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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.

 

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

I Can’t vs. I Don’t!

Hello again! It’s been a while, but I’m back to update you on my health journey. And what a journey it has been… thanks to life, technically uneven pavement, getting in the way. I fell and sprained my ankle a couple of weeks ago, and as a result I have not been able to exercise. It’s amazing how an injury can impact your mood and motivation. While I’m maintaining the early weight loss I had experienced, not much else has changed. I talked to Meridan Zerner, my Cooper Clinic registered dietitian, about feeling deflated and she had a great tip to get my mental attitude in shape while I wait on my body to heal.

She says that every day is a new day and a new opportunity to build a long-term healthy foundation. That means, ideally, the choices we make today should be decisions, patterns, foods and activities that we can see ourselves doing next month, next year and five years from now. Meridan shared that on a plane ride home from visiting her family she was struck by an article in Health magazine. Researchers looked at the change in psychology and attitude when people said “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” regarding food challenges. They were more successful by switching their mentality to one that was more positive and committed to change and less about deprivation. Think about replacing the unhealthy words “I can’t” with the healthier “I don’t” or  “I choose not to” when confronted with difficult situations.

It’s amazing the power you give yourself and allow yourself to experience from the simple words of “I can, but I don’t.” A perfect example is a man named Reuben who works at HEB and is participating in its “Slim Down Showdown” challenge. Meridan is his nutrition coach via phone. She said that people bring donuts and other desserts to his office and one colleague is especially giving him a hard time about his health journey. Instead of falling into the jealous man’s trap, Reuben simply replies with “I can have it, but I choose not to.” The power is now on his side and it shows he is taking control of his health.

This new mindset is very inspiring. I’m excited to refocus how I view my choices. It’s very freeing being in control, rather than feeling like I’m a prisoner to what I can’t have. I hope this is helpful for you, too! Let me know what you think!

Full disclosure: HEB is a client of Cooper Consulting Partners and the “Slim Down Showdown” participants work with Cooper Wellness throughout their journey.

This was written by Amy George former VP of Marketing and Communications at Cooper Aerobics. Amy is no longer with Cooper Aerobics and we wish her all the best with her future endeavors.

Foods that Fight Pain

June 19, 2012 2 comments

How are you doing on your healthy-living journey? Mine has been a little painful the past couple of weeks, literally. The increased exercise, both cardio and weights, is giving my knees fits! So I’m going to focus on incorporating more foods that fight pain.

Meridan Zerner, my Cooper Clinic registered dietitian, gave me an article from the July issue of Environmental Nutrition called, “Soothe Pain with Foods, from Fish to Fruits.” It talks about how daily food choices can either reduce or increase levels of inflammation in the body… impacting levels of pain. Foods high in refined starches, sugar, saturated fats and trans fats can increase inflammation, while diets high in fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats plus fish and limiting processed foods and red meat are linked with lower inflammation. That makes sense to me and drives the point home that “bad” food can make you feel, well, bad.

Here are some of the top items Meridan and I discussed that can help my knees and entire body feel better:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish and fish oil, produce arthritic pain-reducing effects equivalent to ibuprofen,” the article says. And of course, glucosamine and chondroitin can help alleviate pain over time due to injuries or osteoarthritis. We have a ton of information on these supplements since we sell Omega-3 and Joint Health through Cooper Complete®. For more articles on this topic, check out this search from our Health Tips section.

    I love Tropical Green Organic Tea by Zhi Tea in Austin!

  • We’ve long known that green tea is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflamatory properties. I just bought a can of Tropical Green Tea from Zhi Tea in Austin while visiting my Dad for Father’s Day. It smells and tastes delicious! During the hot summer I prefer to ice my green tea. Meridan had a few other awesome tips: put the tea bag in soup and let it steep for a couple of minutes (shut the front door!); add a tea bag to boiling water for brown rice (brilliant!); or if you think green tea tastes bitter combine it with a cinnamon or other flavor to jazz it up (why didn’t I think of that!).
  • Fresh cherries or tart cherry juice are also linked with reducing muscle soreness after intense physical activity. Yum! Cherries are in season and I know this thanks to my Central Market mailer. Pomegranate and red grapes are also in the alleviate pain category.
  • I was surprised to see coffee on the list, which has been shown to reduce muscle pain during and after exercise. I can’t imagine heading to my Zumba class with a cup of coffee, but it’s good to know that the one cup I typically drink in the morning is helping me in more ways than simply wake up.
  • Spices are another area that are great for reducing pain and can certainly enhance the flavor of any dish. Try ginger, rosemary, chili and nutmeg. Add a dash of cayenne to spice things up and may help you eat a little less depending on how hot you make your dish. I’m a lightweight, so one dash is all I need.

These foods will help ensure I can stay physically active while I work on my health-living, and hopefully pain-free, journey. I can hear my iced green tea and your cup of tart cherry juice clinking as we speak! Cheers!

This was written by Amy George former VP of Marketing and Communications at Cooper Aerobics. Amy is no longer with Cooper Aerobics and we wish her all the best with her future endeavors.

Spring into St. Patrick’s Day with Greens

Get into the spirit of spring and St. Patrick’s Day with lots of green. Try greening up your plate with some “A” list green foods that scream good health and good fortune for the season.

Cabbage:
A versatile vegetable that works great cooked or raw. It’s rich in vitamins A, C, E and B and contains cancer-fighting antioxidants. Chop it up and toss it in a salad, mix up a low fat coleslaw side dish or top off your lean roast beef sub with some lower sodium sauerkraut. Colcannon is a classic Irish side dish that combines green cabbage with mashed potatoes. Enjoy this traditional food for St. Patrick’s Day and prepare it with low-fat milk for a lighter alternative.

Avocados:
A personal favorite! They are a healthy fat, rich in vitamin K, potassium and they are a super source of fiber. Half of a medium avocado contains an impressive 6 grams of fiber. As a fat, one medium avocado is calorie dense with about 320 calories, so watch your portion! Dice some up and add to a salad, smear mashed avocado on a whole grain sandwich in place of mayo, whip up a guacamole dip for a scrumptious crudite snack. You can even buy poaches of guacamole that make this green food easily accessible without any prep.

Edamame:
Everyone loves edamame as it grows in popularity by the day! It’s a great green food that packs lots of fiber and protein. It can be enjoyed steamed as an appetizer that’s fun to eat right out of the pod. You can also throw it on a salad or make it into a delicious side dish. It’s the perfect snack food too, especially the dry roasted type. Dive into a handful of wasabi edamame for an extra flavor kick. A ¼-cup serving has 130 filling calories, 7 grams of fiber and a notable 14 grams of protein (that’s the same amount of protein as 2 ounces of lean turkey or chicken breast!). You can find individual packs of pre-cooked edamame in the produce section of the grocery store and throw it in your lunch for some great crunch.

Asparagus:
Tis the season for asparagus. Among its other veggie counterparts, it leads the pack in folic acid necessary for healthy blood cells. It’s super low in calories, with one serving (or 4 medium spears) containing only 13 calories. Add chilled steamed asparagus to your favorite salad toss it in freshly cooked pasta with balsamic vinegar and a spritz of olive oil, or sauté it with garlic and mushrooms and add to chicken for a delicious main dish. Note, the larger the diameter, the better the quality.

What are some of your favorite green foods?