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Getting Started on the DASH Diet

It's easy to adopt the DASH diet. Here are some ways to get started:
Change Gradually
Making changes is best done gradually. Don't try to change everything all at once. Suggestions for gradually incorporating the DASH diet into your life include:
  • If you now eat one or two vegetables a day, add a serving at lunch and another at dinner.
  • Use only half the butter, margarine, or salad dressing you do now.
  • If you don't eat fruit now or have only juice at breakfast, add a serving to your meals or have it as a snack.
  • Try low-fat or fat-free condiments, such as fat-free salad dressings.
  • Gradually increase dairy products to three servings per day. For example, drink milk with lunch or dinner instead of soda, alcohol, or sugar-sweetened tea. Choose low-fat (1 percent) or fat-free (skim) dairy products to reduce total fat intake.
Treat Meat as One Part of the Whole Meal, Instead of the Focus
Many people think of meat as the focus of their meals. While meat can be part of a healthy diet, it's best to treat it as merely one part of the meal. Consider the following tips for eating meat as you make the transition to the DASH diet:
  • Buy less meat. If it's not there, you won't eat it.
  • Limit meat to 6 ounces a day (two servings) -- all that's needed. Three to four ounces is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • If you now eat large portions of meat, cut them back gradually -- by a half or a third at each meal.
  • Include two or more vegetarian-style (meatless) meals each week.
  • Increase servings of vegetables, rice, pasta, and dry beans in meals. Try casseroles, pasta, and stir-fry dishes, having less meat and more vegetables, grains, and dry beans.
Use Fruits or Low-Fat Foods as Desserts and Snacks
Fruit and other low-fat foods can make up a healthy dessert or snack in a DASH diet. Try these ideas:
  • Fruits and low-fat foods offer great taste and variety. Use fruits canned in their own juice. Fresh fruits require little or no preparation. Dried fruits are easy to carry with you.
  • Try these snack ideas: unsalted pretzels or nuts mixed with raisins, graham crackers, low-fat and fat-free yogurt and frozen yogurt, plain popcorn with no salt or butter added, and raw vegetables.
(Click Salt and High Blood Pressure for ways to reduce salt intake in your diet.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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