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DASH Diet Meal Plans: How They Work

Written on February 2, 2012 at 9:01 am , by

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Photo courtesy of dashdiet.org

By Kati Mora, RD for DietsInReview.com

When you think of weight loss, the DASH diet might not be the first plan that comes to mind. Afterall, it was designed to help individuals lower their blood pressure and not necessarily their calorie intake, right? Well, yes and no. Although the DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, diet has been proven to reduce blood pressure, it can also help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

This diet was recently named the best overall diet for health by US News and World Report. That’s because it’s balanced, relatively simple to follow, backed by scientific research, and generally safe to put into practice. From fruits and vegetables to lean meats and low-fat dairy, this meal plan correlates well with the USDA MyPlate recommendations. Many of these foods are lower in calorie and rich in important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein, and fiber.  A few more things to know about DASH diet meal plans:

-An individual should consume no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium a day. With the more stringent or low sodium plan, no more than 1500 milligrams should be consumed on a daily basis.

-Followers must go easy on fats, oils, sweets, and added sugars. Depending on how many calories you need to function each day and how
physically active you are, the amount of these and other components of your diet vary.

-Instead of utilizing special foods or counting calories, the emphasis here is more on servings and portion sizes. In general, those following the DASH diet should aim for 4-5 servings of both fruits and vegetables a day, 6-12 servings of whole grains, 2-3 servings of low-fat or no-fat dairy, less than 6 servings of lean meats, poultry and fish, 2-3 servings of fats and oils, 4-5 servings of legumes, nuts, and seeds, and no more than 5 servings of sweets per week. Alcoholic beverages should also be limited to no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women each day.

Not sure what a serving looks like? ChooseMyPlate.gov has a few excellent resources to help you identify what a serving size is for each food group. It varies depending on what type
of food you are eating and it can be tricky to keep all your serving sizes straight, but in general:

A serving of fruit = 1 cup
A serving of vegetables = 1 cup
A serving of whole grain= 1 ounce
A serving of protein = 1 ounce
A serving of dairy = 1 cup

The DASH diet might be for you if you’re looking to improve the nutritional quality of the way you eat. It is often associated with improved blood pressure maintenance; however, weight loss can also result from the dietary modifications taking place!

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DASH Diet’s Marla Heller Suggests it May Not be Sexy, but it Makes Sense

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