3 Simple Ways to DASH to Better Health
Let’s face it – banning all treats for the rest of your life is unrealistic (and totally unappealing!). You need something more sustainable– that’s why the DASH approach is a great way to build up your health for the better. It simply focuses on eating mostly whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins, while limiting red meats, saturated fats, and added sugars (like those in baked goods sodas, juices and alcohol). The best part? Unlike so many fad diets, it doesn’t require you to dump everything out from your pantry into the trash and immediately eat only foods on a magical “DASH-approved list”! Instead of dieting, DASH encourages you to make one small change at a time in order to really ensure that the healthy habits stick with you for now, for life.
How to Get Started
Here are a few simple and pain-free ways to DASH to better health:
Instead of tossing out all the butter in the house, start by using half the amount you normally use on your morning toast or drizzling olive oil over it instead. You can also try a still-indulgent alternative to butter by replacing it with a ½ tablespoon of almond butter topped with fresh fruit like kiwi and a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut flakes. Or top your morning toast with your favorite nut butter with banana and a light drizzle of honey and sprinkle of cinnamon. If you use butter in your cooking to prepare vegetables or other food items, try ½ to 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil instead. PS: Check out these other tasty breakfast ideas too!
Just because DASH focuses on plant-based foods doesn’t mean you have to drop your hamburgers and immediately declare yourself a vegetarian! Make one small realistic goal for yourself, like “I will eat ½ my normal portion of chicken breast at dinner, and replace it with more veggies.” Remember that protein and the right starches should only fill up about one quarter of your plate each and that you are your best accountant when it comes to which carbs and how much! Use your monitor to check post mealtime blood glucose levels to help you evaluate and plan. The other half of your plate is for veggies and fruits, with slightly less fruit than veg. Did you know that including fruit regularly can help curb sweet cravings?! Fill up with a delicious salad or ½ to 1 cup of roasted or grilled vegetables, such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peppers or zucchini. If you eat a vegetable at every meal, you’ll be fuller, longer, and less inclined to cower into a cookie jar when your 3PM snack attack comes on.
Cook it – your way!
Try preparing foods in different ways to find the method you like the most. Roasting, grilling, poaching, or steaming (you can even use your microwave!) are quick and easy ways to prepare foods, from veggies to chicken, without needing too much added fat. Plus, a drizzle of olive oil and a few spices can add a little extra flavor to a delicious dinner without packing on the calories and sodium!
Instead of that sugar-packed granola bar or unsatisfying option from the candy bowl, use your snack break to add an extra serving of fruit to your day. Try an apple or banana with nut butter, or a heaping handful of berries for a refreshing treat. Choose new fruits or options you don’t have every day, like golden kiwis, plums, or apricots, just to mix it up and keep things fresh!
Feel Free to Start Slow
If the DASH diet sounds like too much of a change – do not panic! It takes both time and patience to turn a behavior into a habit. Set a small goal for yourself and aim to do it at least twice each week – if that goes well, you can always raise the stakes next week! One example: “I will make half my plate veggies at lunch on Monday and Wednesday this week.” Not so hard, is it? Or try tracking your colors of healthy plant -based foods and aiming for four colors a day. If you have kids or grandkids, bring them in on the task and track your colors together using this printable colorful food tracker. Remember, your eating habits have developed over the course of your entire lifetime – whether that is 20 years, 40 years, or 60 years –and changes are unlikely to happen overnight. Try to get family buy-in for healthier living. Celebrate your small victories and learn from past mistakes to help make your new habits part of your everyday lifestyle.