At the beginning of the new year, we are bombarded with ads for weight loss gimmicks. The gyms are brimming with “revolutionists.” Ah, those lucky people who only seem to need to diet and exercise for two to four weeks per year and can take the rest of the year off (eye roll). But crash diets and unrealistic fitness goals don’t actually work for weight loss or long-term health and can get you frustrated and on a cycle of yo-yo dieting. You need a long-term dietary change that is easy to follow and will help you keep that weight off for good. Here’s how to use the DASH method to revamp your diet and attitude in the new year (and hopefully find you in even better shape after another year of circling the sun).
The DASH diet is not a crash diet for quick weight loss. It is a diet you can follow for the rest of your life without constantly craving your favorite foods or feeling guilty about breaking it and giving up. This diet is part of a positive lifestyle change that protects your heart and overall health long-term.
You might not be worried about your heart health, but heart disease remains the leading cause of death among both men and women in the U.S. In fact, cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined! We just lost Carrie Fisher to a heart attack and George Michael presumably to heart failure. If you want to enjoy many New Years to come, it’s important to protect your ticker to keep it tocking. Think a change can’t help? The DASH diet has been found to lower blood pressure in just two weeks!
What Is the DASH Method?
The DASH diet is similar to the well-known Mediterranean diet, but it is easier to follow and offers more specific guidelines based on medical research. DASH stands for: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. As mentioned, there are many heart health benefits to DASH, such as lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk for heart disease. It also reduces risk for type II diabetes, reduces belly fat and promotes weight loss. There are a number of other DASH diet health benefits as well.
Another reason the DASH diet is easier to follow is that the whole family can follow it, meaning that you don’t have to go through the effort of preparing separate meals or sit there with a tiny salad while your family digs in to more delicious foods. Everyone can enjoy the food in the DASH diets and benefit from following it.
A typical American diet can include 3,400 mg of sodium per day or even more. A high sodium diet has several health risks. The kidneys have a hard time keeping up with extra sodium in the bloodstream, leading to more fluid retention. Besides the unwanted bloating, this increase of blood volume makes your heart work more and leads to stiffening of blood vessels. This increases risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. It may also be bad for your bones. The Standard DASH diet allows up to 2,300 mg of sodium per day and if you are looking to restrict sodium further, then the Low-Sodium DASH diet allows up to 1,500 mg of sodium per day (the upper limit recommend by the American Heart Association).
So How Do You Follow the DASH Diet?
The Dash method is a plant-based, high-fiber diet. It provides key nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium while reducing sodium, sugary drinks, saturated fat and cholesterol. The diet focuses on proper portion size and eating a variety of whole, unprocessed foods including the following:
- whole grains
- low-fat dairy
- small amounts of red meat, sweets, and fats
If you are following a 2,000 calorie per day DASH diet here are some guidelines:
- 6-8 servings of whole grains
- 4-5 servings of vegetables
- 4-5 servings of fruit
- 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy (yogurts, skim milk, part-skim cheese)
- Up to 6 servings of lean meat, poultry, and fish
- 2-3 servings of fats and oils per day. Avoid saturated fats—which should not be more than 6% of total calories—and trans fats; look for healthy monounstatuated fats like those found in olive oil and avocados.
- 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds and legumes per week.
- 5 or fewer servings of sweets per week
- Limit soda, juice, caffeine and alcohol
This is just providing some general guidelines, and you may need to modify for your own health and body size. You may need to eat fewer calories for weight loss.
Tips for Getting Started
Here are some simple changes you can incorporate into your diet. Add some servings of vegetables to lunch and dinner. Add fresh fruit to your lunch and as a snack. Cut the amount of butter or spreads in half. Replace full fat or cream with low-fat or fat-free milk. Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Read food labels to avoid high sodium foods. Cut out sugary and fried foods. Try out some vegetarian meals.
Pair the DASH diet with an exercise program. If you need motivation or new weight-loss ideas for the new year check out the BeFit 30 Day Fat Burn System to inspire you on your quest for a better you.
If you want to avoid the pitfalls of giving up on your New Years goals, read on for some advice for making your New Years resolutions permanent.