Health & nutrition insights.

The DASH Diet: Explained By A Registered Dietitian

What foods are allowed on the DASH eating pattern?

Food Group Daily Servings Serving sizes Comments
Grains and grain products 7-8 1 slice bread
1 oz dry cereal
½ cup cooked pasta, rice, or cereal
Use at least 3 servings of whole grain breads and cereals daily
Vegetables 4-5 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
½ cup cooked vegetables
6 oz vegetable juice
Use brightly colored vegetables for the most nutrition bang for the buck.
Fruits 4-5 1 medium fruit
¼ cup dried fruit
½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
6 oz fruit juice
Use brightly colored fruits for the most nutrition bang for the buck.
Low-fat or fat free dairy foods 2-3 8 oz milk
1 cup yogurt
1 ½ ounces cheese
Use fat free (skim) or low-fat milk (1%) and reduced fat cheeses
Meats, poultry and fish 2 or less 3 oz cooked meat, poultry, or fish Use lean cuts of meat, remove visible fat, bake, grill, or roast instead of frying
Nuts, seeds, and dry beans 4-5 per week 1/3 cup or 1 ½ ounces nuts
2 Tbsp or ½ ounce seeds
½ cup cooked dry beans or peas
Use a variety of nuts and seeds.
Fats and oils 2-3 1 tsp soft margarine
1 Tbsp lowfat mayonnaise
2 Tbsp light salad dressing
1 tsp vegetable oil
Use a variety of liquid oils including olive, corn, sunflower, canola, peanut safflower, and soybean
Sweets 5 per week 1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp jelly or jam
½ ounce jelly beans
8 oz sweetened drinks
Maple syrup, sugar, jelly, and all sweetened beverages.

The DASH Eating Pattern

Have you heard the buzz about DASH? It’s a new pattern of eating that is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a formula for healthy eating.

What exactly is DASH?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH eating pattern has been shown to reduce blood pressure but is also a healthy, low-fat, low-sodium plan that all adults can benefit from. DASH is just one of many ways to control high blood pressure. Other methods include maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, limiting alcohol intake, and taking high blood pressure medicine as prescribed.

Why has DASH been recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

The DASH eating pattern is based on research that shows that lowering high blood pressure is best achieved by eating a low-sodium, low-fat diet that is rich in whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, fruits and vegetables. This diet pattern is similar to other healthful eating patterns that are suggested to prevent weight gain and chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. A guide to DASH eating pattern is listed on the back page of this handout.

How can I cut back on the amount of salt I eat?

Salt (also known as sodium) is found in many processed and packaged food, including canned vegetables and tomato sauces, frozen and boxed dinners, and salty snack foods like chips and pretzels. Salt is also common in cured foods like bacon, ham, sausage, and bologna, pickles, and condiments like soy sauce, catsup, and barbeque sauce. Limiting these types of foods will dramatically decrease the amount of sodium in your diet. Eating out also contributes to high salt intake. You need to limit eating out to 1-2 times a week or ask them to prepare your food without salt.

I’m not sure what whole grain means. Can you define it for me?

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, “whole grains” are whole wheat, whole grain corn, whole oats or oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur, millet, quinoa, and sorghum. To be sure a food contains whole grain, look for the term “whole grain” at the top of the ingredient list for the grain products you choose.

I think it will be too hard to change my eating habits.

Change gradually! Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and one at dinner. Gradually cut back from whole milk and full-fat cheeses to lower-fat diary foods. Cut back on the portions of meat you eat. Making a few changes at a time is often easier than changing your entire diet overnight.


U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Facts About the DASH Eating Pattern. Accessed December 2006. Available for download at