Stock your kitchen with DASH staples

You're more likely to prepare healthy dishes if you have healthy foods on hand. Try to keep these staples in your home:

  • Fruits. Choose a variety of fresh fruits, such as apples, oranges and bananas. Add variety by looking beyond the ordinary to apricots, dates and berries. Select fruit canned in its own juice , not in heavy syrup, and frozen fruit 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, and 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. Aim for whole-grain and low-fat varieties of bread, bagels, pitas, cereal, rice, pasta, crackers and tortillas. Compare labels and choose the items lower in sodium.
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes. Almonds, walnuts, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas (garbanzos) and sunflower seeds are among the healthy options. But get the 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. Avoid canned, 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 can reduce the need to use oil or butter when sauteing meat or vegetables.
  • Vegetable steamer insert. A vegetable steamer insert that can fit into the bottom of just about any saucepan can help you prepare steamed vegetables without any butter or oil.
  • Spice mill or garlic press. These items may make it easier to add flavor to your food without reaching for 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. To enhance flavor without adding salt or fat, use onions, herbs, spices, flavored vinegars, fresh peppers, garlic or garlic powder, ginger, lemons, limes, sodium-free bouillon, or even small amounts of reduced-sodium soy sauce.
  • Rinse it off. Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, beans and vegetables, before using to wash away some excess salt.
  • Beware of broth. Saute onions, mushrooms or other vegetables in water or a little low-sodium broth. But because even low-sodium broth can add lots of unnecessary sodium, sometimes a healthy oil may be the best option.
  • Make lower fat substitutions. Use lower fat dairy products, such as reduced-fat cream cheese and fat-free sour cream, instead of their higher fat counterparts.
  • Cut back on meat. Prepare stews and casseroles with only two-thirds of the meat the recipe calls for, adding extra vegetables, brown rice, tofu, bulgur or whole-wheat pasta instead.

If you tend to cook or bake in ways that call for lots of fat and sodium, don't be afraid to modify your recipes. Experiment with spices, substitutions or recipes you wouldn't normally try. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you create — and it could be the start of new family traditions.

May 18, 2013 See more In-depth