Sample Menu Plan for DASH Diet Meals

Rainbow jellybeans
Six different jelly beans lined up on a white counter. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

The DASH diet, dietary approaches to stop hypertension, is a way of eating that helps you control your sodium intake and manage your blood pressure. The diet features familiar foods and emphasizes plain produce, modest portions of lean meats, low- or nonfat milk, nuts and legumes and whole grains. It also asks that you minimize your intake of processed foods, particularly those with added sodium and saturated or trans fats. The diet is clinically proven to lower blood pressure numbers.

Significance

High blood pressure affects 65 million Americans, according to a 2006 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. High blood pressure increases your risk of developing heart disease. A landmark study published in an April 1997 issue of the “New England Journal of Medicine” involving over 450 participants found that a DASH diet significantly lowered participants’ blood pressure levels after just three weeks.

Features

The diet keeps sodium below 2,300 mg daily. You focus on eating between seven and eight servings of grains daily – one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice counts as a grain serving. You also eat four to five servings of vegetables – equivalent to 1 cup of raw leafy greens or 1/2 cup of sliced vegetables. Aim for four to five servings of fruit, equal to 1/2 cup chopped or 1 piece. You can have 2 to 3 cups of low-fat dairy and two or fewer 3-oz. servings of meat or poultry daily. Weekly, aim to consume four to five servings of nuts or legumes – a serving equals 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tbsp. of seeds or 1/2 cup of cooked beans. Oils and sweets are kept to a minimum – aim for just 2 to 3 tsp. of butter, margarine or oil daily and just five servings of sweets per week, such as 15 jellybeans or 1/2 cup of flavored gelatin.

Breakfast and Snacks

A DASH diet plan with about 2,000 calories and 1,500 mg of sodium starts with 3/4 cup of shredded wheat, a medium banana, 1 cup low-fat milk, 1 slice of whole-wheat bread topped with 1 tsp. of margarine and 1 cup of orange juice. If you can tolerate a higher level of sodium, choose bran flakes instead of the shredded wheat. Have snacks between meals or after dinner to keep hunger at bay. Try 1/3 cup of unsalted almonds, 1/4 cup of raisins and 1/2 cup of no-sugar-added fruit-flavored, nonfat yogurt; eat these all at once, or spread them out over the day.

Lunch and Dinner

For lunch, make a chicken salad with 3 ¼ cups of roasted chicken breast, ¼ cup of celery, 1 tbsp. of lemon juice, a dash of onion powder and 3 tbsp. of low-fat mayonnaise, and have 3/4 cup of the recipe on two slices of whole-wheat bread with 1 tbsp. of Dijon mustard. Have a cucumber and tomato salad topped with 1 tbsp. of sunflower seeds and 1 tsp. of low-fat Italian dressing with 1/2 cup of canned fruit in light syrup alongside. At dinner, roast 3 oz. of eye of round steak and have it with 2 tbsp. of fat-free gravy. Cook 1 cup of green beans in 1/2 tsp. of canola oil, and have it with a small baked potato topped with 1 tbsp. each of fat-free sour cream, reduced fat and sodium cheddar cheese and scallions. A whole-wheat roll with 1 tsp. of salt-free margarine, an apple and 1 cup of low-fat milk rounds out the meal.

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