Adding Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds, and Beans with the DASH Diet

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

The first strategy for adding more plant foods on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is making sure you have them available. Face it — you won’t eat right if all you have in the fridge is a jar of mustard and some pickles.

Adding fruits and vegetables to your weekly shopping list is a must. These foods contain a good amount of potassium, an important mineral for healthy hearts.

Having easy, ready-to-eat access to these foods in the refrigerator is helpful. When you purchase vegetables, store them in the crisper bin in the refrigerator; they’ll last longer. Keep some washed, cut, and ready to eat in airtight containers so grabbing them is easy.

The same goes for fruit: Keep it stored in a fruit bin, and keep fruits that perish more quickly (bananas, berries, and so on) on your running grocery list so you always have them on hand.

Try these time-saving strategies to help get you eating more fruits and vegetables:

  • When you bring home melon, take a few minutes to cut it, remove the rind, and cube it for snacking. Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If fruit is clean and ready to grab when you want to eat it, you’ll eat more of it and throw less away.

  • Keep a veggie snack box in the fridge too. Put sliced celery sticks, sweet bell pepper slices, and mini carrots into a zippered bag and keep it in sight when you open the refrigerator. Use these as snacks before dinner or pack them in your lunch. Dip them into a yummy Greek yogurt dip and enjoy.

  • Keep bananas on the counter where you can see them and easily grab one on the go. Eat one each day, before they go brown. Add them to oatmeal or yogurt or just eat them as is for a quick snack.

  • Wash and freeze stemmed grapes for a refreshing snack in warmer months, or try cutting a banana into 1-inch chunks, dipping one end in melted dark chocolate, and freezing — a delicious, potassium-filled frozen treat!

  • Keep some frozen fruit in the freezer for a quick and economical fruit choice. It can take up the space that the salt-ridden taquitos may have once inhabited in your freezer.

  • Spread peanut butter lightly onto whole-wheat toast or an oat bran English muffin and top with sliced bananas for a midday snack.

  • Make a yogurt parfait with nonfat vanilla yogurt, 3 tablespoons granola, and fresh fruit.

  • Peel and slice a melon and place it in an airtight container in the fridge, ready to grab.

  • Cook spinach the night you bring it home, even if you don’t eat it then. Cooked spinach lasts a few more days in the refrigerator and is easy to reheat in a microwave or saucepan and add to eggs or a pasta or rice dish. You can also cook half of it and use the rest as sandwich toppers for your lunches.

    Spinach only takes about five minutes to cook. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the spinach, cover, let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, and drain.

  • Keep dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, and cranberries on a prime pantry shelf for a quick snack or to add to salads and other recipes. Put the chips and croutons out of sight.

  • Mix up a fruit smoothie for breakfast or for an after-work snack while you’re getting dinner together. Take 1 cup of frozen or fresh berries or a banana and purée in a blender with 4 to 8 ounces of low-fat milk and three ice cubes.

  • Keep frozen peas on hand for a quick side dish or to add to pasta or rice dishes.

When you first glanced at the DASH diet, you may have said out loud: “What? Eat 4 to 5 servings of vegetables every day? And eat 4 to 5 servings of fruit too?!” But alas, there is comfort in the answer to the question “What is a serving?”

Serving Sizes of Fruits and Vegetables
Food 1 Serving
Apple, orange, peach, pear 1 medium
Kiwifruit 1
Banana, medium-large 1/2
Raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries 1/4 cup (or 4 tablespoons)
Frozen, canned, or fresh mixed fruit 1/2 cup
Fruit juice 6 ounces
Raw vegetables 1 cup
Cooked vegetables 1/2 cup
Vegetable juice 6 ounces

So with the information provided, you know that if you slice up a large apple or a large banana for your midday snack, you can count that as 2 servings. Most dinner salads at restaurants are also 2 servings. Add 4 tablespoons of dried cranberries to that salad and you’ve got another serving of fruit.

Throw 1 cup of frozen strawberries into the blender with some low-fat yogurt and you just included 2 more servings of fruit! See how easy this 4-to-5 servings rule is?

In addition to the fruit and vegetable groups, you want to add nuts, seeds, and dried beans to your diet. These high-protein foods are considered to be part of the meat/protein food group. In addition to protein, they provide nutrients and fiber. Serving sizes are important here too. Just 1/3 cup of nuts equals 1 serving. A serving of seeds is just 2 tablespoons, and a serving of beans is 1/2 cup.