You may be excited to start this diet. You understand the benefits and the risks. You are also sure that this is the diet for you. All you need to do now is find out what you can and cannot eat! The DASH diet will have some foods you can eat and others you need to avoid. You may already know what foods need to be cut out, but you must thoroughly understand what will be on your plate.
Whole grains are the best place to start when looking at what you can and cannot eat. Grains are a staple food for most of the world, including cereals, breads, pasta, and rice. Most grains people eat are not whole grains, which isn’t good because additional sodium is included in the food processing. When on the DASH diet, it is recommended that you have 6 to 8 servings of whole grains each day. One serving would be an ounce of dry, whole-grain cereal or a half-cup of cooked rice or pasta. A single slice of whole grain bread would also be one serving.
Focusing on whole grains is essential because they will have more fiber and nutrients that help you balance your diet. Grain is also naturally low in fat, which can help you lose weight. Of course, what you have on your grains will impact how beneficial they are.
Grains to Avoid
Quick bread, biscuits, bread made with self-rising flour, and pancake mixes should be avoided. It would help to avoid wheat products with salted tops, like pretzels and salty crackers. Processed mixes for pasta, stuffing, rice, and potatoes will also need to be avoided.
All of these grains are processed and will have high sodium levels. You should also try and stay away from white grains like pizza bases and white bread. The flour used in these foods will be processed and have more sodium and less nutritional value than a whole grain alternative.
Grains to Include
Now that you know about the grains to avoid, you must know what you can have. Whole grain breads, rolls, and bagels can be included in your diet. Whole-grain pasta and brown rice are also okay for the DASH diet.
There are a lot of ready-to-eat cereals that are low in sodium, and you can have them. Whole grain cereals will be the best option because you know that they are good.
Vegetables are always an excellent addition to a diet, regardless of what you are trying to achieve. They are high in fiber, minerals such as potassium, and vitamins. The problem many people have with upping their vegetable intake is how to do this.
You must change how you look at vegetables to get the recommended 4 to 5 servings daily. Stop thinking of vegetables as a side dish and incorporate them into your meals. Adding more vegetables to your everyday foods is a good way of starting.
A single serving of vegetables is calculated based on the raw vegetable. A single cup of raw leafy green vegetables is a single serving. A single serving of other vegetables that you chop is half a cup of the vegetable.
Vegetables to Avoid
You may be wondering if there are any vegetables you should avoid because they are all-natural, and you generally don’t get them processed. However, there are some that you want to avoid. This will mainly be the canned vegetables that you get at the stores.
These vegetables will have added preservatives and will not be recommended for the DASH diet. Certain processed frozen vegetables and vegetable-based foods should also be avoided. This will include au gratin potatoes and frozen hash browns.
Vegetables to Include
Always buy fresh vegetables when you can; there are no restrictions on your vegetables, so feel free to mix and match. It is recommended that you have some variety to get all the good bits that you need.
If you must buy canned or frozen vegetables, look for low-sodium ones. These vegetables are marked because this is a selling point for the companies. If you cannot find any, take some time to read the nutrition labels and choose the ones with the lowest amount of sodium possible.
Fruit is an excellent option for snacks while on the DASH diet. Everyone wants something to snack on when bored or while they work, and fruit is much better than chips. Fruit is also packed with great vitamins and minerals like magnesium and potassium. They are also naturally low in fat, with only coconut being the exception.
You should get 4 to 5 servings of fruit daily on the DASH diet. This is one medium fruit or half a cup of fresh fruit. If you would rather have fruit juice, a serving is 4 ounces.
Fruit to Avoid
As with vegetables, it is not the fruit you need to avoid but the way you are getting it that you need to focus on. Canned fruit should be avoided unless you can ensure no additional sugar. These fruits are processed and will have unhealthy glucose and sodium levels.
When looking at juice, you must avoid juices with added sugar. Be careful with fruit juice made from concentrate. This is processed and could have some sneaky sodium hiding in it.
Fruit to Include
All fruits are good, even dried fruit! If you prepare the fruits for easy snacking or cooking, leave edible peels where possible. Do not peel an apple that you are going to snack on. Leave the peels on if you add them to food because it will give a new dimension to your food. Peels have more nutrients than you may imagine and are packed with fiber.
Dairy is trickier because dairy products are full of nutrients and vitamins but also have a lot of fat. Most of the fats are saturated, and you should limit the amount you get. This does not mean that you should be cutting dairy because you need the vitamin D, protein, and calcium that dairy offers.
It would help if you were getting 2 to 3 servings of dairy each day on this diet. One cup of skim milk is a serving, and a cup of low-fat yogurt. 1 ½ ounces of part-skim cheese will also make up a serving.
Dairy to Avoid
It would help if you stayed away from buttermilk. This can make some incredible foods, but it is high in sodium. Processed cheese and cheese spreads also need to be avoided. The processing will add sodium and other ingredients that you need to avoid. Low-fat options are good, but they can have some sneaky sodium that you should avoid.
Dairy to Include
Milk and yogurt are good dairy options to have in your diet. If you need a sweet treat, look at some fat-free frozen yogurt and add some fruit to get your servings in. When looking at yogurt, you need to avoid the ones that have added sugar. You could make your yogurt if you want, but this is optional for the DASH diet.
Meat, Fish, And Poultry
Meat is an excellent iron, zinc, protein, and B vitamin source. Fish also offers omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure.
Look at six servings or less daily for meat, fish, and poultry. This serving amount is 6 ounces or less for the entire day. It would help if you were selective regarding your meats.
Meats to Avoid
As you may imagine, you need to stay as far away from processed meats like ham, salami, and other cold cuts. Smoked or cured fish and poultry will also need to be avoided. These processed meats and fish will have additional sodium and are unsuitable for DASH.
It would help if you also avoided fatty meat cuts. Any meats or poultry that have a thick layer of fat should be avoided. You should also avoid cooking your meats and fish by frying them in fat.
Meats to Include
If you are eating meat, you need to have lean cuts. Trim as much skin and fat from meat and poultry as possible. Your hearts should also be baked, roasted, or grilled to benefit from them.
When it comes to fish, you need to focus on the heart-healthy fish. These are generally fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and herring. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and offer several other nutrients.
Nuts, Legumes, And Seeds
Nuts, legumes, and seeds are high in protein and are a good source of potassium, which is good for hypertension. They are also full of fiber and phytochemicals, which are suitable for protecting against cardiovascular disease.
The problem is that they are high in calories, so you only get 4 to 5 servings a week on DASH. The serving will also be tiny with a 1/3 cup of nuts and two tablespoons of seeds. Half a cup of cooked legumes will make up a serving.
Nuts, Legumes, And Seeds to Avoid
Salted nuts need to be avoided for obvious reasons. Canned beans can also have added sodium to preserve them, so you must also prevent them. There are no particular items that you have to avoid, but you should avoid large amounts of these foods.
Nuts, Legumes, And Seeds to Include
You can include any nuts, legumes, and seeds in your diet as long as it is done in moderation and they are not salted. Dried beans are a better option, as they are not full of sodium.
Fats and Oils
Many people avoid all fat, which can help your body absorb the necessary vitamins. Fat can also help your immune system, but too much harms your health. With DASH, you will find a good balance and focus on getting monounsaturated fats.
Look at around 2 to 3 servings per day of fats and oil. This is one teaspoon of soft margarine or a tablespoon of mayonnaise. You can also have two tablespoons of salad dressing as a single serving.
Fats and Oils to Avoid
It would help if you avoid saturated and trans fats. Trans fats are usually found in processed foods, so cutting back on this will help reduce your fats. You will need to read the label when you use salad dressing because there are some with added sodium that you should avoid.
Fats and Oils to Include
There are some fats and oils that you can include in your DASH diet. Surprisingly, you can have mayonnaise with this diet, but you generally need to limit it.
One of the great things about the DASH diet is that you do not have to eliminate all sweets. This is a significant issue for people with a sweet tooth, but you must limit the amount you have each week. So, while you can have sweets, you cannot live on them during the week.
The DASH diet only allows five servings or less per week. A tablespoon of sugar or jam is a serving. A single cup of lemonade is a serving, as is half a cup of sorbet.
Sweets to Avoid
You need to look out for added sugar when sweets are concerned. This will have no nutritional value and only add empty calories to your food. It would help if you were careful with store-bought cakes and packaged pudding.
Something that you do not have to avoid altogether but need to be aware of is artificial sweeteners. They can spare you sugar, but you need to be sensible with their use because they will have other ingredients that could cause problems.
Sweets to Include
If you are eating sweets, look at the low-fat or fat-free options. This includes sorbet and fruit ice. Hard candy can also be included in your diet.
Alcohol and Caffeine
Drinking too much alcohol will increase your blood pressure. With DASH, you should try to cut back as much as possible. You should have no more than one drink per day if you are female and two if you are male.
Regarding caffeine, there are no strict guidelines in the DASH diet. The link between caffeine and blood pressure is still unclear. Too much caffeine will temporarily increase your blood pressure, but it may not lead to hypertension if you do not drink much of it. Regardless, you may want to cut back on the coffee.
If you read through this list of foods and think you already eat many good nutrition, you are not alone. Many people can quickly adapt their diet to adhere to the DASH diet. The most important thing you need to do is look for low-sodium food options.
If you eat a fair number of dairy products, you need to look for low-fat or fat-free options instead. Cooking with vegetable oil instead of other oils and avoiding soy sauce will also make your diet more DASH-friendly.