DASH Diet: A Healthy Eating Plan for the Whole Family

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet isn’t just for adults who have or are at risk for hypertension. It’s an approach to eating that’s healthy for most children as well. Why talk about DASH and kids? Consider the fact that since the 1970s, American children between the ages of 6 and 11 are now consuming

  • Triple the amount of salty snacks

  • Nearly double the amount of candy

  • More than 40 percent fewer vegetables

  • Half the amount of milk

  • Twice the amount of soda

It’s no wonder that more than one-third of U.S. kids are overweight or obese. These kids in particular are likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes much earlier in life than ever before. The good news is that the DASH diet has the potential to help kids that are heading down this road.

For instance, a British study of girls with metabolic syndrome found that after spending just six weeks on DASH, blood pressure and insulin levels were improved compared to those who weren’t assigned to DASH.

Another study that simply tracked the diets of young girls over the course of ten years reported that those whose diets simply included two or more servings of dairy and at least three servings of fruits and veggies daily were one-third less likely to have high blood pressure by the time they hit their late teens.

When it comes to kids, it’s up to parents to provide healthy food options and keep unhealthy snacks to a minimum. DASH keeps it simple by giving you a structure that you can follow to put together nutritious meals for your family. As always, get your pediatrician’s or family doctor’s approval before jumping right in.