The DASH Diet isn’t just beneficial for lowering blood pressure, but has been ranked the number one diet overall for weight loss and health. One of the key principles of the diet is adding a wider variety of vegetables to your diet, and some nuts and seeds. I think for most folks, the reason they may not eat enough vegetables is that they don’t think they taste good. This is why it’s really important to get into the kitchen and start experimenting a little bit. By themselves, many veggies are sort of blah. Who wants to eat food that’s not tasty? Nobody!

Healthy add-ins give vegetable dishes a unique flavor and texture. Of all nuts, walnuts are the highest in the essential oil ALA (alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid), and they can really add great flavor and crunch to your salads and veggie dishes! An ounce of walnuts contains 190 calories and 4 grams of protein. Eat them fresh, and there’s no sodium.

Even if your schedule doesn’t allow a lot of prep time during the work week, try to set a goal to cook up something really good over the weekend. And, it doesn’t always even involve cooking! Here are some easy ideas:

  • This salad made from grains, greens and walnuts from the California Walnut Board sounds delicious doesn’t it? And it’s so easy. You may not be familiar with Quinoa, but pick up a box or pouch of it the next time you’re in the grocery store. It’s in the rice section. It cooks very quickly, not only making it super-easy, but also a great quick weeknight side dish. If you don’t like it on it’s own, try blending it into other dishes, like this salad, or one of your favorite pasta salad or rice recipe.
  • Make a large casserole one night, and then pack it for lunch the next. My heart healthy brown rice casserole is based on this old recipe from the American Heart Association. I used kale and onions this time, olive oil, and ricotta instead of cottage cheese. You can create your own version using walnuts and spinach, or substitute barley for the brown rice.
  • Pack up a small bag of walnuts to take to work with you. Enjoy them as a mid morning or afternoon snack. Better yet, mix a batch of these sweet and spicy walnuts on Sunday, and enjoy all week!
  • How about a quick comfort dish during the week – nothing says “quick and easy” like pasta. Try mixing your favorite veggies, a few toasted walnuts into some bowtie pasta, and a one-dish meal is created!
  • A lunchtime favorite – tuna salad – can be “DASHed” up with some extra veggies, fruit, and nuts! Walnuts add a great crunch in addition to celery, and finely chopped apples add a little sweetness. Try this recipe or create your own.

It’s really not so hard to add these DASH-friendly foods into your week, it just takes a bit of thought (grocery list) and planning. Enjoy eating well!