DASH diet: Tips for shopping and cooking

These tips make it easy to shop and prepare DASH-friendly dishes.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. 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.

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

Prepare before you dash to the market

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 for the coming week, and write down the ingredients you need. Don't forget to plan for breakfast and snacks, too. With list in hand, you're less likely to be tempted by unhealthy foods.
  • Eat first. Don't shop for groceries when you're hungry. If you shop when you're hungry, everything looks appealing, which makes it hard to resist those high-fat, high-sodium items.

Keep DASH in mind while shopping

Large displays and bargain prices may catch your eye while you're in the grocery store. Follow these tips to stay focused on foods that support the DASH diet:

  • Buy fresh. Most of the sodium in a typical diet comes from processed foods. Fresh foods are healthier choices because they contain less sodium, as well as less added sugar and fat. Fresh foods also often have more health-promoting vitamins, minerals and fiber than their packaged counterparts do.
  • Shop the sides. While there are many DASH diet-friendly items in the center aisles, most of your shopping time should be spent in the outer aisles where you'll find 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 diet. Look for reduced sodium and fat products. Compare like items and choose the one that's lower in sodium and fat and has fewer calories.
April 29, 2016 See more In-depth