Looking at the Details of the DASH Diet
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan isn’t hard to follow. Here, you’ll find 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 activity level. Check with your doctor, or use a calorie calculator for an estimate of your daily calorie needs.)
Grains (7–8 daily servings): Consume seven to eight servings of primarily whole-grain products. 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 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 as your grains.
Examples of one serving of grains include 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.
Fruits (4–5 daily servings): Eat four to five servings of fruits every day. Find new ways to add more fruit to your meals: Top salads with sliced strawberries or apples; add raisins or blueberries to oatmeal. Make fruit your daily go-to choice for snacking, too.
A serving of fruit may be 1 small to medium fruit, 10 grapes, 1/2 grapefruit, a small banana, or 2 tablespoons of raisins.
Vegetables (4–5 daily servings): Try to eat four to five veggie servings daily. If you think eating that many 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.
A serving of vegetables comprises 1 cup of raw veggies or 1/2 cup cooked.
Lowfat or nonfat dairy (2–3 daily servings): You need two to three servings of lowfat or nonfat dairy. Limit your milk to skim or 1-percent, and primarily eat lowfat yogurt and cheese.
To meet your two-to-three-servings goal, drink two 1-cup servings of skim or 1-percent milk daily. Or, as one serving, have a snack of 8 ounces of lowfat Greek yogurt. Eating 1 ounce of lowfat or nonfat cheese also counts as a serving. To cut the fat even more, use lowfat yogurt instead of sour cream in your recipes.
Lean meats, fish, and poultry (2 or fewer daily servings): Shoot for two or fewer servings of lean meats, fish, and poultry every day, and limit the total to 6 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): You want four to five servings per week of foods in this category. Yep, that’s per week, not per day. Even though nuts and seeds provide good fats (see the upcoming bullet point on healthy fats and oils), they’re calorically dense. Try adding small amounts of nuts to your salads or stir-fries to meet your goal of getting four to five servings.
A serving of nuts is about 1/3 of a 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): Go for two to three servings per day of healthy fats as part of a hypertension diet. 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.
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): Limit your servings in the fats and sweets category to less than two servings per day. Make sure you actually read the label of whatever goodie you’re indulging in so that you only eat one serving instead of five by accident.