Make that change! Whether you’re trying to lose weight or achieve healthier eating habits, the DASH diet is a great way to start. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet focuses on eating a variety of food, portion control and getting the right amount of nutrients. It is a lifelong approach to help prevent high blood pressure (hypertension) but has been effective in general weight loss and overall well-being.
The diet places emphasis on eating more fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and moderate amounts of whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. Red meat, sweets, and fats can be consumed but only in small amounts. Here are the recommended servings for a 2,000-calorie-a-day plan.
Grains: 6 to 8 Servings per Day
These include rice, bread, pasta, noodles, and cereal. Serving size would be 1 slice of whole-wheat bread or ½ cup of cooked rice. Opt for whole grains/wheat as they contain more fiber and nutrients.
Vegetables: 4 to 5 Servings per Day
Carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, and other vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Serving size would be ½ cup of cut-up raw or cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw leafy greens. Fresh is best but frozen or canned is fine for consumption, just make sure the labels state they are low sodium or without added salt.
Fruits: 4 to 5 Servings per Day
Just like vegetables, fruits are jammed packed with fiber, potassium, and magnesium. Typically they are low in fat with coconuts as an exception. Serving size would be 1 medium fruit, ½ cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruits or ½ cup of juice. Try having fruits with every meal and snack. Leave on edible peels as they contain healthy nutrients and fiber. Take note that citrus fruits like oranges/grapefruits/lemons/limes may interact with certain medications, so check with your doctor or pharmacist. If you select canned fruits or juices make sure that there is no sugar added.
Dairy: 2 to 3 Servings per Day
Milk, cheese, and other dairy products are great sources of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Opt for low-fat or fat-free options as whole fat is often saturated and can lead to a number of health issues. Serving size would be 1 cup of skim/1% milk, 1 cups of low-fat yogurt, 1 slice of part-skim cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, look for lactose-free products or consider taking an over-the-counter product that contains the enzyme lactase which may aid with digestion. You can have regular or fat-free cheese but only in small amounts as they contain high levels of sodium.
Lean meat, poultry, and fish: 0 to 6 Servings per Day
Meat is a rich source of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Opt for lean varieties (less fat) and do not consume beyond 6 servings a day. Serving size would be 1 egg or a matchbox size of meat. Make sure to remove any excess fat or skin and rather than fry in fat/oil/butter, it would be better to grill, bake, roast or broil instead. Fish such as salmon, tuna, and herring are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help lower cholesterol.
Fats and Oils: 2 to 3 servings per Day
Yes, you still need fat. Not all fat is bad and it actually helps you absorb essential vitamins and improve your body’s immune system. It’s only when you have too much fat wherein you increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Serving size would be 1 teaspoon of margarine, 2 tablespoons of salad dressing or a tablespoon of mayonnaise. Avoid trans fat and limit saturated fat.
Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4 to 5 Servings per Week
Beans, lentils, almonds, sunflower seeds, and other food from this family are great sources of protein, potassium, fiber, and magnesium. A serving size is about 1/3 cup of nuts, ½ cup of cooked beans, or 2 tablespoons of seeds. Consume only a few times a week as this kind of food is high in calories.
Sweets: 0 to 5 servings per Week
Avoiding sweets can be difficult but you and control it. Serving size would be 1 tablespoon of sugar, jelly or jam, 1 cup of lemonade, or ½ cup of sorbet. Choose options that are fat-free or low-fat like sorbets, fruit ices, graham crackers, cookies, hard candies or jelly beans. Added sugar just means more calories without nutritional value.
Applying It to Your Life
Change gradually and find what works for you. This diet is really more of a guideline to achieve healthier eating habits. Discover new food to try out. If you’re vegetarian there are many options to make up for protein such as soy, tofu, mushrooms and nuts that can be replaced over the lean meat, poultry and fish section. You can’t expect change overnight but once you get started, keep going! Remember, healthy eating is about nutrition and variety to benefit your health.
How healthy are your habits? What do you think of the DASH diet? Let us know down below!