DASH diet: Tips for shopping and cooking

The DASH diet doesn't have to be boring or difficult. Follow these tips to make the DASH diet more accessible and enjoyable. By Mayo Clinic Staff

The DASH diet is an approach to healthy eating that's designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). The DASH diet encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and to eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure and offer numerous other health benefits. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Whether you are already faithful to the DASH diet or want to give it a try for the first time, you can easily make it work for you in your own home. Here's how to get started with the DASH diet.

Prepare before you dash off to the supermarket

Sticking to the DASH diet starts with the food you buy. Before you go grocery shopping:

  • Make a list. Decide which meals you're going to make during the coming week, and include the ingredients for them on your shopping list. Don't forget to plan for breakfast and snacks, too. With a list in hand, you're less likely to stray from the DASH diet to the tempting but unhealthy foods. As a bonus, you may save time and money on grocery shopping by using a list.
  • Eat first. Don't grocery shop when hungry. This is a cardinal rule of grocery shopping, whether you follow the DASH diet or not. If you shop when you're hungry, everything will look appealing, which makes it hard to resist those high-fat, high-sodium items.

Remember the DASH guidelines while you shop

Large displays and bargain prices may catch your eye while you're in the grocery store. To focus on foods that support the DASH diet guidelines:

  • Buy fresh. Fresh foods often are healthier choices than are processed foods because they often contain less sodium, fat and added sugar. And with fresh foods, you — not the manufacturer — control the ingredients that go into your meals. Fresh foods also often have more flavor and health-promoting vitamins, minerals and fiber than their packaged counterparts do. If you do buy convenience foods, such as frozen dinners, luncheon meats or soups, choose those with reduced sodium and fat.
  • Shop the perimeter. While there are many DASH diet-friendly items in the center aisles, focus on spending most of your shopping time in the areas of the grocery store where there's fresh produce, low-fat dairy products and lean meats.
  • Read labels. Most packaged foods in the U.S. have a Nutrition Facts label that can help you figure out how they fit into your DASH diet. Compare like items and choose the one that's lower in sodium and fat and has fewer calories.
May 18, 2013 See more In-depth