The Low Down on the DASH Diet

You may be hearing a lot of buzz about the DASH Diet. Voted #1 by U.S. News and World Report for the sixth in a row. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and is based on a clinical trial (research study) of the same name. This diet focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein. The DASH diet has been scientifically proven to reduce hypertension (high blood pressure) this diet is proven to lower blood pressure, and it’s also helpful for diabetes and maintaining healthy weights.

While the focus of DASH is to add more servings of important foods into your diet (vegetables, low fat dairy products, healthy oils, nuts, seeds), it also recommends limiting foods high in sodium and sugars.

So how much sugar should you consume with DASH?

DASH guidelines recommend that you limit high fat, high sugar foods to two or fewer servings per day. Here are some examples of what a small serving should look like:

  • A 2-inch square brownie
  • A small donut (3-inch)
  • A miniature (fun-size) candy bar
  • 2 small cookies (2 inch diameter)
  • 1 small muffin (the old fashioned small muffin tin! Not mega-size bakery type)
  • 1 small piece of pie or cake (1/8 of an 8-inch pie pan)
  • 8 ounces of soda or another sugary beverage such as lemonade

Of course dietary guidelines should be individualized – that’s where your registered dietitian comes in. The best diet for you depends on your medical history, your age, gender, and fitness level, but just about everyone can benefit from incorporating some aspects of the DASH Diet. As with any lifestyle change, you want to set a few goals each week, and gradually make improvements. Try these easy steps:

  • Drink more water every day.
  • Use half the salt a recipe calls for, and replace salt in recipes with flavorful herbs and spices. To save money, try growing a few fresh herbs in a pot for your kitchen windowsill.
  • Have a piece of fresh fruit, which is a healthy source of fructose, first when snack cravings strike, instead of a salty or sweet snack.
  • Keep cut veggies in a container, ready-to-eat in the ‘fridge.  Carrots, mixed greens, and bell pepper strips are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and are low in calories.
  • Add a spoonful of nuts or sunflower seeds to salads or mixed grain dishes.
  • Even if you only have 10 minutes at a time to work out, use those 10 minutes for a quick walk. Those few minutes add up! Eventually, work your way up to at least 30 minutes of activity four to five times a week, and gradually increase the intensity.


Rosanne RustRosanne Rust MS, RDN, LDN is a registered, licensed dietitian-nutritionist with over 25 years experience. As a Nutrition Communications Consultant  she delivers clear messages helping you understand the science of nutrition so you can enjoy eating for better health. Rosanne is the co-author of several books, including DASH Diet For Dummies® and the The Glycemic Index Cookbook For Dummies®. A wife, and mother of 3 boys, she practices what she preaches, enjoying regular exercise, good food and festive entertaining. Follow her on Twitter @RustNutrition.