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It's easy to adopt the DASH eating plan. Here are some ways to get started.
Make Changes Gradually
Making changes is best done gradually. Don't try to change everything at once. Suggestions for gradually incorporating the DASH eating plan into your life include the following:
- Use only half the butter, margarine, or salad dressing you do now.
- If you now eat one or two vegetables a day, add a serving at lunch and another at dinner.
- Try low-fat or fat-free condiments, such as fat-free salad dressings.
- 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.
- 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.
Think of Meat as a 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 eating plan:
- Include two or more vegetarian-style (meatless) meals each week.
- 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.
- Increase servings of vegetables, rice, pasta, and dry beans in meals. Try casseroles, pasta, and stir-fry dishes with less meat and more vegetables, grains, and dry beans.
Try Using Fruits or Low-Fat Foods as Snacks and Desserts
Fruit and other low-fat foods can make up a healthy dessert or snack in a DASH eating plan. Try these ideas:
- Smart snack ideas include 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.
- 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.
(Click Salt and High Blood Pressure for ways to reduce salt intake in your diet.)