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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!

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.

A Week With Cooper Wellness

“Cooper helped me regain my confidence, showed me that there were many things I could do that I didn’t think possible any longer and helped me regain my life.” Jason, National Instruments

Walking around the Cooper Aerobics campus in Dallas, you never know who you will cross paths with. After seeing a few groups come in to attend the five-day wellness week hosted by Cooper Wellness, I decided to call my teammate (fellow employee) Susan Thompson, who is the Wellness Director at National Instruments through Cooper Consulting Partners to find out more. Susan explained that participants proactively want to make a change and need manager approval to attend a wellness program. Ideal participants are self-motivated and actively seeking help and support to keep them committed to their health goals.

Susan shared these four activities that participants commit to for the six-month period.

  1. Log food four days (or more) per week for four to six weeks through the MyFitnessPal app before the program starts.
  2. Engage 150 minutes of physical activity (walking or even housework counts) per week.
  3. Personal train once each week with a workout buddy
  4. Attend a support group once a week.

Employees set goals for the six month period and end up with great success stories to share. Jason attended Cooper Wellness beginning on March 31 and has already seen a dramatic difference in his life and is truly Cooperized.

“Before Cooper (or BC as my group coined it), we spent a large amount of time playing video games or watching TV at home,” Jason confessed. “After Cooper (AC) we are hardly ever at home for long stretches of time. We go out, socialize, work out together and live life,” Jason said. “Cooper helped me regain my confidence, showed me that there were many things I could do that I didn’t think possible any longer and helped me regain my life. I’d always heard the phrase ‘a new lease on life.’ Now I understand what that means fully. I’ve been given a second chance. What a difference a year can make.”

Since April, Jason and his wife have completed multiple 5Ks, regularly walk their dogs, are generally active and have even been hiking. Jason’s group collectively was down 200 pounds at their three month weigh-in and will continue to use the behavior change skills they learned at Cooper as they move towards their six month goal.

Last week another group with Cooper Wellness spent a week on campus participating in the five-day wellness week. “Being here this week has shown the impact of education and support in making healthier choices. I am going back to Austin inspired by the enthusiasm the group developed as they tried new foods and exercise classes. Many would not have tried these new behaviors last week,” said Susan. “Watching the Cooper Wellness team unlock the door for a healthy lifestyle for this group and knowing they can take that with them moving forward has been so rewarding. We are genuinely teaching and empowering people to live longer, and live better!”

Register to attend a Cooper Wellness program individually or contact Cooper Consulting Partners for customized services in strategy consulting, leader training and lifestyle education for your company.

Is Granola Really Great?

August 19, 2014 3 comments

Studies show that people who regularly eat breakfast are more likely to manage their weight than those who do not.

August is Kids Eat Right Month, the first annual celebration of its kind sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It spotlights healthy nutrition and active lifestyles for children and families. Now that it’s back to school time, what to serve our kids before school is on our minds. Cereal is a great go-to morning meal and granola is one of the many options. But what’s a good choice you and your family can both enjoy that provides a healthy boost for the day? It can be tricky to pick the best granola cereal and if you’re not paying attention you might get more than you bargained for in the way of calories, sugars and fat. Before you grab a box, follow these simple guidelines.

Scale down the portion. Granola can be high in calories for what is listed as a fairly small serving on the box, which is typically 1/3  to 1/2 cup. Most of us eat more than that so if you pour a full cup into your bowl, you are getting multiple servings with as many as 400-600 calories! A solution would be to stretch a single serving by mixing it half and half with a lower calorie cereal like Cheerios®‎ or whole grain puffs. Word of caution: even if you mix cereals, make sure to measure before mindlessly filling your bowl!

Keep the sugars low. Most granola cereals contain added sugars and you can find them in the ingredient list. Watch out for these words as the first few ingredients: honey, agave nectar and corn syrup. Carefully read the label for grams of sugar as well. A good rule of thumb is to pick a cereal with no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

Pay attention to fats. Most cereals are naturally low in fat, however granola may contain nuts, seeds and oils that add to the fat content. While these can be healthy fats they still add sneaky calories and may be high in artery-clogging saturated fat. Your best bet is to look for no more than 6 grams total fat per serving and no more than 1.5 grams saturated fat per serving.

Healthy Granola Picks
Criteria per serving: no more than 200 calories, 6g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 10g sugar and at least 3g fiber

  • Kashi® GOLEAN Crisp | ¾ cup serving= 180 calories; 3.5g fat; 0g sat fat; 8g fiber; 10g sugar
  • KIND® Maple Walnut Clusters with Chia & Quinoa | 1/3 cup serving= 130 calories; 3.5g fat; 0g sat fat; 3g fiber; 6g sugar
  • Trader Joe’s Granola & the 3 Berries | ½ cup serving= 200 calories; 6g fat; 1g sat fat; 3g fiber; 10g sugar
  • Kellogg’s Special K® Low fat Granola Touch of Honey | ½ cup serving= 190 calories; 3g fat; 0.5g sat fat; 5g fiber; 9g sugar

My favorite way to eat granola is to use it as a topping for fat-free Greek yogurt. For a sweet and salty snack, I like to mix 2 tablespoon of granola with about half a cup of low fat popcorn, pretzels or freeze-dried fruit. It’s crunchy, high in fiber and satisfying in every bite.

What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy granola?

Nutrition Consultation at Cooper Clinic

August 11, 2014 Leave a comment

In this year’s Medscape survey, 50 percent of primary care respondents said they spent 16 minutes or less with patients. Cooper Clinic physicians spend up to two hours with every patient. We’re rounding out the blog series that broke down each of the six components of the comprehensive preventive exam at Cooper Clinic. If you haven’t followed along, read about the first five (of six) components to get caught up.

  1. Medical Exam & Counseling
  2. Laboratory Analysis
  3. Cardiovascular Screening
  4. Multidetector Computed Tomography (MDCT) Scan
  5. Skin Cancer Screening
  6. Nutrition Consultation

One-on-one consultations with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) are designed to help patients gain the knowledge and skills needed to achieve a healthy lifestyle. This consultation includes nutrition coaching, a personalized action plan with diet recommendations and a computer analysis of a Three-Day Food Record to calculate the nutrients in your diet.

If eating well were easy, we would all be healthier and weigh less. But the bottom line is that staying faithful to mindful nutrition is hard. We may know what foods to choose, but just cannot find the strategy to make good choices. Or we may think we know the right food choices to make, only to find that a “healthy” bran muffin has as much fat and calories as a gooey cinnamon roll. Some of us would not know how to recognize a good fat from a bad fat if our life depended on it (which in some ways is kind of does).

Our RDNs can take the complex concepts of nutrition and translate them in simple terms as they apply to your individual dietary habits. Are there specific foods you love that need to be modified to be more nutrient dense? If your cholesterol is a tad high and you want to increase fiber in your diet for cholesterol lowering? An RDN can show you how to make simple changes in your food choices to make that happen. Are you on the go and prone to missing lunch? Our RDNs can tell you which of the meal bar substitutes (and there are a zillion out there) make the most sense for your nutritional needs, taste preferences and weight goals.

There is so much information online and in the news that it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Is it good to take calcium supplements to protect the bones or bad to take calcium supplements because of risk to the heart? Do I get enough calcium in my diet so I don’t even have to worry about supplements?

With a one-on-one consultation, your specific needs can be addressed. Are you a vegetarian worried about protein intake? Are you pre-diabetic and wonder which food choices will help you lower your blood sugar? Do you entertain clients at restaurants and need to find a way to eat a healthy meal from the menu without being a wet blanket? Surely nothing kills a party faster than having the host order a chicken breast with kale and a side of water.

Just as important as helping you make a road map for your nutrition journey, our dietitians are with you every step of the way. They are there for you if you need to come in to the clinic for a visit to brainstorm about roadblocks or you can schedule a phone consultation as frequently as would like to keep you headed in the right direction. The nutrition train is definitely one you want to get on board.

To learn more about Cooper Clinic’s preventive exam, click here or call us at 866.906.2667 (COOP).

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Look Great and Feel Great This Summer

An easy way to remember the servings of fruits and vegetables you should be eating daily is to think, “five is fine, nine is divine”.

Everyone wants to look great and feel great, especially in the summer months. Cooper Clinic dietitian Elana Zimelman, RDN, LD, CDE, provides simple strategies to wear summer tank tops, shorts and swim suits with confidence.

Hydrate every day. It is recommended that women get 11 cups of fluid per day and men get 15 cups of fluid per day. These do not have to be solely water. Keep a water bottle handy so you have it on your mind and have it with you all of the time. Water prevents over-snacking; we think we are hungry but we are probably thirsty. Not only will hydration help you feel great at the pool, but studies show dehydration can affect energy levels, fitness and even job performance.

Don’t overdo the alcohol. Moderation is essential when it comes to alcohol, because there’s a fine line between a potential benefit of a glass of red wine and doing harm to your body. Alcohol provides extra calories—that add up quickly! It reduces your inhibitions, which leads you to eat unhealthy foods and more of it. To moderate your alcohol intake, alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water, decaffeinated tea or another sugar-free beverage.

Don’t eat a lot of salty foods. To look and feel your best, plan a clean diet with fresh produce, fruits and veggies. This is easy to do in the summer with watermelon, peaches, plums and more, all in season. Elana says fruit is nature’s candy—enjoy it!

With a turkey sandwich for lunch, replace the starchy pretzels, crackers or chips with crunchy carrot sticks or cucumber slices. This will help get rid of processed foods that are high in salt, which makes us retain water.

Receive proper nutrition every day and keep your calories in check.

  1. Eat breakfast every day. Eating breakfast has proven to decrease the chances of overeating during the day and it helps to pack in the nutrients early! Aim to pair fiber and protein to start your day. Prepare a bowl of oatmeal, sweetened with raspberries with a side of egg whites. If you’re not an oatmeal lover, try natural peanut butter on 1-2 slices of whole wheat toast with a sliced banana.
  1. Eat every 3-4 hours. Plan three meals, with 1-2 snacks prepared throughout the day. Measure and pre-package snacks to manage portion control. Ideally each snack should be approximately 150-200 calories. My two favorite snacks that Elana suggested to pack for the office are 1) a small handful of nuts (10-14 almonds) with an apple and 2) a high fiber granola bar like the Kashi® Dark Chocolate Mocha (it goes great with a cup of decaffeinated coffee!) When selecting protein or snack bars, look for lower amounts of sugar and plenty of protein and fiber. View Cooper Clinic healthy snack recipes here.

With these helpful strategies, soak up the sun (don’t forget SPF) and enjoy the beautiful summer weather. For information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition services, click here or call 972.560.2655.

Eating Well in College

Eating healthfully at college may seem like an impossible task but with the right knowledge and resources it can be done. Often times, students don’t focus on their diet with all the excitement that goes with leaving home for college and gaining new independence.

One of the things you can avoid is the dreaded “Freshman 15.” It’s pretty common for students to pack on pounds, especially that first year. Like a kid in a candy store, you are introduced to large amounts of ready-to-eat food available 24 hours a day. To avoid weight gain, try these tips:

  1. Put yourself on a schedule. Eating every 3-5 hours during the day makes it easier to avoid the out-of-control eating when hunger hits.
  2. Watch the grazing. Be sure to eat your balanced meals and planned snacks so the calories are better controlled.
  3. Include breakfast daily. Eat within an hour of waking to boost your metabolism and help control indulging late in the day. (Note: Breakfast recipes from Cooper Clinic)
  4. Be aware of non-hunger cues that make you want to eat. Food can be a great comfort for emotions and used for: coping, celebrating, relaxing, procrastinating and a part of socializing. Make sure you sit down and focus on eating rather than eating while doing other tasks. Mindless eating can lead to extra calories.
  5. Pay attention to the calories in alcohol which can lead to weight gain. It’s not only the empty calories from alcohol but also the munchies that often accompany drinking contribute to weight gain. Never drink on an empty stomach alternate each caloric beverage with water or seltzer and dilute the drink with water. Don’t forget, it’s always acceptable to decline a drink.

You can learn more about nutrition to make smarter choices to fuel your body for your college experience. Before you leave home, visit a nutrition expert at Cooper Clinic to learn the nutrition basics. Our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists can arm you with tools to balance your meals and snacks, choose appropriate portions, navigate social eating situations and make it easy to enjoy a healthy lifestyle during college and for years to come.

For more information about nutrition consultations at Cooper Clinic, click here or call 972-560-2655.

Post provided by Colleen Loveland, MS, RDN, LD, CDE

Cooper Fitness Center Renovation Celebration

In February Cooper Fitness Center celebrated the completion of its $7.5 million renovation. We marked this milestone the Cooperized way with a ribbon run-through and media were on-hand to capture the moment. We also had a members’ event and Cooper Aerobics teammates (employees) demonstrated exercises in each of the newly-renovated areas.

Not only did the renovation bring expansion to the facility, modern technology and beautiful finishings, but it was a milestone in the aerobics movement Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper started in 1968. Watch the video below to hear about Dr. Cooper’s impact and the vision his son, Dr. Tyler Cooper, has for Cooper Fitness Center to Cooperize the next generation.


View Photo Gallery | Read News Release | Request a Tour | Visit cooperfitnesscenter.com

The next phase of the campus-wide renovation is Cooper Hotel & Conference Center. Read the press release, see photos of the progress and stay tuned!

H-E-B Slim Down Showdown

Kathy Duran-Thal, RDN, LD, has been the Director of Nutrition for Cooper Wellness for more than 25 years and all who interact with her praise her extensive knowledge, ability to relate and fun personality. In January, Kathy helped kick off the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown, a 12-week health and fitness program for H-E-B grocery store partners (employees) and customers. She spent a week teaching 30 program participants nutrition the Cooper way.

In the weeks since then, participants have had individual phone coaching with Kathy, logged their food, exercised and shared their journey in personal blogs. Kathy recently traveled to San Antonio for the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown finale.

Elizabeth Sandoval, a quality assurance technician at H-E-B’s bakery in Corpus Christi, and Richard Arrington, an H-E-B shopper from Aransas Pass, Texas, were two of the participants Kathy coached. Each of them won a $5,000 “Healthy Hero” prize for their involvement and dedication to the program. Richard, who originally weighed in at 385 pounds, improved his cholesterol by 75 percent, decreased his body fat by 36 percent and lost a total of 66.6 pounds. And Elizabeth improved her cholesterol by 28 percent, decreased her body fat by 36 percent and dropped 46.8 pounds. Read the news release and watch the video below to celebrate their success in their journey to live longer, healthier lives.

To learn about Cooper Wellness, click here or call 972.386.4777.