The DASH diet has been ranked the #1 diet for the past 5+ years by US News and World Report. Each year they put together a long list of diets and evaluate them on a variety of different criteria.
Some of the areas that are evaluated include: how easy it is to follow the diet, how good the diet is for proper weight loss, how well the diet prevents against diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as how safe and nutritional the diet is.
Over the years, the DASH diet has dominated the #1 spot again and again.
What is the DASH Diet?
DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. Hypertension is also known as very high blood pressure, and the DASH diet aims to correct this issue, which is the primary goal of the diet.
While lower blood pressure is the main goal of the DASH diet, it also happens scores well in the weight loss category, making it a very popular diet among those who want to shed those extra pounds.
So essentially the DASH diet is meant to lower blood pressure, but also works well as a weight loss diet.
In order to lower the blood pressure, the diet lowers the amount of sodium you take in. You are to restricted to 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg a day depending on whether you are on the standard or the low sodium DASH diet.
Other than lowering blood pressure and weight loss, the DASH diet is also a very safe and nutritious diet, unlike most of the fad diets that come and go. The key to weight loss that is healthy and lasts is a diet that promotes proper weight loss and not a diet that practically starves you to death in order to lose a few quick pounds.
The DASH diet focuses on lowering sodium intake, portion control, consuming a wide variety of foods, and really focuses on making sure you get the correct amount of all nutrients.
What do you Eat on the DASH Diet?
As we mentioned, the DASH diet focuses on eating a wide variety of foods in order to get the proper amount of all nutrients. This diet focuses on eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products that are low in fat.
In addition, the DASH diet also includes eating some poultry, fish, and different nuts and seeds a few times weekly. If you are feeling a little naughty, it is also ok to eat some red meats, sweets, desserts, and fats in small amounts.
Here is an example of what a 2,000 calorie a day DASH diet would look like…
Lean Meats, fish, and poultry
6 or less 1oz servings per day
When choosing meats, you will want to select meats that are lean. Also, before consuming these meats, you will want to make sure you cut off any fat or skin.
When choosing fish, you should aim for fish that is high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are healthy for your heart as well as great at lowering your cholesterol.
These types of meats are a good source of Vitamin B, zinc, iron, and protein.
When it comes to cooking your meat, make sure you are either grilling, baking, roasting, or broiling it. Do not eat meats that are fried.
Fruits and Vegetables
4-5 servings a day OF EACH.
On the DASH diet, you should be consuming 4-5 servings a day of both fruits and vegetables in the standard 2,000 calorie a day diet.
For veggies, you should eat vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, greens etc. These are a great source of minerals, fiber, and vitamins.
In order to fit the correct amount of servings into your daily diet, you can snack on veggies at snack time a few times a day. You can get creative and make squash spaghetti instead of using pasta. You can cut down the amount of meat in your stir fry and use double the amount of vegetables.
It is always better to go for fresh vegetables, but frozen and canned are ok as well. When purchasing the latter, just be sure to get the bags or cans that promote low sodium or no salt added.
Fruits are also full of minerals and fiber and make an excellent snack as well. A few ways to make sure you are getting 4-5 servings of fruit a day are: add fruit to your morning yogurt, snack on fruit a few times a day, or eat some fruit as dessert after lunch and dinner.
Again, fresh is always the best, but canned fruits will work if you cannot get fresh. As with veggies, you want to make sure you pay attention to the label and make sure you get the canned fruits that have no sugar added in.
6-8 daily servings
It is important that you try to consume whole grains as opposed to refined grains. The reason for this is that whole grains pack more nutrients and fiber.
For example, when eating pasta, go for whole wheat pasta, when eating bread, go for whole grain bread, when eating rice, go for brown rice.
Some examples of grains are cereals, rice, pastas, breads etc.
2-3 servings per day
Dairy is where you are going to get a majority of your vitamin D and calcium, as well as some extra protein. Dairy products that you should aim to consume include milk, cheese, and yogurt.
When choosing which dairy products to consume, you need to make sure you are selecting products that are low fat.
Nuts. Seeds, Legumes
4- 5 servings per week
These are going to be a great source of potassium, magnesium, fiber. and added protein. Some examples of what you should eat are, sunflower seeds, almonds, peas, kidney beans etc…
These types of foods are good at combating against heart disease and cancers.
The reason you should only have 4-5 servings per week is because these foods are usually high in calories. A good way to eat these in moderation is to add them into a salad or stir fry.
Nuts do contain fats, but it is important to know that they contain healthy fats such as omega 3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.
Fats and Oils
2-3 servings per day
These are margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaise etc…
The key here is to focus on healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats. You really need to keep to the 2-3 servings per day, because too much fat will increase your chances of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, especially saturated and trans fats.
Trans fats are usually found in processed foods and should be avoided, so be sure to check out the nutrition label on the foods you buy.
You want to look for low saturated fat as well as low trans fats.
Desserts and Sweets
5 or less servings per week
The nice things is that the DASH diet does not mean you need to completely eliminate sweets and desserts from your diet.
Again, keep an eye on the labels and make sure you are eating sweets that are lower in fat, or advertised as low fat. Make sure you avoid adding sugar to foods, and if it is a must, it is a good idea to substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners.
Getting the Most out of the DASH Diet
While the DASH diet can be effective when it comes to losing weight, there are some ways you can really amplify the results.
This all begins with a consistent exercise routine. Even if it is just 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week, you really need to do some type of exercise alongside your diet.
Whether it is a daily walking routine, hiking trails, jogging around the track, running on your home treadmill, or some other form of exercise, working out regularly is going to dramatically improve your results.
Another important note is to make sure you are getting the absolute most you can out of each and every single workout.
You can do this a few ways …
You want to make sure you heart rate is elevated and stays elevated throughout your workout.
If you are a walker, make sure you are mixing in periods of face paced walking. You should aim to walk at a fast pace for at least half of your walk.
If you are a runner, mix in some sprints throughout your run.
Regardless if you are a walker or a runner, you should be adding in hills or inclines as much as possible. By doing so, you will be dramatically increasing the effectiveness of your workout. There are a variety of benefits to adding inclines to your workout.
In some cases depending on the grade of the hills and the number of hills, you can get 2-3x more out of your walk or run by just adding hills in.
Those tips are some basic ways to increase the effectiveness of your workout and get the most out of it.
Tips to Succeed on the DASH Diet
Starting a diet can be an intimidating thing to do. Most of those who start up a new diet end up quitting within 3 weeks.
Here are a few tips to help you succeed when starting the DASH diet.
Tip #1 – Start slow – What this means is start into the DASH diet gradually, do not just jump in head first and follow the diet to a T. When starting out, slowly start making daily changes. This is better for your body and will allow it to properly adjust over time.
Start adding in more fruits and veggies for snack time or with your lunch and dinner. Slowly start eliminating sodium each day and do not just completely cut it all out day 1. After a few weeks of slowly diving into the diet, you should be getting close to fully following the DASH diet correctly.
Tip #2 – Reward and forgive yourself – this means praise and reward yourself for the successes and progress you make. Forgive yourself and do not get caught up on any mistakes or slip ups you make.
This does not mean go out and eat a whole extra large pizza followed by 3 hot fudge brownies after completing 2 weeks of the diet. Reward yourself in other ways that are not destructive to your progress. For example, buy yourself something you have been wanting, take a day off from exercising here and there, or have 1 extra serving of dessert that week.
Almost everyone that is on a diet messes up here and there, it is ok. The worst thing you can do is get down on yourself about a mess up. Look into the future, not the past. Forgive yourself right then and there, and the next day, you are right back on track like nothing happened.
Tip #3 – Look for support – talk to some of your close friends or family members and see if they would like to do the DASH diet alongside you. This will allow you to share recipes, ideas, and successes with each other.
This is a great way of keeping yourself accountable.
Look for forums online to join. This is another great way to share milestones and success stories. It is also a great way to read others success stories and keep yourself motivated.
Tip #4 – Come up with a plan – grab a calendar and write down what you will be eating every single day. Write down what exercise you will do each day. As you complete that day, cross it off the calendar. This will allow you to come up with a DASH diet meal plan ahead of time, making it much more easier and organized to follow the plan.
This simple little tip will increase your success rate by a ton.
Now that you know what the DASH diet is all about, browse around online and come up with some DASH diet recipes and begin to map out your meals and snacks for the upcoming days, weeks, and months.
Add some for of exercise into your daily routine and use some of the success tips we have talked about, and you will be well on your way to a slimmer, more healthier you.