Many are going through similar life changes, such as kids going off to college or becoming caretakers of aging parents. They also face similar challenges and are working toward similar goals – to be healthier and happier.

Dr. Jill Ombrello has participated in Female Focus for the past three years. She joined the program because she wanted the accountability of a scheduled and customized workout. However, she had no idea how many additional benefits she would receive as a result.

“Not only did I gain accountability, but I also joined a community of women looking to improve their health in the same ways as me. We are not equally strong or flexible, but Collette creates a different, unique and interesting workout for us every time we attend. In a society where many women are often competing with one another, Colette has created a unique environment where we all feel supported and pushed to achieve greatness.”

For more information about the Female Focus program, visit cooperfitfemale.com.

Weight Loss Checklist: Part III

Dining out can be a challenge when you’re watching your weight. With so many food and drink options put directly in front of you, it can be tough to turn down the free chips and salsa, a refreshing soda or a slice of cake for dessert. Part III of the Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services Weight Loss Checklist will guide you through difficult dining situations and keep you on track for eating healthy and losing pounds. Download the checklist hereWLChecklist3

Weight Loss Checklist: Part II

Part II of the exclusive Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services Weight Loss Checklist is now available! You can download it here.

Limiting variety and temptation can be a challenge, but with some kitchen reorganization, healthy substitutions and determination, you can make it happen! Share your best tips for limiting food variety and unhealthy temptations in the comments below.

Checklist 2 full

Weight Loss Checklist: Part I

Looking for a way to jump start your weight loss journey and set attainable goals? Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services has created an exclusive weight loss checklist that can fold into your daily life, one step at a time. Start by taking things slow and substituting certain foods for healthier options, as described in our first weight loss checklist. Download the checklist here, and be sure to share your healthy lifestyle changes and experiences in the comments below!Blog_Checklist

Dietitians’ Top 10 “Convenience” Health Foods

February 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Healthy eating starts with what you put in your cart. You can’t go wrong with keeping these staples on your grocery list to make healthy eating convenient for your busy lifestyle. Cooper Clinic dietitians weigh in with their favorite Top 10 Convenience Health Foods.

  1. Fresh fruit. Fruit is the world’s “original” fast food. Pick a variety for meals and snacks.
  2. Bagged salad greens. Throw a salad together in a pinch. These pre-washed greens can be served up as a side dish or main entrée with chopped chicken or canned tuna.
  3. Fish fillets. Individually frozen fish filets (salmon, cod, halibut, sole, and tilapia) are lean proteins and take just a few minutes to broil.
  4. Whole grains. Frozen corn and 90-second brown rice are good sources of fiber, low sodium, and healthy sides to compliment your meal.
  5. Yogurt. Select nonfat Greek yogurt for a high protein snack or after-dinner treat with fresh fruit topping.
  6. Frozen vegetables. Pop these in the microwave for a quick side dish.
  7. Canned beans. Simply rinse to reduce sodium by 40% and add to salads, soups and stews.
  8. Canned tomatoes. Buy low-sodium tomatoes to add to pasta, soups, sauces and casseroles.
  9. Nuts. One small handful of nuts is a perfect snack to carry you to the next meal.
  10. Oatmeal. One of dietitian’s top-pick cereals as a filling source of fiber and heart healthy breakfast that takes only a few minutes to cook in the microwave.

To learn more tips and advice from Cooper Clinic Dietitians, join us March 2 for the Cooper Nutrition Expo! With 40-plus vendors and new products all devoted to your good health, this event is FREE and open to the public. View more details and the list of vendors here.

Motivation to Move

February 11, 2015 Leave a comment

New Year’s Resolutions shouldn’t be a thing of the past. If you need another burst of motivation from the trainers at Cooper Fitness Center, read on.

Aaron Feldman, Professional Fitness Trainer

The KISS Principle: Keep It Simple Stupid.

With all of the exercise related technology, gadgets and new equipment that is available in today’s age, it is easy to forget the underlying principle of exercise: Incorporating a consistent level of cardio-vascular activity with regular resistance training and stretching, we can maintain a level of health and wellness as we age. Instead of overcomplicating it with numbers, formulas and fitness related phone apps that may distract us, sometimes it is better to just get out there and do SOMETHING.

David P. Williams, Professional Fitness Trainer

  • Consistency. I would rather have someone be consistent with a new exercise routine, over intensity any day of the week. When starting a new routine everyone wants to go all out in the beginning then they burn out really quickly. Relax! Rome was not built in a day, so take your time.
  • Careful with the running. You don’t run to get in shape—you get in shape to run. Starting too quickly on a running routine can cause nagging injuries. Remember the body needs time to adapt to the pounding so never underestimate the power of walking first before you hit the pavement jogging.
  • Balanced diet. We can take in more calories in 5 minutes than we can exercise off in an hour. Visit a nutritionist and get some simple guidelines that will help you achieve your goals. Fruits and veggies: eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can. We hear too often “careful with eating too much fruit, that can be too much sugar.”  Meat: I am all about protein, but do we need to have a meat product with every meal? Try to fall into the “meatless Monday” trend to get in more fruits and veggies.
  • Athletic development. No matter how old you are—it is very important to stay athletic! Not everyone should be practicing sprints and plyometric exercises, but some basic athletic drills that require foot work and agility goes along way. All locomotion starts from the feet—work on your balance and foot strength by standing barefoot on each foot for 1 minute.  

David H. Williams, Professional Fitness Trainer

Tired of trying to crunch your way to washboard abs? Strengthen your core, with a few crunch variations.

  • Correct Crunch (Front) – Lay on your back, lift your legs off the ground to form a 90 degree angle with your knees and legs. Then lift your upper body about two inches off the ground for the crunch. Breathe out when you lift up and breathe in when you go back down. If you have neck problems, place your hands on the back of your neck for support, but remember to not pull on your head.
  • Side Plank (Side) – Lay on your side and lift your body off the ground, balancing on one forearm and one foot. Contract your abdominals for the workout, and remember to breathe. For an added workout, lift your hips up and back down remaining lifted. Make sure you maintain good posture and your elbow is supported directly beneath your shoulder.
  • Cobra (Back) – Lay on your stomach and place your hands at your side with your palms down. Squeeze your glutes and raise your chest about two inches off the ground. To engage the exercise, rotate your thumbs up and out and lift your head neutrally. For an advanced version, start on your stomach with your arms bent in 90 degree angles by your head. When you lift up, stretch your arms out in front of your head. This is known as the superman and you may watch the demonstration here.
  • Reverse Crunch (Lower Abs) – Grab a small stability ball and grip it between your thighs while laying on your back. Make sure your palms are facing up. Squeeze the stability ball between your thighs to activate the lower abs. Roll your knees toward your chest with the ball for the exercise.

To achieve your goals for a strong, lean core, you also have to incorporate healthy habits in the kitchen! Mark your calendars to join us at Cooper Fitness Center on Monday, March 2 for our 8th annual Nutrition Expo! Come see 20-plus vendors and new products all devoted to your good health! FREE and open to the public.

Lisa Hanley
, Professional Fitness Trainer

Lighten the weight if it helps you do it correctly. While it is true that exercising with a challenging load increases strength, sharing the work among unrelated body parts will cheat you out of a good workout. Or worse, expose yourself to excessive wear and tear.

Help your body last a long time. There is no substitute for original parts. Reinforce and maintain the ones (knees, hips, discs) you were born with.

Exercise has evolved. Your workout should too. We now have the opportunity to reflect upon the long-term effects of exercises promoted as beneficial 30 or 40 years ago. The risk to benefit ratio of certain activities can range from extremely unfavorable to downright crazy! We should all treat our bodies better than that.

Exercise, massage and stretch. A certain amount of tissue elasticity will be lost as a normal result of aging. The best way to slow this process is through stimulating, increased circulation and range of motion from strength and cardio activities and remodeling soft tissue to be more extensible through massage and stretching. This helps muscles and fascia work more like a rubber band, the way they do in our youth.

To meet with a Professional Fitness Trainer from Cooper Fitness Center, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com/Pros or contact Mukidah Wiggins at 972.233.4832, ext. 4329.

 

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.

2014 Member Awards

December 19, 2014 2 comments

At the end of each year we honor our Cooper Fitness Center Dallas members who strive to live according to the mission of personal wellness. We are thrilled to announce this year’s winners. All of our winners were nominated by fellow Cooper Fitness Center members as well as Cooper teammates. These individuals not only lead a lifestyle of personal wellness incorporating fitness and proper nutrition into their daily habits, but they serve as role models to others and are active in their community. All winners were honored with Drs. Cooper and Cooper Fitness Center’s management team earlier this week—congratulations!

George Graffy, Male of the Year

George Graffy, Male of the Year

Male of the Year: George Graffy

George is a stranger to no one. While busy training with Robert Treece nearly every day of the week, he’s always eager to interact and meet new friends at Cooper Fitness Center. From two years of training, George has worked consistently to lose 20 pounds and build strong muscle.

George shared his time with Robert so that his son, Andrew, could combat a knee injury during his senior lacrosse season at St. Marks where he went on to win the State Championship. Along with his son, George’s wife also works out at Cooper Fitness Center with Collete Cole through the Female Focus program.

As a graduate of University of Penn and Northwestern, George is well-connected and an excellent ambassador for Cooper Fitness Center.

“George is a guy who always brings more to the table than he takes away,” said Robert Treece, Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer. “When interacting with him you feel encouraged yourself and you feel better off than before he came in.”

When George began his weight loss endeavors, he confessed that he paid his son $5 per pound lost for accountability. Aside from training with Robert Treece, George has also worked with Paul Nally, Joshua Cuellas and Lisa Hanley, all Professional Fitness Trainers at Cooper Fitness Center. The Cooper Aerobics campus has become a second home to George and his family, including his co-workers who participated in a corporate meeting at Cooper Hotel & Conference Center.

Vivian Dimas, Female of the Year

Vivian Dimas, Female of the Year

Female of the Year: Vivian Dimas

This time last year, in preparation for the National Duathlon Race in Arizona, Vivian encountered a terrible accident and was hit by a car while training, knocking her off of her bike by impact. Vivian suffered many injuries including a concussion, sprains, fractures, broken bones—it was a miracle she survived.

The most amazing wonder is how she responded to and returned from this traumatic accident. Within weeks of her return to Dallas, she visited Cooper to ride the stationary bike and to maintain muscle mass and strength. Within eight to nine months, she began to slowly restart her training.

Just a few months ago, Vivian placed second overall in the Esprit de She Duathlon in McKinney, finishing the two-mile run, nine-mile bike and two-mile run in less than one hour with our Fitness Director, Mary Edwards, by her side. Mary said, “This was her way of announcing she was back!”

“Her spirit of perseverance has shined as she has endured the physical and emotional trauma associated with her accident,” Mary said. “Vivian’s workouts before and after her accident were balanced and consistent. I believe this is at the core of what we preach everyday—she truly understands the importance of “exercising most days of the week” and “maintaining healthy weight.”

Aside from Vivian’s time with Cooper, Vivian is a pediatric cardiologist, involved in her church and helps with the local Greek Food Festival each year.

Cas Dunlap, Most Improved of the Year

Cas Dunlap, Most Improved of the Year

Most Improved of the Year: Cas Dunlap

Cooper Fitness Center Member Awards are not new to Cas’ family. In 1995 Cas’ grandmother and grandfather were awarded Mr. and Mrs. Aerobics and Cas’ mother has been a loyal member for more than 30 years.

Cas was introduced to Cooper at a young age when his grandparents brought him for a tour. While attending St. Marks School of Texas, he read Aerobics as required reading and now serves as a highly-respected upper level math instructor at Parish Episcopal School.

Through regular workouts with Professional Fitness Trainer David H. Williams and group exercise classes with Scotty Esquibel, Cas has lost 60 pounds over the past 14 months! Coming in on his own for personal workouts but also joining group exercise classes, it’s clear that Cas’ personal commitment is led by his great work ethic. With his diligent efforts in the gym, Cas has been an inspiration to all who knows him.

“No one works harder than Cas. He trains to the max from the warm up to the cool down,” Scotty said. “Watching his progress has brought me great joy!”

“I just decided to stop NOT exercising and I knew where to start, Cooper,” Cas said.

Well-deserving, Cas is a gentlemen and all-around ambassador for Cooper.

Orville Rogers, Classic of the Year

Orville Rogers, Classic of the Year

Classic of the Year: Orville Rogers

Breaking numerous world running records, including the first man over 90 to break the 10-minute mile, Orville is truly Cooperized! As a patient of Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s from the 70s and a member of Cooper Fitness Center, Orville is an inspiration to all.

Orville discovered Aerobics in a Chicago hotel 47 years ago and has been running ever since recording more than 40,000 miles. Cooper Fitness Center members and teammates recognize him by his famed shorts just as much as his red camaro as he still works out three times per week at 97 years young.

Orville credits Dr. Cooper with saving his life, “at least once, probably twice.”  They share Oklahoma roots and both served their country through the United States Air Force. Orville learned to fly airplanes at 24 and using those skills flying airplanes during the Cold War. 52 years later he took a Russian River Cruise from Leningrad to Moscow during a mission trip.

When introducing Orville at the luncheon this week, his dear friend and member, Harold Cox, said, “I could talk about his 11 world-records, his service in the military or his time as pilot for Braniff, but what has he done recently?” The audience laughed and listened on to hear just last week before the Dallas Marathon, Orville spoke at the American Medical Athletic Association’s Sports Medicine Symposium and is still running more than 5 miles per week, preparing for his next race in March.

Within the many nomination forms for Orville, one member said, “Orville has made mission trips literally to the ends of the earth, delivering airplanes from the factory to missionaries across the oceans and around the globe.”

Orville has truly proved that exercise can reverse the aging process. Dr. Cooper reflected on his relationship with Orville beginning with, “I remember the day I met Orville—March 19, 1972.”

For Dr. Cooper, he said what stands out most about Orville is his discipline—in all that he does, as he referred to Proverbs 13:18, “Discipline Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.”

Congratulations, Orville! We’re looking forward to your future records, in the 100+ age category.

Nick and Luke Maxtone-Graham, Youth of the Year

Nick and Luke Maxtone-Graham, Youth of the Year

Youth of the Year: Nick & Luke Maxtone-Graham

From their first summer camp in 2008, Nick and Luke have been hooked ever since. Meredith Rosson, Cooper Fitness Center’s Youth Programs Director said, “they quickly stood out with their eagerness to learn about sports and nutrition.” From IGNITE! to boxing and tennis to Teen TRX, they have taken advantage of all the Cooper Youth activities they can while excelling in lacrosse at Christ the King.

“When I think of a family to represent Cooper, they are the biggest Cooper Youth ambassadors,” shared Cooper Fitness Center Personal Trainer Paul Nally.

Their character and integrity shined through at an early age. Nick and Luke are well-known for being polite to everyone they meet with excellent manners. Always encouraging other kids in camps and cheering them in support, even if their team lost.

Even too young to account as “student members”, both boys have been actively involved in all programs. With the help of their parents, they learned to value fitness and health at an early age.

Rick and Carol Voirin, Mr. and Mrs. Aerobics

Rick and Carol Voirin, Mr. and Mrs. Aerobics

Mr. & Mrs. Aerobics: Rick & Carol Voirin

Utilizing all that Cooper has to offer, Rick and Carol are truly committed to their health. From group exercise classes to personal training to swimming, they both maintain a consistent exercise schedule—and always decompress at Cooper Spa!

With an active preventive lifestyle, Carol’s cancer was caught early enough to treat. Even through chemotherapy, she practiced good nutrition and a routine exercise regime to care for her body through such a trying time. Group Exercise Instructor and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Cooper Clinic, Meridan Zerner said, “Rick and Carol have actively crafted a very balanced lifestyle, both physical and social.”

Together and separately, traveling or working out at their home base at Cooper Fitness Center, Rick and Carol inspire others to exercise on a regular basis.

“They are exemplary members and role models without question,” Meridan expressed.

When presented the award, Rick also said he began running after reading Dr. Cooper’s first book, Aerobics. Truly honored, when thanking Dr. Cooper, Rick referenced an old adage, “you can count the seeds in an apple, but you can never count the number of apples produced from those seeds.”

Following Dr. Cooper’s recommendations of “age fast, age slow—it’s up to you,” it’s clear what they’ve decided to do.

For information about membership at Cooper Fitness Center, learn more about our facility and request a tour today.

Trying to lose weight? Let’s talk salad dressing.

November 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Spare 100 calories per day to lose 10 pounds in a year…some of those small choices like “dressing on the side” matter!

Quick! Raise your hand if you know someone whose strategy for losing weight is to eat a salad for lunch every day. If you’re like me, you probably know multiple people who have decided to conquer their ever tightening pants by eating an entrée-sized salad each day for lunch. Sadly, for a lot of those folks, this strategy doesn’t work.

Here’s the deal: lettuce, spinach and other salad greens are all incredibly low-calorie and so are all the fresh fruits and vegetables that top salads—carrots, celery, tomato, cucumber and peppers, along with pear, apple, orange and berries. Then we add the extras—chopped nuts, dried fruit, cheese, bacon, olives and croutons with a big ladle or two of dressing. All of a sudden, that healthy salad isn’t healthy and the number on the scale doesn’t budge.

For example, a Dallas chain of Tex-Mex restaurants offers a popular salad that is a large plate of crisp romaine lettuce, topped with two or three baby cherry tomatoes, aged cheddar cheese, fried tortilla strips, a handful of bacon and about 3.5 ounces of sliced Fajita chicken or beef. The house dressing is a spicy blue cheese. The lettuce and cherry tomatoes are terrific salad options and the sliced grilled chicken breast is a great source of lean protein. However, the rest of the salad is full of extra fat and calories! Even with “dressing on the side,” this type of salad isn’t going to help you fit in those snug pants. Sadly, if we pull the salad back to the lettuce, tomato and chicken (with dressing on the side), we are going to be ravenous, which leads us to devour the accompanying basket of chips.

Chicken Caesar Salad is probably one of the most popular salads and is available at most restaurants, from fast food to upscale gourmet. Again, the salad starts with a large plate of crisp romaine lettuce and is topped with grilled chicken, Parmesan cheese and croutons (which are chunks of bread tossed in butter or oil, salt and spices and toasted). If you’ve ordered the dressing on the side, the serving is likely about 1/2 cup. This salad, which many dieters describe as “another (boring) day of chicken and romaine lettuce” can easily have 800 to 900 calories and an amazing amount of heart-clogging saturated fat from the cheese, croutons and dressing.

At Cooper Healthy Living, our goal is to make healthy eating simple and that includes a conversation about the nutrition of salads. A salad that’s a healthy salad is going to start with a plate of greens and then be topped (hopefully) with vegetables and/or fruit every color of the rainbow. This type of salad is a wonder in the world of healthy eating—full of flavor, fiber and the healthy benefits that at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day provide. Our rules for salad dressing follow:

  1. Order salad dressing on the side, as this gives you full control over the amount of dressing that goes onto your plate. This rule includes vinaigrettes, which we tend to think of as healthier. While vinaigrettes typically contain healthy plant-based oil, oil has 120 calories per tablespoon and a normal vinaigrette recipe is typically three parts of oil to one part vinegar—so that serving of vinaigrette likely has around 400 calories in it.
  1. Ask for balsamic, red or white wine vinegar on the side. Several squirts of vinegar adds freshness and zest to a salad, which can then be augmented with a drizzle of oil, or whatever other salad dressing you have ordered.
  1. At Tex-Mex restaurants, boost salad dressings with salsa. A lot of salsa, which is low-calorie, plus a small bit of your favorite dressing tastes delicious and has far fewer calories than straight dressing. (Tip: with a thicker dressing, either dip your fork tines into the dressing first and then spear the vegetables, or use your fork to deposit a bit of the dressing strategically on your salad.)
  1. Bottled low-calorie dressings are generally pretty dismal, so at home, consider making salad dressings—they take mere minutes, cut calories and are wonderful! Our favorite all time dressing is this Rice Wine Vinaigrette, where we start with a package of Good Season’s Dry Italian Dressing Mix and then substitute water and dried parsley (for thickening) in place of some of the oil. This same recipe is also great switching out rice wine vinegar for balsamic! And this Caesar Salad Dressing, a semi-homemade combination of the low calorie bottled ranch dressing that’s not too tasty, full-fat bottled Caesar dressing, Worcestershire and Tabasco, to quick to make and is really delicious. In addition to using on your salad, the dressing is also terrific smeared on a sandwich or wrap.

This is Cooper Healthy Living, a series of baby tweaks and adjustments that help us live better and longer (and in pants that fit and fulfill our best vision of who we are)!