News | Published October 10, 2012 | Written by Kerry Anne Whitelock, DO

The DASH diet: An eating plan for the whole family

I have long been a supporter of the DASH diet commissioned by The National Institutes of Health based on multiple research studies. Originally designed to lower blood pressure, the DASH diet stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, and focuses on incorporating fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products into the diet.

The DASH eating plan is about 2,000 calories a day with each day to include:

  • 3-4 servings of fruit (a serving is one piece or 1/2 cup)
  • 3-4 servings of vegetables (a serving is 1/2 cup cooked or raw or 1 cup of leafy vegetables)
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy (a serving is 1 cup milk or yogurt or 1-1/2 oz. cheese)
  • 1 serving of beans, nuts, or seeds (a serving is 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1/3 cup nuts, or 2T seeds)
  • 2 servings of lean meat, fish, or poultry (a serving is 2-3 oz. cooked)
  • 3 servings of whole grains (a serving is 1 slice bread, 1 tortilla, 1/2 bagel or bun, or 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta)
  • 2 servings of healthy fats (a serving is 1T olive oil, 2T olive oil vinaigrette, 1 oz. dark chocolate, or 1/2 cup light ice cream)

You can see from the food choices that this way of eating is full of protein and fiber, which can make you feel full. It is easy to stick to the correct portions by following the United States Department of Agriculture's MyPlate program. When viewing a dinner plate, cover half of the plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with lean meats, and one quarter with a starch product.

Take time to review product labels carefully; know not only the portion size, but also the amount of sugar, fiber, and salt in each portion.

Here are some other tips. You can use canned fruits and vegetables, as long as they are thoroughly rinsed to get rid of added salt or sugar. For those who can't tolerate dairy products, look for soymilk or soy products. I also recommend adding a moderate amount of exercise at least five days a week such as walking, bike riding, swimming, or working out in a gym.

I have seen very good results from people who make the DASH diet a part of their normal routine. Some patients have been able to help lower their blood pressure by up to 14 points. Others have greatly reduced their blood pressure medication requirement. This diet can also help reduce cholesterol levels, stabilize sugar intake, and help people lose weight.

It doesn't matter where you live or the size of your family; anyone can follow this eating plan. By incorporating the plan into your life, you can help all family members eat more healthfully and manage their weight for life.