Stock up on DASH staples
You're more likely to prepare healthy dishes if you have healthy foods on hand. Try to keep these items in your kitchen:
- Fruits. Choose a variety of fresh fruits, such as apples, oranges and bananas. Add variety with apricots, dates and berries. Select fruits canned in its own juice, not in heavy syrup, and frozen fruits without added sugar.
- Vegetables. Buy fresh, frozen or canned vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and spinach. Choose frozen vegetables without added salt or butter or sauces. Opt for canned vegetables low in sodium.
- Low-fat dairy products. Look for lower fat dairy options when buying milk, buttermilk, cheeses, yogurt and sour cream.
- Grains. Buy whole-grain varieties of bread, bagels, pitas, cereal, rice, pasta, crackers and tortillas. Compare labels and choose lower sodium items.
- Nuts, seeds and legumes. Almonds, walnuts, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas (garbanzos) and sunflower seeds are among the healthy options. But get unsalted or low-salt varieties.
- Lean meats, poultry and fish. Opt for lean selections, such as fish, skinless chicken and turkey, pork tenderloin, extra-lean ground beef, and round or sirloin beef cuts. Choose lower sodium canned fish and meat. Limit smoked or processed meats, such as deli meats.
- Condiments, seasonings and spreads. Herbs, spices, flavored vinegars, salsas and olive oil can add zest to your meals without the salt overload. Choose low- or reduced-sodium versions of condiments.
Choose the right cookware
Your cookware and kitchen gadgets can make it easier to follow the DASH diet. Helpful items include:
- Nonstick cookware. Nonstick cookware reduces the need to use oil or butter when sauteing meat or vegetables.
- Vegetable steamer. A vegetable steamer that fits in the bottom of a pan makes it easy to prepare vegetables without butter or oil.
- Spice mill or garlic press. These items make it easy to add flavor to your food and reduce your dependence on the shaker of salt.
Use healthy cooking techniques
Unhealthy cooking habits can sabotage your other efforts to stick to the DASH diet. Use these tips to help reduce sodium and fat:
- Spice it up. Enhance flavor without adding salt or fat by using herbs, spices, flavored vinegars, onions, peppers, ginger, lemon, garlic or garlic powder, or sodium-free bouillon.
- Rinse it off. Rinse canned foods, such as beans and vegetables, before using to wash away some excess salt.
- Beware of broth. You can cook mushrooms, onions or other vegetables in a little low-sodium broth in a nonstick pan. But because even low-sodium broth can have lots of sodium, a little healthy oil may be a better option.
- Make lower fat substitutions. Replace full-fat dairy with reduced-fat or fat-free versions.
- Cut back on meat. Prepare stews and casseroles with only two-thirds of the meat the recipe calls for, and add extra vegetables, brown rice, tofu, bulgur or whole-wheat pasta.
If you tend to cook or bake in ways that call for lots of fat and salt, don't be afraid to modify your recipes. Experiment with spices and substitutions. Branch out and try recipes you wouldn't normally try. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you create!
April 29, 2016
See more In-depth
- In brief: Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/resources/heart/hbp-dash-in-brief-html. Accessed April 7, 2016.
- Essential kitchen equipment. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyCooking/Essential-Kitchen-Equipment_UCM_430098_Article.jsp. Accessed April 7, 2016.
- Sheps SG, ed. Eat better (and enjoy it!). In: Mayo Clinic 5 Steps to Controlling High Blood Pressure. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2008.
- Sodium in your diet: Use the Nutrition Facts label and reduce your intake. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm315393.htm. Accessed March 7, 2016.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 13, 2016.