DASHcoverYou’ve likely heard that DASH Diet was in the news again this week, rated by U.S. News and World Report as the #1 Best Overall Diet. The MIND Diet (at the crossroads of DASH and Mediterranean Diets, this diet plan focuses brain health and reducing Alzheimer risk) and the TLC Diet (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change – low fat) ranked second and third.

The great thing about this list is these top three diets are not fad diets. They are based on dietary patterns that have been tested and shown (via controlled clinical trials) to do what they set out to do. In the case of DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the goal was to reduce blood pressure. Not only did the diet plan achieve that goal, but other aspects of health improved too (such as blood sugar control in diabetes, and reduced cancer risk).

With the diet news buzzing this week, I thought now would be a great time to give you some simple facts about the DASH Diet:

  • DASH focuses on fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, grains, nuts and seeds
  • DASH clinical trials compared the diet with and without the 2-3 daily servings of low fat dairy. Blood pressure reductions were still reported without dairy, but the dairy group had a more significant reduction in systolic pressure (the top number) than the fruit-vegetable group
  • DASH allows small servings of lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, lamb and seafood
  • DASH limits added sugars and fat. This includes sweet treats such as cookies or donuts, and also sugary drinks and excess added fats (salad dressings, mayo, oils, etc)

So what do you specifically need to do to accomplish a DASH Diet? Here are some tips to help you head into the new year with a DASH Lifestyle:

  • Log your dairy intake. Your goal is 2-3 servings of low fat dairy for maximum blood-pressure lowering affect.
    • 1/2 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
    • 8 ounces 1% milk
    • 6 ounce Greek yogurt
  • Amp up those fruits and veggies
    • Add spinach leaves and tomato slices to sandwiches
    • Add some chopped vegetables into your grain and pasta dishes
    • Mince carrots into soups and stews
    • Slice apples and plate them up at home. If they are on the counter this way, everyone will grab-and-eat as they walk by
    • Enjoy a vegetable-fruit-yogurt smoothie after work or on the weekends
    • Add fruit to your tossed salads
    • Use more citrus in cooking as a flavor booster. Adding orange zest (from rind) to salads or poultry dishes adds flavor without salt. Slice the orange itself to add more flavor and fiber to the dish
    • Enjoy your oatmeal in the morning with a sliced banana or 2 tablespoons of dried fruit
    • Add veggies to your morning routine – melt an ounce of cheese and sliced tomatoes onto toast; add spinach leaves to a 2-egg omelet or egg sandwich; create a cheesy vegetable English muffin in your toaster oven
  • Enjoy smaller entrees of meat. I encourage you to try more meatless meals during the week but you can also allow for lean choices of beef, pork, or poultry too (this is why it’s also considered to be a plant-based diet – small portions of meats (5-8 ounce total daily, less red meats, more fish) lots of veggies, grains, and some nuts and seeds. The goal is to keep saturated fat intake low.
    • Enjoy 4 ounces sliced beef tenderloin alongside fresh green beans and 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
    • Try stuffing skinless turkey or chicken breasts with a stuffing made from whole grain bread, chopped celery and onion, dried cranberries, and sage.
    • Bake 4 ounce pork loin cutlets with sliced apples
  • Add some healthy fats to your diet, via fatty fish, nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado, and healthy oils.
    • Try 1 tablespoon of natural peanut or almond butter on your apple slices or whole grain toast
    • Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a whole grain salad
    • Enjoy a cup of low fat cottage cheese sprinkled with 2 teaspoons of sunflower seeds and some sliced strawberries
    • Have 4 ounces of grilled salmon for lunch or dinner
    • Add oil packed tuna to a pita pocket with chopped tomatoes, peppers, spinach, lettuce or sprouts
    • Sprinkle nuts or seeds onto tossed salad
  • Plan snacks with DASH in mind. We all need a snack during the day. Think about the DASH goals when you choose one – fruit, nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, all fit. When you host that Superbowl party, treat your guests to a delicious DASH Diet dip!

You can read the reviews and find many more tips and details in our book, DASH Diet For Dummies®.

For DASH Diet recipes, check out Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies®.