1,200-Calorie DASH Diet

Known as the "silent killer" because it has no symptoms, high blood pressure affects your health, increasing your risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. Losing weight by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet can help improve your blood pressure, as well as your health.

Eating right can still be delicious. (Image: MaksymPoriechkin/iStock/Getty Images)

A 1,200-calorie DASH diet can help you lose those unwanted pounds as it represents a low energy intake for the vast majority of people. Before starting your diet, consult with your doctor to ensure that a 1,200-calorie diet is appropriate for your gender, age, current weight and activity level. Men and active women may need more calories to meet their nutritional needs, even while trying to lose weight.

What Is DASH?

The DASH diet is a researched diet plan supported by the National, Heart, Blood and Lung Institute that has been shown to lower blood pressure. The diet is low in fat, including saturated fat, as well as cholesterol, but rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber and protein. It also reduces your intake of sodium, a mineral that, when consumed in excess, can aggravate hypertension.

The diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free dairy products and encourages you to eat more fish, poultry, nuts and whole grains. When limiting your calories to 1,200 a day while following DASH, you need to eat a specified number of servings from each of the food groups to ensure you're getting all the nutrients you need for a healthy body and optimal energy levels.

Load Up on Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and magnesium, which are nutrients that can help lower blood pressure, as well as fiber, which helps control hunger.

On your 1,200-calorie DASH diet, you can have three to four servings of fruits and three to four servings of vegetables a day. One serving of fruit is equal to one medium piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of frozen or canned fruit, while one serving of vegetable is equal to 1 cup of raw or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables.

Aim to consume fruits without added sugar and vegetables that are leafy and colorful, such as spinach, peppers and broccoli. Minimize your intake of canned vegetables, which often have added sodium, and starchy vegetables, such as corn and potatoes.

Go Whole Grain

The DASH diet recommends whole grains for most of your grain choices. Like fruits and veggies, whole grains are a good source of satiating fiber. On your low-calorie diet plan, you can have four to five servings of grains a day, with one serving equal to one slice of bread, 1 ounce of cold cereal or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta. Whole grains include brown rice, oats, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread.

Keep Your Protein Lean

To keep a lid on saturated fat and cholesterol intake, most of your protein choices should be lean, such as fish, poultry and lean red meat. Try to limit your intake to three servings a day, with one serving equal to 1 ounce of meat, fish or poultry or one egg.

Nuts, seeds and legumes are also a source of protein, magnesium and fiber. When following a 1,200-calorie DASH diet, you can have three servings of nuts, seeds or legumes a week. One serving equals 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds or 1/2 cup of legumes such as kidney or garbanzo beans. Avoid nuts with added salt or sugar and look for beans labeled "low-sodium."

Don't Forget Dairy

As a source of calcium and protein, dairy foods are an important part of the DASH diet. Like other nutrients, calcium may help improve blood pressure control. Include two to three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products a day on your 1,200-calorie diet. One serving of dairy equals 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.

Fat and Sodium

To help keep daily calories under control, stick to just one serving of fat on your low-calorie DASH diet. One serving is equal to 1 teaspoon of butter, margarine or oil. Sodium intake is also restricted on the DASH diet.

Lowering the amount of sodium in your diet helps lower blood pressure, and it is recommended that you limit your daily intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Read food labels to help you track your sodium intake. Eliminating added salt, eating mostly whole foods and limiting your intake of processed foods can also help you keep control of your sodium intake.

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