Author: Anna Frinzi
Having blood pressure otherwise known as hypertension that is above the normal range is common in the United States, but many Americans are not aware of this diagnosis. Hypertension increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States. The DASH diet stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. This diet is high in food options such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish and poultry that reduce the risk of having an elevated blood pressure. The DASH diet approach to eating places a large emphasis on consuming foods that are low in sodium and high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Specifically, the DASH diet encourages a sodium intake of 2300 milligrams or less or an even lower recommendation of less than 1500 milligrams depending on the individual and their health needs. With a typical American diet being high in sodium, cutting back can be a great option to maintain a normal blood pressure.
The DASH diet provides guidelines for each food group in order to create a balanced diet that promotes weight loss and a reduction in the risk of high blood pressure. To follow this heart-healthy way of eating and control sodium intake, there are recommendations for each food group. Here are the daily or weekly recommendations for each:
- Grains: 6-8 servings each day
- Meats, poultry, and fish: 6 or less servings per day
- Fruits: 4-5 servings per day
- Vegetables: 4-5 servings each day
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2-3 servings per day
- Fats and oils: 2-3 servings every day
- Nuts, seeds, dry beans and peas: 4-5 servings per week
- Sweets: 5 or less servings per week
As you embark on the DASH diet and work towards weight loss, it can be helpful to plan meals and even snacks ahead to stay on track and adhere to these recommendations. It is important to include a variety of whole foods that fit into the recommended food group guidelines and nourish your body while also promoting weight loss. Having a list of simple snacks to stock up on can be helpful when going grocery shopping for foods that align with these recommendations. When choosing snacks, it is important to check the Nutrition Facts for information on sodium intake, as this ingredient is hidden in many processed foods. It is recommended to choose natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, or nuts over any processed snacks. Here are some ideas for DASH diet snacks as you stick to the eating recommendations and reduce the risk of hypertension and heart disease.
Try out a variety of fruits in many different colors to ensure you are consuming the nutrients needed for a wholesome diet. If you want to enjoy fruit as a dessert, try adding a tiny scoop of low-fat yogurt!
- Berries: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
- Dried fruits: prunes, apricots, raisins, figs, mangoes. Be sure to select dried fruits with no or reduced salt.
- Citrus: oranges or grapefruits. Add in some lime or lemon to water for some citrusy flavor.
Fruits that are good for travel or an on the go lifestyle: apple, banana, pears, green or red grapes.
Combine your favorite fruits together for a colorful fruit salad to enjoy! Sprinkle with some nuts such as sliced almonds for some extra flavor.
With any vegetables you choose to snack on, you can always add in a dip such as hummus, nut butter, peanut butter, almond butter or bean dip for some extra flavor.
- Cut up celery or carrot sticks with peanut butter
- Bell peppers in a variety of colors-green, yellow, or red.
- Sugar snap peas or green beans as a crunchy snack. Hummus can be added as well.
- Try something different and make some kale chips for when you are craving that crunchiness.
- Small handful of cherry tomatoes or green peas.
Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes
Choose the option that is unsalted or low in sodium. When eating nuts, be sure to moderate your intake and stay conscious of portion sizes along with reading the nutrition facts per serving size. Enjoy small serving sizes of nuts!
- Brazil nuts
- Kidney beans. Dried beans have less sodium than canned ones, so try to choose that option when grocery shopping!
- Try a small portion of edamame in the pod.
- Create your own homemade trail mix with various nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, etc.
Grains are a great snack to have in moderation or in combination with another food group as they are packed with fiber that can help with feeling hungry. When choosing grains, always go for whole grains rather than refined grains as they contain more nutrients.
- Whole wheat bagel with peanut butter or nut butter
- Whole grain brown rice
- Unsalted pretzels or popcorn in moderation
- Whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter
- Whole-wheat snack crackers
- Rice cake with a small amount of almond butter
- Whole wheat slice of toast with some mashed avocado to change it up!
When choosing dairy products as a snack, be sure to choose the items that are low-fat or fat-free otherwise they can be high in fat. If you are lactose intolerant, be sure to select lactose free products.
- Low fat cheese sticks
- Fat free, low calorie yogurt with your favorite berries on top. Frozen yogurt is a great option as well to mix it up!
- Add some fat free milk or yogurt to your favorite smoothie recipe!
While sweets should be limited to 5 servings or less in a week, they can be a nice treat to have on occasion. Choose those options that are low in fat or fat free.
- Low-fat cookies
- Graham crackers
- Fruit ices-try making your own at home with an ice cube tray!
- Herbal tea
- Water with fruit infuser such as lemon, lime, berries or herbs like mint, basil, parsley
Finding snacks that work for you while on the DASH diet is so important as sticking to these guidelines can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure. High blood pressure is known as “the silent killer” as it often goes undetected since there are typically no obvious symptoms of it. It can be valuable to know if high blood pressure or heart disease runs in your family and always monitor your values when you visit your doctor so you are knowledgeable about your blood pressure range. As always, the DASH diet should be discussed with your doctor before starting. Hopefully some of these snacks seem like a realistic option for you to try out!
As you consider these snack options while following the DASH diet, it may be helpful to pause and take a moment to consider WHY you are going for that specific food. Are you truly hungry right now or are you feeling some other type of emotion? Some people tend to go for food in times of stress, boredom, tiredness, anger, or just snack out of habit. Before grabbing a snack from the fridge or pantry, note your hunger levels and if the snack is truly necessary. As you reflect on your snacking habits as they relate to the DASH diet and reduce your risk of high blood pressure, consider trying out a two week free trial of Noom today for additional support and guidance on your snacking habits.