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Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics: Celebrate a World of Flavors During National Nutrition Month®

In March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics focuses attention on healthful eating through National Nutrition Month®. This year’s theme, Celebrate a World of Flavors, embraces global cultures, cuisines and inclusivity, plus highlights the expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists. “The theme Celebrate a World of Flavors gives every culture a place at the table,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Libby Mills, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Philadelphia, Pa. “Celebrating the cultural heritage, traditions and recipes from all people is a tasty way to nourish ourselves, learn about one another and find appreciation in our diversity.”

Many of us enjoy cuisines from other nationalities and cultures. In celebration of National Nutrition Month, our Cooper Clinic Nutrition department encourages you to try new foods from around the world to explore new flavors, textures, and aromas. Instead of ordering your go-to favorites, try a new dish full of new foods. Some ethnic foods gaining popularity are ancient grains used in Middle Eastern such as bulgur and quinoa and African cultures such as teff and freekeh. Fermented food’s popularity is also on the rise such as Kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage dish; Miso, a fermented Japanese staple; and Kefir, a popular Middle-eastern beverage, which have all been shown to have health benefits. Instead of eating favorite standbys like Mexican food, consider branching out to other Central and South American cuisines such as Salvadoran, Chilean and Cuban foods. Consider a more plant-based approach by using tofu, tempeh, seitan or more beans and peas to replace meat, fish and poultry in your diet.

Herbs and spices from around the world are a great way to explore flavors. For example, a curry in Indian dishes differs greatly from curry in a Thai dish, and both cuisines offer several types of curries. For some herbs and spices, a little goes a long way, so if you are not sure how much to use or which dish to season.

Try a variety of spices from different cuisines for great new flavors:

  • Asian – garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cilantro, Chinese five-spices powder, chili, Thai basil, mint and lemon grass paste
  • Mexican – chili, cumin, garlic, green chilies, chipotle chilies, jalapenos cilantro, oregano and epizote
  • Italian – garlic, oregano, basil, sage, thyme and marjoram
  • Indian spices – cloves, red chili powder, cumin, coriander, cilantro, garam masala, mustard seeds, curry powder or paste, turmeric, saffron
  • Mediterranean – thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, fennel, mint, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom

What makes registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) so valuable to people’s quest for good health? RDNs help clients fine-tune traditional recipes and provide alternative cooking methods and other healthful advice for incorporating family-favorite foods into everyday meals. During National Nutrition Month®, the Academy encourages everyone to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits they can follow all year long. The Academy encourages seeking the advice of registered dietitian nutritionists—the food and nutrition experts who can help develop individualized eating and activity plans to meet people’s health goals. “Celebrate a World of Flavors highlights the unique, cultural variety of foods available to people from around the world and the role that dietitians play in helping clients create healthy habits while celebrating their cultural foods and heritage,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Rahaf Al Bochi, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Atlanta, Ga.

National Nutrition Month® was initiated in 1973 as National Nutrition Week, and it became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to growing interest in nutrition. The second Wednesday of March is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, an annual celebration of the dedication of RDNs as the leading advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.

We at Cooper Clinic Nutrition wish you a fun and healthy National Nutrition Month and encourage you to treat your tastebuds to new and delicious flavors. To schedule a one-on-one nutrition consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655. 

Want To Slow Down the Aging Process?

February 8, 2022 Leave a comment

Get the inside story on nutrition for anti-aging benefits from Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Meridan Zerner, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, CWC.

We all want to age gracefully and look young, and there are plenty of beauty creams and serums on the market that claim to help us do just that. And while tackling anti-aging from the outside in is helpful…it’s from the inside out where we get the most impact! The real secret to anti-aging is to nourish your body with adequate sleep, hydration, moderate movement and of course, a healthy diet.

Push the plant power

The research is clear that eating more fruits and vegetables is the safest and healthiest way to reduce fine lines and increase overall health. That aligns with one of the newer anti-aging/anti-inflammatory food trends—the plant-based diet.

A plant-based diet simply encourages replacing some of the traditional animal products with more fruits and vegetables—but also adding nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans. It doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian or never eat meat. The emphasis with a plant-based diet is on increasing the powerhouse foods rich in vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. A Mediterranean diet is a version of a plant-based diet with the addition of healthful, fatty fish such as trout, tuna and salmon.

Salmon to slow dementia

Salmon is my go-to fish to increase your omega-3s. Every cell in your body needs omega-3s, especially the eyes and brain. Omega-3s are critical for brain function and can help prevent dementia. Omega-3s also support stronger immune function, digestion and fertility. And healthy fats are good for our hair and skin, too! In general, our bodies do well with a variety of food choices, so I invite my clients to try many types of seafood including anchovies, sardines, crab and shrimp—whether fresh or frozen. Frozen seafood keeps for a long time and is a convenient, equally nutritious way to go. Feel free to utilize pouch tuna and salmon if you like. 

Collagen to combat aging

You might be wondering, “What about collagen supplements?” The use of collagen as an anti-aging tool has become a hot topic. Collagen is a protein found in the skin, joints and other parts of the body. As we get older, we start losing collagen in our bodies. In our skin, the loss of collagen shows up as wrinkles and sagging. In our joints, collagen loss can mean breakdown that opens the door to injury. Collagen has been studied to modestly improve the joint pain and flexibility in osteoarthritis. Collagen supplementation can be a win for both but speak to your doctor or dietitian to make sure that the form or dosage is right for you.

Sips for a more youthful you

Every year, there are products that make the “new and trendy” list for anti-aging. Recently you may have heard about more people consuming matcha green tea, golden milk or reishi tea.

  • Matcha – a type of green tea made by taking young tea leaves and grinding them into a bright green powder
  • Golden milk – a bright yellow drink traditionally made with milk (or a milk alternative) along with turmeric and other spices, such as cinnamon and ginger
  • Reishi tea – made from rare reishi mushrooms and could actually be harmful for some people.

Just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean it is right for you. It is always wise to check with your health care provider first.

The bottom line? If you want to turn back the clock, there is no substitute for a healthy diet. By lavishing your body with the care, nutrients and sleep it needs, you’ll slow down aging from the inside out.

To schedule a one-on-one nutrition consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655. 

Get Chummy with Cheese

January 20, 2017 1 comment

By Kathy Duran-Thal, RDN, LD

Despite a reputation for clogging arteries, cheese is still a beloved food. These days, you don’t have to shy away from cheese to keep healthful eating habits. Cheese can fit into a delicious eating plan and transform simple meals and dishes into culinary delights. The key is portion control and cheese selection.

Cheese contains saturated fat. Cooper Clinic and The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to 5-6% of total calories. For example, individuals needing 1,400 calories would aim to consume less than 9 grams of saturated fat per day. An individual needing 1,800 calories would aim to keep saturated fat less than 12 grams each day. Take a look at the cheese infographic below to compare some of your favorites and see how they fit into a balanced eating plan.

Babybel light cheese is a nutrition all-star. One piece is only 50 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat. It also has 6 grams of protein and 150 mg of calcium, which makes it an excellent cheese choice. Now take a look at Parmesan cheese. One ounce

(4 tablespoons) is 110 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat. Generally only 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese is plenty, since it has such robust flavor. One tablespoon of Parmesan Reggiano is approximately 27 calories and 1 gram of saturated fat. Try sprinkling roasted vegetables with Parmesan and experience the flavors magnify. This is especially true when roasting vegetables such as Brussels sprouts.

Feta, goat and sharp cheddar are also examples of modestly-flavored cheese. When you’re cooking and you want to maximize the cheese flavor while maintaining a healthy portion, these are the cheeses to use. Big flavor is achieved with small amounts.

These vegetable enchiladas are an example of how to maximize cheese flavor:

  • Spread fat-free refried black beans, sautéed spinach and mushrooms on to a corn tortilla
  • Roll tortilla and place seam side down in small pan
  • Top with green salsa and bake until hot
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle a small amount of feta cheese on top before serving

Moderation is the key to enjoying cheese healthfully. For more information about how Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services can help you build a healthy eating plan, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

cheeseinfographic-01

Create Perfect Parfaits

November 25, 2016 Leave a comment

By Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE and Gillian Gatewood, RDN, LD, CNSC, Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services

Building your own tasty snack from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult. Parfaits can be packed with protein, fiber and other nutrients while having few calories and small amounts of saturated fat. Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services shares four tried-and-true parfait recipes perfect for a healthy breakfast or snack.

Peachy Protein Parfait:

  • ½ cup Daisy 2% Cottage Cheese (90 calories, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams fiber, 13 grams protein, 100 mg calcium)
  • 4 oz. Dole Diced Peaches, no sugar added (1 single serving container) – (30 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 1 gram fiber, 0 gram protein, 0 mg calcium)
  • 2 Tbsp. pistachios (24 nuts) – (80 calories, 0.5 gram saturated fat, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams protein, 20 mg calcium)

Layer cottage cheese and peaches and top with pistachios.

Nutrition Information:

  • 200 calories
  • 2 g saturated fat
  • 3 g fiber
  • 17 g protein
  • 120 mg calcium

Quark* with Crunch:

  • 6 oz. Elli Vanilla Bean Quark (1 single serving container) – (80 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams fiber, 14 grams protein, 150 mg calcium)
  • ½ cup Kashi Go Lean Crisp (Cinnamon Crumble) – (120 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 6 grams fiber, 7 grams protein, 40 mg calcium)
  • 2 Tbsp. pecans (9 halves, chopped and toasted, if desired) – (98 calories, 1 gram saturated fat, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein, 10 mg calcium)

Mix together Kashi Go Lean Crisp with pecans and layer with Quark.

Nutrition Information:

  • 298 calories
  • 1 g saturated fat
  • 7 g fiber
  • 22 g protein
  • 200 mg calcium

*Quark (or qvark) is a mild and creamy fresh cheese of European origin. It is high in protein and low in fat. Elli Quark is available in a variety of flavors.

Berry Bliss Parfait:

  • 3 oz. (1 single serving container) Oikos Triple Zero Greek Vanilla Yogurt (120 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 6 grams fiber, 15 grams protein, 150mg calcium)
  • 2 Tbsp. almonds (14 almonds, chopped and toasted if desired) – (80 calories, 1 gram saturated fat, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams protein, 35mg calcium)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed blackberries (96 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 7 grams fiber, 1 grams protein, 0mg calcium)

Mix Greek Yogurt and berries and top with almonds.

Nutrition:

  • 296 calories
  • 1 grams saturated fat
  • 15 grams fiber
  • 20 grams protein
  •   185 mg calcium

Grandma’s Granola-Walnut Parfait:

  • 6 oz. (1 single serving container) Yoplait Original French Vanilla Yogurt (150 calories, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams fiber, 6 grams of protein, 200mg calcium)
  • 2 Tbsp. Nature’s Path Love Crunch Apple Crumble granola (70 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein, 10mg calcium)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts (7 halves, toasted if desired) – (93 calories, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams fiber, 2 grams protein, 0mg calcium)

Layer yogurt and granola, top with walnuts.

Nutrition Information:

  • 313 calories
  • 2 grams saturated fat
  •  1 gram fiber
  •  10 grams protein
  •  210 mg calcium

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

How to Trim Your Thanksgiving Meal

November 22, 2016 Leave a comment

One of Dr. Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized™  is “make healthy food choices most of the time.” The holiday season is often a time of indulgence–delicious homemade meals and desserts are around every corner.

Modification is key when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and keeping healthy habits intact during the holidays. Take a look at the nutritional information for a traditional Thanksgiving meal versus one with lighter options.

 

healthy-thanksgiving

A few simple swaps and smaller portions can keep you on track while still allowing you to enjoy your food favorites during Thanksgiving. Learn more about preparing for a healthy and happy Thanksgiving here.

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

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

An Ode to Oats

November 17, 2016 Leave a comment

By Gillian Gatewood, RDN, LD, CNSC, Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services

A familiar breakfast darling, oats come in many varieties sure to please a range of taste and texture preferences (find your favorites here). As a standout member of the grain family, oats seldom have their bran or germ removed in processing. Therefore the majority of oats used in our food supply are likely to be whole grains. Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services has long promoted the many health benefits of oats supported by credible research:

  • Fiber-rich oats are slow to digest, making you feel fuller longer. This in turn may help control weight.
  • Research has shown the soluble fiber found in oats is associated with helping lower LDL cholesterol and controlling blood sugar levels. Inclusion of oats in a balanced diet may therefore help reduce risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Oats are a source of phytochemicals (numerous polyphenols jointly classified as avenanthramides), which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-itching agents to the body when ingested.
  • The cosmetic industry has been known to harness the anti-itching properties of oats. The botanical name for oats, “avena,” is where the company Aveeno derived its name.
  • Cool temperatures and plentiful rainfall make ideal growing conditions for oats. The world’s top producers of oats are Russia, Canada, the United States, Finland and Poland.
  • Rolled oats, a.k.a. “old fashioned oats,” and instant oats differ from their whole and steel cut siblings in that they have been steamed and rolled flat. This process decreases the cooking time but not significantly the nutritional value.
  • Oats are a gluten-free whole grain but are often cross-contaminated with gluten during processing. Those with diagnosed celiac disease should opt for certified gluten-free oats after confirmation of disease control by their doctor.

Oats are a tried-and-true breakfast staple. Keep your breakfast game strong and check out this scrumptious oat recipe from Kathy Duran-Thal, RDN, LD, Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.

To learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

Sit Less, Move More – Exercise Guidelines for Diabetes and Prediabetes

November 14, 2016 Leave a comment

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

Many people with diabetes do not exercise despite all of its proven benefits. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, physical activity is more than just a way to lose weight – it can also make it easier to keep your blood glucose (sugar) levels closer to normal.

When you have diabetes, your body’s insulin action is less effective in storing glucose and regulating your blood sugars, but exercise sensitizes insulin. During exercise, stored glucose becomes a source of energy for your muscles and as the stores gets depleted, your blood sugar goes down and can stay down for 24-48 hours.

What types and amounts of physical activity are recommended for diabetes?

  • Aerobic exercise includes brisk walking, bicycling, swimming, aerobics, elliptical, dancing, rowing, tennis and stair climbing. Engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity weekly, spread over at least three days per week, with no more than two consecutive days without activity.
  • Resistance training includes exercises with weight machines, free weights, elastic resistance bands, body weight and group strength training classes. Perform these at least two times a week on non-consecutive days.
  • Balance and flexibility training includes yoga and tai chi. Aim for two or three times a week.
  • Light-intensity activities daily (read below under “updates”).

To better fit your schedule, you can break up 30 minutes into 10- or 15-minute segments several times a day. Research has shown the health benefits are similar. Recent studies have also shown that a 15-minute walk after meals can help lower your blood sugar.

What are the updates in the latest exercise guidelines?

People with diabetes are advised to incorporate “light” activities throughout the day, particularly when sedentary for prolonged periods of time (working on the computer, sitting in a meeting or watching TV). Take a light activity break for three minutes for every 30 minutes of sitting. Examples include:

  • Overhead arm stretches
  • Leg extensions
  • Torso twists
  • Walking in place

Exercise Tips:

  • Have a very specific plan. Define what, when, where and for how long you’re going to commit to working out. This will improve your chances of adherence and success.
  • What kind of exercises will you do? Make a list of activities and be creative. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re more likely to stick with it!
  • When are you going to fit in a workout? Make a schedule of the specific days and times you will exercise. Prioritize them on your calendar as “appointments.”
  • Are you going to exercise at a gym, in a group class, at a park or track or at home using a workout DVD or technology app? Decide what might work best for you.
  • Do you prefer to exercise solo, with a buddy, in a class or with a personal trainer? Participating in supervised training may provide more health benefits for people with diabetes than non-supervised programs. Plus, the accountability to others can be very motivating.
  • How long will you exercise? Be realistic and set achievable goals. If you are brand new to working out, start with 10 minutes and build up to 30 minutes or more.
  • Keep a log of your exercise to stay on track. You can use fitness technology resources like a pedometer, fitness band or exercise watch to track steps, calories and heart rate. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for what you do-every step counts!

When you have diabetes, prioritize exercise as part of your lifestyle to better control your blood sugars. Beyond managing your diabetes, exercise can help you feel better about yourself and improve your overall health.

For more information about preventing and managing diabetes and prediabetes, visit the Cooper Aerobics website.

Healthy Eating Day Tips from the Pros

November 2, 2016 4 comments

Making healthy food choices most of the time is one of Dr. Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized. It can be tough to consistently consume a healthy diet, even for the experts, but a few healthy eating tips can go a long way. Read on for the top tips and insider information from Cooper Clinic’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.

Elana PaddockRDN, LD, CDE

My favorite snack in the morning is an Alyssa’s Healthy Oatmeal Bites cookie paired with a cup of coffee and light vanilla soy milk. I love cookies, especially oatmeal raisin, and this one hits the spot. One cookie has only 45 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 4 grams of fiber and 1 gram of sugar.  I love that the first five ingredients are rolled oats, oat bran, ground flax, ground chia and dried fruit. It tastes so good that you wouldn’t think it was packed with such healthy ingredients. I look forward to this “guilt-free” treat!

Patty KirkRDN, LD

I love the following meal for a simple dinner at home but great for company, too. Plus it has a bonus of being healthy!

Marinated pork tenderloin cooked on the grill, diced potatoes roasted with garlic and drizzled lightly with olive oil, accompanied by roasted vegetables (mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, onions).

Cynthanne DuryeaRDN, LD

My favorite dinner: I prepare white fish (cod or tilapia) in my electric rice and vegetable steamer according to the easy and clear instructions given in the manual (the steaming assures moist fish every time). While the fish is steaming, I sauté fresh baby spinach and sliced fresh mushrooms in a pan with a little olive oil. In a separate pan, I lightly heat sliced almonds in a pan until golden brown, lending a nice crunchy texture and toasted flavor.  I dish out the spinach and mushrooms onto a plate, top with steamed white fish and sprinkle the toasted sliced almonds on top of the fish. For a carbohydrate component, I add either brown rice or a slice of Seeduction Bread from Whole Foods.

My favorite breakfast: I batch cook several servings of McCann’s Steel Cut Oats. In the cooking water, I add chopped apple, pear, raisins, dried cherries, dried apricots or another fruit of choice. Then, each morning, I simply portion out a bowl of the cooked oats that have been cooked with the delicious fruits, and I microwave to heat the single portion. Then I add about 1/8 to ¼ cup of chopped walnuts, pecans or slivered almonds on top.  In preparing oats with fruit, a lot of flavor is added as well as nutrients…and there is no need to add sugar. The nuts on top add heart-healthy fat and some additional protein, making it very satisfying.

Meridan ZernerMS, RDN, CSSD, LD

  • Breakfast – Two frozen Kashi waffles with almond butter
  • Morning Snack – Vanilla Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries
  • Lunch – Pita pocket with hummus, nitrate-free turkey, cucumbers, tomatoes and spinach
  • Afternoon snack – VitaTops muffin
  • Dinner – Trader Joe’s steamed shrimp dumplings, seeds of change quinoa blend, edamame and mandarin oranges
  • If the sweet tooth kicks in:  Three Dove dark chocolates or a Fudgesicle, cocoa dusted almonds or protein powder pudding

Kathy Duran-ThalRDN, LD

Some of my favorite meals are as follows:

  1. Luvo frozen entree mixed with Birdseye frozen veggies
  2. Chick-fil-A: Large fruit cup and grilled chicken wrap with ½ package of honey mustard dressing
  3. KFC Grilled chicken breast, corn on the cob and green beans
  4. Store-bought rotisserie chicken breast, small baked potato and asparagus
  5. Sweet potato sprinkled with lime juice and some salt, rotisserie chicken and roasted Brussels sprouts
  6. Low sodium V8 juice microwaved until hot in coffee mug, then add a few drops of Tabasco and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Place one slice of whole grain bread in toaster oven topped with a slice of low fat cheese.
  7. California rolls with salad bar, including edamame, etc.
  8. Chick-fil-A seasonal tortilla soup
  9. McDonald’s Egg White Delight and Yogurt Parfait

Colleen LovelandMS, RDN, LD, CDE

I love my instant oatmeal in the morning for breakfast with raisins and chopped walnuts added.  For a quick dinner, I go for salmon, brown rice steamer and steamed broccoli.  I love honeycrisp apples this time of year for snacking!

For more healthy eating tips, click here. To learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

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.