Dietitian Blog, Heart Health, MNT Guidelines, Patient Blog | May 9 2022

Getting to know the DASH diet

Family cooking according to the DASH diet

With the number of quick fix diets available, it can be difficult to sort through all this information and determine the best diet approach. Ideally, a change in eating habits will help manage any health conditions of concern but also be a plan that can easily be incorporated as part of a healthy lifestyle. The DASH diet is recognized as one of the top overall diets because of its numerous health benefits and ease of maintaining.  

What is the DASH diet?

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, first originated over 20 years ago. This approach to eating is widely promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute because of the health benefits seen with several chronic diseases. The DASH diet encourages fresh and unprocessed foods, selecting correct portion sizes, and is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein and fiber.  These food choices are also naturally low in sodium and saturated fat.  

Benefits of the DASH diet 

Recent research continues to show the benefits of the DASH diet. Although this plan was first designed to reduce high blood pressure, this healthy way of eating has been proven to have benefits for other health conditions as well. The DASH diet can promote heart health by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. Individuals with diabetes can also see improved blood sugar control by adopting this kind of eating plan. Choosing the DASH diet plan is also supportive of kidney health and is now recommended to help slow disease progression, especially in earlier phases of chronic kidney disease. 

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DASH diet meal planning

With a better understanding of the DASH diet, simple modifications can be made with meal planning and grocery purchases. Planning ahead can make this plan more realistic and budget friendly and help incorporate a variety of flavorful meals. Remember to maintain portion sizes with each of the different foods groups to stay in line with nutrition goals. 

Foods recommended on the DASH diet  

Whole grains: Choose 6 to 8 servings per day.  

  • Replace white bread, rice and pasta with a whole-grain option. 
  • Choose hot or cold cereal with fiber in place of sugar sweetened cereal. 

Fruits and vegetables: Aim to include 4 to 5 servings daily of each food group.  

  • Choose fruits or vegetables as a snack in place of crackers and chips. 
  • Include a variety of fruits and vegetables with each meal. 

 Low-fat or fat-free dairy: Consume 2 to 3 servings per day. 

  • Drink skim or 1% milk in place of higher-fat dairy beverages. 
  • Mix yogurt with fresh fruit for a parfait in place of higher calorie ice cream. 

Lean meat, fish and poultry: Average of 6 ounces per day.  

  • Serve salmon or chicken flavored with lemon and pepper instead of salt. 
  • Replace ground beef with lean ground turkey to lower dietary fat. 

Nuts, legumes, and seeds: Aim for 4 to 5 servings per week. 

  • Grab a small handful of unsalted nuts as a healthy snack. 
  • Aim for a weekly meatless meal and replace meat with legumes or beans as a plant-based protein option.  

Healthy fats: Add 2 to 3 servings per day. 

  • Add a few slices of avocado to toast. 
  • Drizzle a light amount of olive oil or vinegar-based dressings over pasta and salads. 

Foods to avoid or limit  

Red and processed meats, fried foods and sources high in saturated fat, desserts or sweets, and sugary beverages should each be limited as part of the DASH diet. 

If you have more questions about the DASH diet, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions.

Note to readers: The information discussed in this blog is not intended to replace medical advice. Please meet with your physician and dietitian before making any changes to your diet. 

  1. National Heart, Lung and Health Institute. DASH Eating Plan. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2022. 
  2. Mayo Clinic. DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2022. 
  3. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. The DASH diet: A great way to eat foods that are healthy and delicious. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2022. 
  4. U.S. News & World Report. DASH Diet. Available at: Accessed April 13, 2022. 
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