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Introducing the ‘dine and DASH’ diet

Most of us want to look our best for the summer. It would be great to feel our best, too. Let’s look at a diet that can help accomplish both.

Most of us want to look our best for the summer. It would be great to feel our best, too. Let’s look at a diet that can help accomplish both.

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was not developed as a weight-loss eating plan, but as a plan to lower blood pressure.

However, it is now recognized as a safe, nutritional diet plan that helps people with a variety of chronic diseases, including obesity.

The US News rates the DASH diet very highly, in terms of short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, easiness, nutrition, safety, the ability to prevent or manage diabetes, and the ability to prevent or manage heart disease.  

The DASH diet is recommended by: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the American Heart Association; the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans; US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure; the 2011 AHA Treatment Guidelines for Women and the Mayo Clinic.

It has been proven to lower blood pressure in just 14 days, even without lowering a person’s sodium intake. This was especially noticeable in people with only moderately high blood pressure, including people with pre-hypertension.

Those with more severe hypertension, who may not be able to completely eliminate medication, find the DASH diet helps improve their response to medication, while helping lower their blood pressure.

Certainly, the DASH diet gives the greatest benefit when combined with 30 minutes of exercise each day. To follow the DASH diet, you don’t need to buy any prepackaged foods; all foods are inexpensive and readily available in any grocery store.

The daily diet guidelines are flexible; food choices and servings can be adjusted so that your overall weekly average falls within the recommended limits.

The DASH diet is not a crash diet. It is simply a way of eating that emphasizes low-salt and high-fiber foods.

A 2,000 calorie per day diet includes: seven to eight servings of grains and grain products; four to five servings of fruit; four to five servings of vegetables; two to three servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy foods; two or less servings of lean meats, fish and poultry; and four to five weekly servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes; but, fats and sweets are very limited.

As well, only 2,300 mg of salt is allowed, and even less (1,500 mg) for people already diagnosed with high blood pressure.  

When eating on the road, these five steps will help you stay within the DASH diet guidelines:

Pay attention to what enters your mouth: Drinks, appetizers, soups and salads may be less healthy that you think. Choose water, club soda, diet soda, fruit juice, tea and coffee. Choose appetizers that highlight healthy vegetables, fruits or fish. For salads, order fruit salad, tossed greens or spinach salad, with no added cheese, eggs or meats, and with dressing on the side.

If you must have bread, ask for one piece of whole grain bread, rolls breadsticks (without butter). If you must have dessert, choose fresh fruit, sorbet, sherbet, fruit ice, meringues or plain cake with fruit puree.

Watch your portion size: Over the past few years, restaurant serving sizes have grown bigger and bigger. To avoid growing bigger yourself, ask for the lunch portion (even at supper time). Choose an appetizer instead of an entrée. Divide your large meal in half and put it into a take-out container before you start eating.

Monitor your salt: When ordering, ask that your food be prepared without added salt, or salt-containing foods like MSG. Avoid foods that may be high in salt, like soya sauce, broth or meat that is pickled, cured or smoked. Leave the salt shaker on the table. Limit salty condiments like ketchup, mustard, pickles and sauces.

Avoid unhealthy fats: Choose foods that are low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Ask that your food be prepared with olive oil instead of butter or other fats. Use oil and vinegar dressing or ask for your salad dressing on the side and then pour on a limited amount. Keep your meat portion to the size of a deck of cards and be sure to trim off the fat. Choose meats that are steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, roasted, poached or stir-fried. Order steamed vegetables and fruit for dessert. Choose fish that’s been steamed or broiled and season with fresh herbs and lemon.

Monitor your fast food intake: Become familiar with restaurants’ nutritional information, either online, or on location. Many menu items have icons identifying particularly healthy selections. Choose one of these, such as a single hamburger, which is usually lower in salt than a chicken or fish sandwich. Don’t super-size your order. Watch the salad dressings. Choose grilled, broiled or steamed items instead of battered or fried.

You won’t pay with your health if you follow the DASH diet.

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