Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dash Diet

What is dash diet?

The Dash diet is a set of dietary guidelines for people with high blood pressure (hypertension). Not only has research shown the diet to significantly lower blood pressure, but it also appears to lower cholesterol levels and homocysteine levels.
Dash diet is built around the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and plant-based protein over meat.

Sample DASH menu

The following sample menu is provided by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. It is based on a 2,000-calorie diet and provides for about 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Adjustments can be made for a lower sodium target (e.g., 1,500 milligrams) or for higher calorie diets. This menu is only a sample to give you an idea of what a typical day on the DASH diet might look like.


  • 1 cup whole grain oat rings cereal (e.g., Cheerios)
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 medium raisin bagel
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 cup orange juice


  • Tuna salad plate containing 1/2 cup tuna salad, 1 large leaf romaine lettuce and 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • Cucumber salad with 1 cup fresh cucumber, 1/2 cup tomato wedges and 1 tablespoon vinaigrette dressing
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup canned pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted almonds


  • 3 ounces turkey meatloaf
  • 1 small baked potato, topped with 1 tablespoon fat-free sour cream, 1 tablespoon reduced-fat cheddar cheese, and 1 chopped scallion
  • 1 cup collard greens, sauteed with 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 small whole wheat roll
  • 1 medium peach


  • 1 cup fat-free, no added sugar fruit yogurt
  • 1 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Dos and Don'ts for the DASH diet

Making adjustments to your diet may be difficult. To follow the DASH eating plan, it may be best to start making the changes gradually, such as adding an additional serving of vegetables to your lunch, then dinner. Also, don't worry about occasionally slipping from the program. Because DASH represents a lifestyle change, one day of eating poorly will not cause any long-term problems. The important thing is to start the next day back on the program.

In addition, some individuals do better with specifically planned menus. It may be helpful to keep a record of all your meals and snacks to determine how closely you are following the plan. Using a dietitian may also help you with meal planning and monitoring.

Some tips that may help you with the DASH eating plan include:

  • Do add a serving of vegetables at lunch.
  • Do use half the butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing or other fat items that you normally use. Trying using low-fat or non-fat alternatives as a substitute.
  • Do eat fruit as a snack. An apple or banana is perfect for those hungry times between meals. These foods are much healthier for you than chips and cookies.
  • Do watch what you drink. Replace soda, sugary teas or punches and alcoholic beverages with fat-free (skim) or 1 percent milk. This will not only help you cut back on your sweets, but will also help you meet the DASH diet’s dairy requirements.
  • Do learn serving sizes. Serving-sizes are a guideline to help you change not only what you are eating, but also how much of each type of food you are eating. While all the numbers and charts are initially cumbersome, they will become second nature once a daily routine has been set.
  • Do learn to read food labels. Much of the sodium in our diet is added to foods while processing. To lower your intake of sodium, begin by removing the salt shaker from the table. Gradually lower the amount of salt added during cooking and instead try herbs, spices, lemon or sodium-free seasoning blends to flavor your food. You can also rinse canned foods to lower their sodium content. Lastly, read food labels and compare sodium content of foods when shopping. Select the items that have the highest nutritional value with the lowest sodium content.
  • Do experiment with vegetarian dishes or dishes with little meat and more vegetables and grains. These include stir-fry meals, pasta dishes and casseroles. These healthy and tasty alternatives will add spice and variety to your diet.
  • Do change your shopping list. Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables on your weekly shopping list and buy less meat.
  • Do feed your cravings for sweets with sugar-free gelatin or dried fruit. Fat-free or low-fat frozen yogurt can replace high-fat ice cream.
  • Do keep it simple. Remember that you are not trying to stay on a short-term diet. You are changing your lifestyle. The simpler you keep your meals, your goals and your tasks, the easier they will be to maintain.
  • Do keep a record. Keeping a diary or a logbook can help you keep track of the number of servings you are eating in each category. Plus, seeing what you are eating in black and white is a great way to check your progress. It can also help you to identify patterns and triggering events that put you off track.
  • Do celebrate success. Reward yourself for every accomplishment but not with food.
  • Don’t make meat the center of your meal. Although meat contains nutrients that are good for the body, it is also high in saturated fat and cholesterol, not to mention calories. You can continue to enjoy meat as part of a balanced meal rather than the whole meal. Remember to make this change gradually. If you typically eat more than the suggested amount of meat, reduce your portions by a third for one week. After a week, cut back another third until your serving sizes of meat are equal to the DASH serving size of 3 ounces.
  • Don’t try to do it all at once. You will be more successful if you make gradual changes in your eating habits. If you are used to large portions, cut them back by a half or a third at each meal.
  • Don’t be discouraged by occasional lapses. They happen, but you should determine why the lapse occurred so you can avoid that same trigger in the future. Was it a holiday party that got you off track? Stress due to a problem at work? Learn from the mistake and move on; it is all a process of change, and change takes time and patience.


Blackened chicken with berry salad

This delicious salad includes lots of vegetables, fruit, along with a lean protein source.

1 teaspoon blackening spice mixture
4 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 cup romaine lettuce

Rub chicken breast with spice mixture, grill until internal temperature is 165°F. Make the salad base with romaine lettuce strips. Top with a variety of vegetables, such as grated carrots, radishes, pea pods, tomato, peas, pepper strips, red cabbage. Then top with a mix of berries, including raspberries, sliced strawberries, and blueberries. Slice the grilled chicken breast into strips and place on top of the salad. Top with your favorite oil and vinegar or raspberry vinaigrette dressing. (Note, to keep sodium low, be sure the spice mixture is salt-free, and use dressings with low sodium).

Fabulous frittata

6 eggs (or egg substitute)

1 cup frozen extra-sweet sweet corn

1 cup sliced pepper strips

1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

1/4 cup sliced onion

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon dry basil ( or 1 tablespoon diced fresh basil)

4 ounces shredded colby/Jack cheese or other cheese blend

Lightly stir eggs, add basil. Pour canola oil into In non-stick frying pan with metal handle, over medium heat. When oil is hot, add pepper strips, onion, and frozen sweet corn. (You can substiute a frozen mixture of pepper strips and onions, if desired). Saute for 3 minutes, stirring and turning over. Then add tomatoes, and continue to stir and turn over. Cook an additional 5 minutes, or until onions are transluscent. Pour egg-basil mixture over the vegetables. Use spatula to lift edges or separate slightly in the interior, and allow eggs to fall to bottom of mixture as the frittata cooks. When egg mixture is thickened all the way through, top with cheese. Then brown under broiler for 2 - 3 minutes. Makes 6 servings. Tip: be sure to use a pan with a metal handle; plastic will melt under the broiler. We used an All-Clad pan.

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