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Understanding The DASH Diet

What’s special about the DASH Diet?

Research has shown that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet is a very effective eating plan to help lower blood pressure.

The DASH approach encourages a high intake of fruits and vegetables (8-10 servings each day); a regular intake of low-fat and non-fat dairy foods (2-3 servings each day); and small servings of meat, poultry and fish (up to 2 servings each day).

Boost Your Nutrition!

A diet rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium can play an important role in achieving healthy blood pressure. Eat the following foods regularly to increase the nutritional value of your diet:

  • Fresh Vegetables & Fruits: choose fresh, frozen or no-salt added canned vegetables whenever possible. Great choices include: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, oranges, bananas, melons, apples, pears and peaches.
  • Low-fat Dairy Foods: choose non-fat or 1% milk, yogurt, fat-reduced cheese. If you have trouble digesting dairy foods, try taking lactase enzyme pills or drops with the dairy foods. Many lactose-free products are available. Look for calcium and Vitamin D fortified soy milk or lactose-free milk (such as Lactaid).
  • Whole Grains: choose whole grain breads, cereals, wheat germ, bran and oats to get added nutrients, such as minerals and fiber.

Getting Started

Make gradual changes
  • Start with your vegetable intake… add to your typical daily meals an extra serving of vegetables at lunch and another serving at dinner.
  • 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 your use of fat-free and low-fat dairy foods to two to three servings a day. For example, drink milk with lunch or dinner instead of soda, sugar-sweetened tea or alcohol. Choose lowfat (1%) or fat-free (skim) dairy products to reduce your intake of saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol and calories containing ingredients. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate requests.
  • Know your terms: words like “pickled,” “cured,” “soy sauce” and “ broth” indicate a higher sodium content.
  • Move the salt shaker away. Choose pepper or salt-free seasonings instead.
  • Limit condiments such as mustard, catsup, pickles and sauces with salt-containing ingredients.
  • Choose fruits or vegetables instead of salty snack foods.

What about desserts and snacks?

  • Fruits and other 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 a good choice to carry with you or to have in the car.
  • Try these snack ideas: unsalted pretzels or nuts mixed with raisins; graham crackers; low fat or fat-free frozen yogurt; and popcorn with no-salt or butter added. Best option: a variety of raw vegetables.

DASH diet logo

What’s a Serving?

Examples of 1 Serving

Grains and Grain Products
(aim for 7 - 8 servings a day)
1 slice bread
3/4 cup dry cereal
1/3 cup cooked rice, pasta or beans*
1/2 cup cooked cereal*

Vegetables (aim for 4 - 5 servings a day)
1 cup raw leafy vegetables
1/2 cup raw non-leafy vegetables
1/2 cup cooked vegetables
3/4 cup vegetable juice

Fruits (aim for 4 - 5 servings a day)
1/2 cup fruit juice*
1 medium piece of fruit
1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit
2-4 Tbsp. dried fruit*

Low-fat or Fat-free Dairy
(aim for 2 - 3 servings a day)
1 cup fat-free or 1% milk
1 cup calcium-fortified soy milk
1 cup non-fat or low-fat yogurt
1 oz. non-fat or low-fat cheese*

Meats, Poultry and Fish
(aim for 2 or less servings a day)
3 oz. Broiled or roasted lean meat, skinless poultry or seafood Nuts, Seeds, Beans (4 - 5 servings a week)
1/3 cup cooked beans*
1/3 cup unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
2 Tbsp. Sunflower seeds or peanut butter

Added Fats, Oils and Salad Dressings
(aim for 2 - 3 servings a day)
1 tsp. oil or soft margarine
1 tsp. regular mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. low-fat mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. regular salad dressing
2 Tbsp. light salad dressing

Snacks and Sweets
(aim for 5 servings a week)
1 medium fruit
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat frozen yogurt
3/4 cup pretzels
1 Tbsp. Maple syrup, sugar, jelly or jam
3 pieces hard candy

* Serving sizes are based on DASH Diet, but modified to reflect diabetic “exchanges.”

Dash Diet - Menus


1/2 cup bran cereal
1 small banana
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup regular oatmeal,
with 1 tsp cinnamon
and sugar substitute
1/2 English muffin
2 Tbsp raisins
1 cup fat-free milk
1 Tbsp fat-free cream cheese


3 oz turkey breast
2 slices wheat bread
8 oz skim milk
1 lg leaf romaine lettuce
2 slices tomato
2 tsp low fat mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 cup carrot sticks
1 medium orange
1/2 cup tuna salad
1 lg leaf romaine lettuce
2 slices wheat bread
1/2 cup 1% or 2% cottage cheese
1 cup canned pineapple (unsweetened)
4 small celery sticks
2 Tbsp fat-free ranch dressing


3 oz. Turkey meatloaf
1 Tbsp catsup
1 small baked potato
1 tsp soft margarine
1 Tbsp low fat sour cream
1 scallion stalk, chopped
1 cup collard greens, cooked from frozen
1 medium peach
1 cup fat free milk
3 oz white fish
1 tsp lemon juice
2/3 cup brown rice, long grain
1/2 cup spinach, cooked
1 small corn bread muffin
1 tsp soft margarine


(2-3 servings/day)

1 cup non-fat fruit yogurt (no sugar added)
2 - 4 Tbsp raisins or other dried fruit
2 - 3 graham cracker squares with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/3 cup almonds or other unsalted nuts