Posts Tagged ‘heart healthy’

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.


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.


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.


  • 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.


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.

The Names Behind The Numbers

The Dallas Heart Walk is a part of Cooper history. Our founder, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper started the local walk over 20 years ago and each year teammates do their part to walk and raise money for this worthy cause. We’re always looking for people to join us so if you’re in the area we’d love for you to walk with us. And if you need some added motivation this video from Cooper Aerobics CEO Dr. Tyler Cooper is sure to get you moving.

One other reason that gets all of us moving is realizing there are names behind the statistics of heart disease. As Dr. Tyler Cooper mentioned heart disease is the number one killer of Americans and stroke comes in at number 4. And each year over 800,000 people die from these diseases. But behind each stat is  someone’s mom, dad, sister or friend.

Michael Sula

Michael Sula, one of our Heart Walk Team Captains is proud to walk for his grandfather.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet with our Dallas American Heart Association representative, Ashley Lindsay, and visit teammates around our campus who are participating in the upcoming Dallas Heart Walk. We took photos of teammates we visited with a sign that read: “I’m walking for….” It was an opportunity to motivate everyone to meet their fundraising goal and remind them of the reason they walk.

Some said, they were walking for “my grandparents, my health, my city.” One said he was walking for his “dad, mother, brother—all victims of the disease.” And others gave specific names—like “Bill” and “Ryan.” This simple act of attaching a name to the disease gives us one more reason to do our best to reduce the number of names behind the statistics. It’s the reason we walk and raise funds.

Linda Mays and JessicaCandy

Jessica Candy and Linda Mays support the Dallas Heart Walk as Cooper Aerobics Team Captains.

Help us meet our fundraising goal here. Every dollar counts!

Who will you walk for? We encourage you to join us. As we mentioned If you live in the Dallas area join our team and register for the Dallas Heart Walk. If you’re not in our area you can find your local walk here.

We’ll see you on Sept. 7 at the Dallas Heart Walk. Make it a heart healthy day!

Heart Disease: Using Nutrition to Take Control

August 9, 2013 4 comments

Our daily nutrition choices can go a long way in reducing our risk of heart disease.  In this video, Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian, Meridan Zerner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD shows us practical and simple ways to make heart healthy choices at each meal. Her tips include adding good choices to our diet, like fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and reducing foods like cheese and butters. Making even one of these changes on a daily basis can make a significant difference in protecting your heart for the future.

For more health tips from dietitians at Cooper Clinic, visit our website.

Heart Smart Food Label Reading

February 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Heart HealthThere’s no better time to start reading food labels than this February, American Heart Month. One of the most important steps when eating for a healthy heart starts when you’re at the grocery store before you add foods to your cart. Reading food labels can be a bit tricky. With a few simple guidelines, you will know know what to look for and literally what to take to heart.

1.  Serving Size. Start at the top and check out the serving size. This tells you how much of the product is in a single serving. All of the data that follows refers back to what is in that single serving. Beware of multiple servings in a package (see “servings per container” below), because you need to calculate the right amount according to how much you actually eat.
Heart Smart Tip: Pay attention to the serving size to keep your weight in check. Maintaining a healthy weight is going to help keep your blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar in a healthy range.

2.  Servings per Container. You will find this right below the serving size. Just like it sounds, it’s the number of servings in the whole container. For example, if the serving size on a box of crackers is 10 pieces and you eat 20 pieces, double the data listed to account for the amount you eat.
Heart Smart Tip: If there are multiple servings in a package, it’s a good idea to stick with just one serving. This will help you better manage portions and weight. Take out the amount of one serving, put it on a small dish and immediately return the package to the fridge or pantry.

3.  Calories. Check out the calories! This tells you, based on the serving size, how much the food counts toward your total daily calorie budget. Simply put, if you’re watching your waistline for peak heart health, then this number is worth counting. If you know the number of calories you need to achieve a healthy weight, then you can figure out how much you can eat of that specific food.
Heart Smart Tip: Calories are your body’s fuel source. Try spreading them out throughout the day for your best energy levels. Skipping meals usually leads to overcompensating by chowing down at other times of the day, particularly in the evening hours. Eating too many calories at any time of day and especially at night when you’re typically relaxing and more inclined to overeat, is counterproductive when you’re trying to watch your weight.

4.  Total Fat. Look at the total grams of fat on food labels. The general recommendation for a heart healthy diet is about 30 percent of daily calories from fat.
Heart Smart Tip: A 2,000 calorie diet should contain no more than about 65 grams (g) of fat per day. To put this in perspective, if a single serving of food contains 30 g of total fat, this accounts for a big chunk, almost 50 percent of your daily allotted fat! You might want to reconsider your options.

5.  Saturated Fat. This number is especially important for your heart. Saturated fat is one of the “ugly” fat sources in the diet. It drives up the LDL (bad) cholesterol, which clogs your arteries and increases your risk of heart disease. Offensive saturated fats are found in high fat dairy foods (whole milk, cheese, butter, cream-based foods and ice cream); high fat meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and ribs; and oils found in coconut and palm kernel oil and products made with these ingredients.
Heart Smart Tip: Select low-fat and nonfat dairy products, such as fat-free milk, 1 percent milk, reduced-fat cheeses (with no more than 3  g saturated fat per serving), nonfat yogurt and low-fat frozen treats. Ban butter and go for liquid oil-based spreads instead. Choose meats that are low-fat with no more than 3 g of saturated fat per three ounce (oz.) serving. Avoid coconut milk, yogurt and frozen treats which are extremely loaded in saturated fat.

6. Trans Fat: If saturated fats are “ugly,” trans fats (a.k.a. hydrogenated fats) are “evil.”  They are evil because not only do they raise your LDL cholesterol, they also lower your heart protective good HDL cholesterol. That’s a double whammy! Trans fats are artificial and were originally created to improve food texture and keep foods more shelf-stable. Common sources of trans fat include some margarines, cakes, biscuits, fried foods, sweets and many high fat dairy products. Note, many liquid oil-based margarines now contain no trans fat and therefore can be included in small amounts in a heart healthy diet. Try not to get any trans fat in your diet.
Heart Smart Tip: Look for the number “zero” on labels next to the trans fat. Beware: if one serving of a food lists 0 g of trans fat, it may still contain trace amounts. By law, a food company does not have to disclose any trans fats if a single serving contains no more than 0.5 g of trans fat.  Read the “Ingredients” list at the bottom of the label and if one of the first ingredients is “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil,” then put that food back on the shelf. If you choose to occasionally eat foods containing trans or hydrogenated fats, then at the very least, consume just one serving.

7.  Cholesterol. The American Heart Association deems that a general heart healthy diet should contain no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per day. Foods containing the highest amounts of cholesterol are egg yolks, liver and other organ meats, and shrimp. Most meats, including lean meats, fish and poultry, high-fat cheese, butter and high-fat mayonnaise contain in the ball park of 35-90 g per serving. A “typical” serving is defined as 3 oz. of meat, 1 oz. of cheese, and 1 Tbsp. of either butter or mayonnaise.
Heart Smart Tip: Try not to consume the very high cholesterol containing foods very often and keep your daily animal protein intake from fish, chicken, turkey, lean pork and lean red meat to no more than about 4-8 oz. a day. The amount of protein you need per day should match your calorie needs.

8.  Sodium. The current dietary guidelines recommend no more than 1,500-2,300 mg of sodium per day. Too much salt in the diet drives up blood pressure which can lead to heart disease. Some foods are shockingly high in sodium, even if they don’t taste “salty.” Don’t try to guess if there’s a lot of salt in your food, read the label. Common culprits of sodium are processed meats and cheeses, canned soups and vegetables, convenience foods, salted snacks, seasonings and condiments (soy sauce, bouillon cubes, pickles, bottled sauces and dressings, such as salad dressing, tomato sauce, mustard and ketchup). The list goes on – as much as 75 percent of the sodium found in the average American diet comes from processed foods, not the salt shaker.
Heart Smart Tip: Select snacks and side dishes with no more than 300 mg sodium per serving. Choose entrees with less than 600-800 mg sodium per serving. Compare similar foods and choose the ones with the least amount of sodium. Use salt-free seasonings, such as Mrs. Dash in place of all varieties of salt, including sea salt, which is no lower in sodium than table salt.

9.  Dietary Fiber. Become a fan of fiber, if you’re not already. Fiber is famous for many of its redeeming qualities. The type of fiber that is credited for lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol  is “soluble” fiber, found in oatmeal and oat bran dry cereals such as Cheerios, Kashi Heart to Heart and Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Cinnamon Oat Crunch. Soluble fiber is also known to help stabilize your blood sugar and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. The other type of fiber, “insoluble” fiber, functions to help with digestion and satiety. A high fiber diet contains a wealth of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, nuts and seeds. Because fiber can help fill you up, it can help you consume fewer calories and lose weight. Aim for 20-35 g of fiber every day.
Heart Smart Tip: Get your daily dose of fiber with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen vegetables are another great option and are often more convenient. Select wholegrain products, such as brown rice, wholewheat or whole-oat cereals, wholegrain breads, pastas and other high fiber starches. Compare food labels to get the most fiber bang for your buck. As a general rule of thumb, pick out cereals with at least 5 g of fiber per serving and wholegrain breads, pastas and rice with at least 3 g of fiber per serving.

So the next time you head to the grocery store, take a few moments to check out the food labels. Once you’re equipped with the knowledge, it will take less time and effort to plan heart healthy meals for you and your family.