Step by Step to start DASH Diet

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may have recommended the DASH diet as a dietary approach to help manage your condition. And if you've ever wondered whether the DASH diet is effective, the answer is a resounding "YES." DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, has been extensively studied and proven to be beneficial for hypertension. However, despite its proven efficacy, many individuals find it challenging to put the DASH principles into practice. If you're one of those seeking guidance on how to get started with the DASH diet and make it a part of your daily life, this step-by-step guide is here to help. By breaking down the DASH diet into manageable steps, we'll provide you with the knowledge and tools to adopt this heart-healthy approach and take control of your blood pressure and overall well-being. 


- What is DASH diet?

- How it works? 

- How to start DASH diet?

What is DASH diet? 

DASH was first introduced at a meeting of the American Heart Association in 1996 and later published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997.

Despite no weight changes, the combination diet reduced blood pressure more than the other two diets. Those with hypertension showed greater decreases in blood pressure than those without hypertension. The reduction of blood pressure in the DASH combination diet was comparable to that of people on medication for stage 1 hypertension.

The results of this landmark study contributed much of the scientific basis for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 and later editions. 

How it works? 

Basically, the DASH diet is based on the following foods: fruits, vegetables, low fat milk, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. It recommends reducing sodium, foods, and beverages with added sugars, and red meat. The diet is heart-friendly as it limits saturated and trans fat while increasing the intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein, and fiber, nutrients believed to help control blood pressure.

The diet suggests a specific number of servings of the recommended foods listed above. The sample plans provided by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) are based on 1600, 2000, or 2600 calories daily.

For 2000 calories a day, this translates to

  • about 6-8 servings of grains or grain products (whole grains recommended),
  • 4-5 servings vegetables

  • 4-5 fruits

  • 2-3 low-fat dairy foods

  • 2 or fewer 3-ounce servings of meat, poultry, or fish

  • 2-3 servings of fats and oils

  • and 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, or dry beans per week

  • It advises limiting sweets and added sugars to 5 servings or less per week

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates

How to start DASH diet 

There are couple of principles we need to understand: 

  1. Number of servings depends on the number of calories you are
  2. your calorie level depends on age, sex and how active you are

  3. if you want to maintain your weight, you should take in only as many calories as you burn by being physically active. (so if you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn) 

Step by step


(Here is a guide how to determine your activity level:

  • Active: walking more than 3 miles/day at 3-4 miles per hour, plus light physical activity.
  • Moderate: walking 1-3 miles/day at 3-4 miles per hour, plus light physical activity)


Step 3: Compare DASH with your current eating pattern 

Spend a day or two to fill the chart below, to compare what you usually eat. Also, note how active you are. 

This will help you decide what changes you need to make in your food choices and the sizes of the portions you eat. 

Step 4: A day with DASH eating plan 

Then you can create a plan for your self. Try not to change all at once. Try one, then another. 

The eating plan here has 2 levels of sodium (2300 and 1500mg). Fruits and vegetables are naturally lower in sodium. Note: 2,300 mg Sodium is about 1 teaspoon of table salt - not too much. So, let's try this level first and discuss with your doctor about gradually lowering it to 1,500mg a day. 

To lower Sodium and salt, try herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, wine, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table. Be sure to read food labels to check the amount of sodium in different food products, especially processed food. Foods with 20% or more Daily Value of sodium are considered HIGH. 

Step 5: Gradual Change 

It is very easy to be overwhelmed when we start thinking about DASH diet. However, don't think that you have to change all in 1 day. Understand where you are heading to is a BIG WIN. Let's celebrate that first. Understand where you are today is another MAJOR WIN.

Then, make change over couple of days or weeks 

  • Add a serving of vegetables at lunch one day, and dinner the next 
  • Add fruit at one meal or as snack 
  • Increase use of fat-free or low fat to three servings a day 
  • Limit lean meats to 6 ounces a day, or 3 ounces a meal (size of a deck of cards) 
  • Include 2 or more vegetarian-style, or meat-less meals each wekk 
  • Increase servings of vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, cooked dry beans. 
  • For snacks and desserts, use fruits, foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, calories (for examples: rice cakes, unsalted nuts or seeds, raisins, fat free/low fat frosen yogurt…) 
  • Use fresh, frozen or low-sodium canned vegetables and fruits 

In conclusion, the DASH diet is a proven method to manage high blood pressure and improve heart health. Emphasizing nutrient-rich foods and reducing sodium intake can lead to significant benefits. Take action today by incorporating DASH principles into your daily routine. Start with small changes and seek support from loved ones or professionals. Let food be your medicine, and pave the way to a healthier, happier life. Your heart will thank you.

Please let us know what we can help you improve your health. 


Diet Review: DASH

Your Guide To Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH

About this Page

Bilingual Vietnamese-English professional Dr. Pham, a former cardiovascular thoracic surgeon, now prioritizes empowering individuals to optimize their wellness and potential. Offering insights in preventive medicine and lifestyle changes, journey with Dr. Pham towards a healthier, vibrant life. Learn about Dr. Pham here.

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