The DASH Diet

DASH Diet Masthead

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was a research study testing how what we eat effects our blood pressure. A diet reduced in total and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods was found to significantly lower blood pressure. In participants who had high blood pressure, the DASH diet lowered blood pressure to the same extent as does an blood pressure medicine. The DASH diet can offer an important way to prevent and treat high blood pressure.

Note: If you have high blood pressure and are currently taking blood pressure medicine, do not stop your medicines and start the diet. Talk with your doctor before you stop taking your medicine. The purpose of this brochure is to provide information about the DASH diet and how to follow it at home. The DASH eating plan shown below is based on 2,000 calories a day. Depending on your caloric needs, your number of daily servings in a food group may vary from those listed. This eating plan from the “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” (DASH) study is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods, and low in saturated and total fat.

Tips on Eating the DASH Way

• Start small. Make gradual changes in your eating habits.
• Center your meal around carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, beans or vegetables instead of meat.
• Treat meats are a part of the whole meal instead of the main course.
• Use fruits or low fat, low-caloried foods for desserts or snacks

Make the most of the DASH diet!

If you use the DASH diet to help prevent or control high blood pressure, make it a part of a lifestyle that includes:
• choosing foods lower in salt and sodium
• keeping a healthy weight
• being physically active, and,
• if you drink alcohol, doing so in moderation.

Change your eating habits gradually

Most people find it hard to make changes in their diet if they try to do too much too fast. Start slow. You are more likely to have your healthier habits be lasting ones if you make small changes that you can realistically maintain.

Try some of these steps:
• If you eat only one or two vegetables a day, add one serving at lunch and one at dinner.
• If you don’t eat fruit or only have juice at breakfast, add fruit as a snack.
• Use half the butter, margarine, or salad dressing you usually have now.
• Try low fat or nonfat condiments, like nonfat salad dressings.
• Drink low fat (1%) or skim milk with lunch or dinner instead of soda, alcohol, or sugar-sweetened tea.
• Treat meat as one part of the whole meal, instead of the focus
• Although meat contains protein and other nutrients which are good for your body, it also has a lot of fat, including saturated fat, calories, and cholesterol. Often people have a large portion of meat as a main course and don’t eat enough vegetables or grains. To help change your diet, try some of the following tips:
• Limit meat to six ounces a day (2 servings), which is all you need to be healthy. That is less than
most people eat. Three to four ounces is about the same size as a deck of cards.
• If you currently eat large portions of meat, cut back by half or by one-third at each meal.
• Include two or more meatless meals every week.
• Include more servings of vegetables, rice, pasta and beans so that you need less meat to make a
satisfying meal. ~Casseroles, pasta and stirfry often include less meat and more vegetables, grains
and beans.
• Buy less meat. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it.

What can you do if you get off track?

• Don’t let a few days of an un-DASHing diet de-rail your health goals. When you find that you are not DASHing your way to good health, there are several helpful steps to take to get yourself
• Step back and take a look. What happened? Was there a specific event that distracted you from your DASH health goals (like a holiday or a party or a problem at work or home?). Now is the time to use this as a learning experience and begin again.
• Don’t beat up on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s all a part of learning new ways to be
healthier. Remember that changing your lifestyle is a long-term process.
• Were you trying to do too much at once? This happens to many people as they start to make lifestyle changes. Try to change only one or two things at a time to keep it manageable.
• Break it down into small steps. Remember the wise saying to “keep it simple”. This is true with lifestyle change as well. Break complex goals down into small, simple, attainable ones.
• Keep a food diary. You can easily see what is happening with your diet when it is written down in
black and white. Keeping a diet log can help you identify the problem by seeing your patterns of
behavior more clearly. Write down what you eat for a few days and note where you are and what you are doing and feeling at the time. Many people eat in front of the TV (and then feel like they haven’t even eaten at all) or eat to relieve stress. Keeping a diary can help you make sure you are getting in your goal amount of fruits and vegetables.
• Recognize and celebrate your success. Success often comes in small steps. Remember to acknowledge and celebrate your health accomplishments each step along the way.