DASH Diet Nutrition Basics

Part of the DASH Diet For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan isn’t hard to follow. Following are the types of food the diet recommends you eat, along with the number of servings per day.

These servings are based on a 2,000-calorie diet, but you may need to consume more or less than 2,000 calories a day depending on your age, gender, and activity level. Check with your doctor or use a calorie calculator for an estimate of your daily calorie needs.

  • Grains (6–8 daily servings), preferably whole: Examples of 1 serving of grains include 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, pasta, rice, barley, or other grain. Look for the word whole — don’t assume that any brown-colored “wheat” bread is a great choice. Read further and check the Nutrition Facts label, the list of ingredients, and the fiber content. Look for whole-wheat flour or another whole-grain flour as the first ingredient. Also, seek out grain products with 2 or more grams of fiber per serving. Venture out of your comfort zone and try brown and wild rice, barley, bulgur, quinoa, or whole-wheat couscous.

  • Fruits (4–5 daily servings): A serving of fruit may be a small to medium piece of fruit, 10 grapes, 1/2 grapefruit, 1/2 banana, or 2 tablespoons of raisins or other dried fruit. Find new ways to add more fruit to your meals: Top salads with sliced strawberries or apples and add raisins or blueberries to oatmeal. Make fruit your daily go-to choice for snacking, too.

  • Vegetables (4–5 daily servings): A serving of vegetables comprises 1 cup of raw veggies or 1/2 cup cooked. If you think eating 4 to 5 servings of vegetables every day is difficult, try adding more vegetables to sandwiches: Spinach leaves, green peppers, sliced tomatoes, and sprouts are all excellent sandwich toppers. If you’re tired of the bland taste of boiled vegetables, give grilling a chance. Grill zucchini, portobello mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, and Vidalia onions to really turn up the volume on vegetable flavor.

  • Low-fat or nonfat dairy (2–3 daily servings): Limit your milk to skim or 1%, and primarily eat low-fat yogurt and cheese. To meet your 2 to 3 servings goal, drink two 1-cup servings of skim or 1% milk daily. Or, as 1 serving, have a snack of 8 ounces of low-fat Greek yogurt. Eating 1 ounce of low-fat or nonfat cheese also counts as a serving. To cut the fat even more, use low-fat yogurt in place of sour cream in your recipes.

  • Lean meats, fish, and poultry (2 or fewer daily servings): Limit the total amount of lean protein to no more than 6 to 8 ounces. Examples of the recommended foods in this category include fresh chicken breast or legs, fresh turkey breast, loin cuts of beef, sirloin, round steak, extra-lean ground beef, pork loin roast, pork tenderloin, fresh fish, and low-sodium canned tuna.

  • Nuts and seeds (4–5 weekly servings): Even though nuts and seeds provide good fats, they’re calorically dense. So try adding small amounts of nuts to your salads or stir-fries to meet your goal of getting 4 to 5 servings of nuts and seeds per week. A serving of nuts is about 1/3 cup (make sure they’re unsalted) or 2 tablespoons of nut butter (like peanut or almond). A healthy serving size of unsalted seeds, such as sunflower seeds, is 2 tablespoons.

  • Healthy fats (2-3 daily servings): Oils with healthy monounsaturated fats include olive, peanut, and canola oils. Soybean oil and corn oil are higher in polyunsaturated fats, which are good for you, too. Some foods that feature healthy fats are avocados, nuts, olives, seeds, vinaigrette salad dressings, spread margarines, natural nut butters, quick breads made with vegetable oil, and recipes that include the healthy oils listed here. Generally, a teaspoon of oil or a tablespoon of salad dressing or spread is a 1-serving equivalent. Check the Nutrition Facts label to determine the serving size for food products under this umbrella.

  • Fats and sweets (2 or fewer daily servings — according to the actual serving size): You don’t actually need these foods, so you shouldn’t consume them daily — this allotment is solely for pleasure. Make sure you actually read the label of whatever goodie you’re indulging in so that you consciously eat just 1 serving (instead of eating 5 servings by accident). Examples of servings of fats and sweets include a 2-inch square brownie, a small donut, a miniature candy bar, 2 small cookies, 1 small muffin, 1 small piece of pie or cake, and 8 ounces of soda or another sugary beverage.

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