Plan Around Obstacles You Encounter with the DASH Diet
Consider any barriers that may be present as you set and track your goals with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. First and foremost, think of the eating habits of the people you live with. Do you have children in the house who enjoy cookies or ice cream regularly? Does having these foods around tempt you to go overboard?
Speak openly with your housemates about why it’s important to you to make lifestyle changes toward better heart health. Although children may have a bit more leeway when it comes to raiding the cookie jar, they still require several servings of fruit, vegetables, and dairy each day too, so setting a heart-healthy example actually benefits the whole family.
Vacations, holidays, and special events (like your coworker’s wedding or the upcoming family reunion) can also hinder your progress toward a healthier lifestyle — if you let them. You need to put a good plan in place to avoid this pitfall.
Enjoy these special occasions, but you’ll feel better if you take care of yourself by eating well and exercising during these special times. Modify your goals during busy times (instead of a 45-minute walk, schedule a 20-minute walk).
Perhaps your fatal flaw when it comes to changing your lifestyle is your schedule — or lack thereof. A routine can keep you on track, meaning less snacking and skipping of meals. Although no two people’s schedules are the same, establishing your own daily routine helps you achieve your daily and weekly goals. Consider this:
Plan to eat three meals a day, and include two snacks.
Space meals and snacks out throughout the day to keep hunger in check and also to give you opportunities to fit in all the food groups.
Schedule your exercise into your week on specific days at specific times. Consider morning exercise, as people who exercise first thing in the morning tend to be more consistent.
One of the best things you can do to improve your odds of achieving your goals is to plan ahead for pitfalls so you can more easily address problems as they surface. Following is a handy list of recommendations for avoiding troublesome situations:
Have a snack plan in place. Because one of the goals of DASH is to increase fruits and veggies, aren’t they a great snack option at least once daily? Keep those veggies clean, sliced, and ready to eat in your fridge. Have fruit available on the counter so that you’re cued to grab a piece, and pack two pieces of fruit to bring with you to work each day.
Make healthy swaps. Not only is a banana spread with 2 teaspoons of nut butter a healthy swap for a candy bar, but a ten-minute walk can take the place of midday stress eating.
If you find yourself getting antsy at work mid-afternoon and start heading to the vending machine, change it up. Take a walk up two flights of stairs, get a drink of water, and walk back to your desk refreshed. Or step outside and walk around the block and back. A five-minute change of scenery can do wonders midday to relieve tension that sometimes results in emotional eating.
Plan ahead to avoid overeating. If you sometimes eat past the point of being full or eat out of boredom or simply pleasure, consider ways to plan ahead. If you know there will be a dish on the table during a special occasion that you know you can’t resist, then think ahead and set the goal to eat half your usual portion or to skip seconds.
Remove temptation. If you keep snack crackers or candy at your desk, remove them. Instead, replace those unhealthy snacks with small portions of dried fruit and nuts, small cans of vegetable juice, or a bowl of clementines.
Seek out support. Find a friend to help keep you on track, whether it’s an exercise partner or someone that you can simply talk to about your dietary goals. A cheery support system can do wonders when your attitude needs adjusting!