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How to put ‘DASH’ to work in your weight loss plan
Last week, this column began to look at a top-rated diet called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
Even though this low salt eating plan was developed to help people with high blood pressure manage their disease, it has been shown to be a great method for losing weight as well.
The components and nutrient profile of this eating plan were discussed last week. This week, we will focus on some practical aspects of the eating plan. As a first suggestion, check out this website for a comprehensive rundown of the DASH food plan: nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf.
As far as convenience goes, this eating plan is on par with most others except for the ones where prepared food is delivered to your door. (Don’t we all wish we could have that?)
Any eating plan that is built on a base of fruits and vegetables will require more prep time than driving through the fast food joint.
But frozen fruits and veggies are a good option to help speed up prep time. Canned veggies are not recommended because most contain added salt.
It doesn’t take long to sauté a boneless chicken breast or pork chop, but you will need to plan ahead and shop regularly to keep your fridge stocked with the essentials for this way of eating.
Once you establish a routine of thinking ahead, making a list and getting to the store, it becomes second nature.
As you shop, get in the habit of checking nutrition labels to make sure that the salt content of the foods you are choosing is low. Remember, you are aiming for 1,500 – 2,300 mg of sodium per day, so a serving of soup that has 600 mg is going to use up a huge chunk of that allowance.
There are foods that may surprise you with their salt content, so be aware.
Alcohol is limited on the DASH plan, as it is on most diets and as recommended by the American Heart Association. Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and damage the liver, brain and heart.
If you do drink, keep it to one drink per day for women and two for men. A “drink” is considered to be 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Dining out at your favorite restaurant is possible on the DASH plan, but will take some thinking ahead and understanding that your usual fare may not be a good choice.
Many restaurant meals are fatty, huge and overly salty. When eating out, skip the soup and order a salad instead, limiting the toppings, which can tend to drive up the sodium and fat content.
Avoid foods that are pickled, cured or smoked or are drenched in sauce.
Many establishments are more than happy to cater to an individual’s dietary preferences. Just ask.
When cooking at home, explore the world of herbs and spices for seasoning foods instead of salt.
There are many prepared herb or spice blends that can add interesting flavors to your food, but read the label to see how much salt is in them, and avoid those that list salt as an ingredient.
Check out www.penzeys.com for some blends that you won’t find anywhere else.
Those who are already following a vegetarian, vegan, kosher or gluten-free diet can easily adapt to the DASH plan and keep those restrictions.
For recipes, see the website mentioned at the beginning of this column, or just type “DASH recipes” in your search bar and you will have more ideas than you could cook up in a year!
One concern that people have with a low salt eating plan is that foods won’t have any flavor. Salt is a taste that we acquire when we are children. We aren’t born preferring salty foods; we learn that. You might miss it for a while, but it is possible to retrain your taste buds to prefer a lower salt diet. And you may be healthier for it!
Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes Hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at email@example.com or 335-4327.