10 DASH diet basics to get you started.

Guest Post By: Alyse Schulz, Nutrition & Dietetics Student, Dominican University

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3 million Americans are currently living with diabetes, while another 84.1 million people are pre-diabetic and at-risk for developing diabetes within the next five years. Research suggests that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, proven to reduce high blood pressure in adults, is also an effective nutritional plan for people with diabetes or considered pre-diabetic. Recent studies show that eating a DASH diet results in several health benefits which includes lowering your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and blood lipid (fat and cholesterol) levels. Sounds complicated? Not at all. With just a few minor changes can make your current eating habits more DASH-friendly and help you create a dietary plan that the whole family can follow.

What is the DASH Diet? The DASH diet is a set of recommendations for adults with high blood pressure or those at risk for developing high blood pressure. It’s a nutritional plan based on fruits, vegetables, fat-free or reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and lean meats, legumes, and nuts and seeds. It limits foods containing high amounts of salt, added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol. The diet’s guidelines restrict sodium amounts to 2,300 mg (1 teaspoon of salt) or 1,500 mg (¾ teaspoon of salt) a day. In general, the DASH diet is a practical eating plan that does not require special foods, supplements or extreme eating restrictions. You can easily modify your current diet, as well as your favorite recipes to fit the DASH diet. Plus, your entire family will benefit from eating this way.   10 Easy Changes to Make Your Diet More DASH-Friendly So how do you get started? Use the following tips to make your current diet more DASH-friendly:

  1. Substitute full-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese) with low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products. Aim to eat at least 3 servings each day.
  2. Stick to lean meats like chicken and turkey (without the skin) and fish. Limit eating lean red meats (sirloin and flank steak) to 6 ounces or less a day. Keep in mind a 3-ounce serving looks like the size of a deck of cards.
  3. Go meatless! Substitute 2 or more meat-based meals for plant-based dishes each week. Need inspiration? Check out this hearty black bean and pumpkin chili.
  4. Toss more beans and vegetables into your meals. Add one serving per day and gradually increase the amount to include at least one serving with each meal.
  5. Avoid pre-packaged treats such as cookies, crackers and convenience snacks, which can be high in fat, trans fats, and added sugars. Instead, snack on fresh fruit, sliced veggies, and unsalted nuts like pecans, walnuts, and pistachios.
  6. Choose fruits (cherries, apricots, apples, oranges) and vegetables (broccoli, celery, cucumber, peppers) that are lower in natural sugar and higher in fiber to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  7. Read nutrition labels on packaged foods to check the salt content. Low-sodium foods should contain only 5% or less of the Daily Value of sodium.
  8. Instead of using salt, try other seasonings like no-salt herb and spice blends, lemon and lime juice, and vinegar to add more flavor to dishes without raising the sodium levels. This recipe for curried chicken salad doesn’t use any added salt – only curry powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.
  9. Increase your physical activity to support the benefits of the DASH diet, such as losing weight and boosting heart health. Aim to include 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (walking, biking, jogging) each week.
  10. Before you eat out, look up the menu and nutrition facts online to help you plan your meal. Many restaurants now offer low sodium, DASH-friendly options, so choose before you go.

The DASH diet is a nutritional plan proven to decrease high blood pressure, as well as lower your risk of developing diabetes. By using the tips listed above, you can modify your current diet to meet DASH guidelines, and you and your family can reap the health benefits associated with this plan. For more low-sodium, DASH diet-inspired recipes like lemon chicken and chicken and vegetable barley soup, download the free app, Eat Healthy Homemade Meals, from iTunes and Google Play.

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Jodie
Jodie

Jodie Shield, M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N.
Jodie Shield has been a consultant and spokesperson in the field of nutrition for over two decades. A former national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (1989-1995), she has worked extensively with the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and taught nutrition and medical dietetics at the University of Illinois. Currently she is a complemental faculty member of the College of Health Sciences in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University in Chicago.

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