Follow The DASH Eating Plan

DASH is a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style for life.

The DASH eating plan requires no special foods and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals. This plan recommends:

  • Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

The DASH eating plan is easy to follow using such common foods available in your grocery store. The plan includes daily servings from different food groups. The number of servings you should have depends on your daily calorie (energy) needs.

To figure out your calorie needs, you need to consider your age and physical activity level. If you want to maintain your current weight, you should eat only as many calories as you burn by being physically active. This is called energy balance. Get your daily calories from this tool.

Calories Calculator

If you need to lose weight, you should eat fewer calories than you burn or increase your activity level to burn more calories than you eat.

Consider your physical activity level. Are you sedentary, moderately active, or active?

  • Sedentary means that you do only light physical activity as part of your typical daily routine.
  • Moderately active means that you do physical activity equal to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, plus light physical activity.
  • Active means that you do physical activity equal to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, plus light physical activity.

Use the chart below to estimate your daily calorie needs.

Daily Calorie Needs for Women

Age (years) Calories Needed for Sedentary Activity Level Calories Needed for Moderately Active Activity Level Calories Needed for Active Activity Level
19–30 2,000 2,000–2,200 2,400
31–50 1,800 2,000 2,200
51+ 1,600 1,800 2,000–2,200

Daily Calorie Needs for Men

Age (years) Calories Needed for Sedentary Activity Level Calories Needed for Moderately Active Activity Level Calories Needed for Active Activity Level
19–30 2,400 2,600–2,800 3,000
31–50 2,200 2,400–2,600 2,800–3,000
51+ 2,000 2,200–2,400 2,400–2,800

After figuring out your daily calorie needs, go to the table below and find the closest calorie level to yours. This table estimates the number of servings from each food group that you should have. Serving quantities are per day, unless otherwise noted.

DASH Eating Plan—Number of Food Servings by Calorie Level

Food Group 1,200
Cal.
1,400
Cal.
1,600
Cal.
1,800
Cal.
2,000
Cal.
2,600
Cal.
3,100
Cal.
Grains1 4–5 5–6 6 6 6–8 10–11 12–13
Vegetables 3–4 3–4 3–4 4–5 4–5 5–6 6
Fruits 3–4 4 4 4–5 4–5 5–6 6
Fat-free or low-fat dairy products2 2–3 2–3 2–3 2–3 2–3 3 3–4
Lean meats, poultry, and fish 3 or less 3–4 or less 3–4 or less 6 or less 6 or less 6 or less 6–9
Nuts, seeds, and legumes 3 per week 3 per week 3–4 per week 4 per week 4–5 per week 1 1
Fats and oils3 1 1 2 2–3 2–3 3 4
Sweets and added sugars 3 or less per week 3 or less per week 3 or less per week 5 or less per week 5 or less per week ≤2 ≤2
Maximum sodium limit4 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day

1 Whole grains are recommended for most grain servings as a good source of fiber and nutrients.

2 or lactose intolerance, try either lactase enzyme pills with dairy products or lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk.

3 Fat content changes the serving amount for fats and oils. For example, 1 Tbsp regular salad dressing = one serving; 1 Tbsp low-fat dressing = one-half serving; 1 Tbsp fat-free dressing = zero serving.

4 The DASH eating plan has a sodium limit of either 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg per day.

 

DASH Eating Plan—Serving Sizes, Examples, and Significance

Food Group Serving Sizes Examples and Notes Significance of Each Food Group to the DASH Eating Plan
Grains
1 slice bread
1 oz dry cereal
½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal
Whole-wheat bread and rolls, whole-wheat pasta, English muffin, pita bread, bagel, cereals, grits, oatmeal, brown rice, unsalted pretzels and popcorn Major sources of energy and fiber
Vegetables
1 cup raw leafy vegetable
½ cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetable
½ cup vegetable juice
Broccoli, carrots, collards, green beans, green peas, kale, lima beans, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes Rich sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber
Fruits
1 medium fruit
¼ cup dried fruit
½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
½ cup fruit juice
Apples, apricots, bananas, dates, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, grapefruit juice, mangoes, melons, peaches, pineapples, raisins, strawberries, tangerines Important sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber
Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
1 cup milk or yogurt
1½ oz cheese
Fat-free milk or buttermilk; fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat cheese; fat-free/low-fat regular or frozen yogurt Major sources of calcium and protein
Lean meats, poultry, and fish
1 oz cooked meats, poultry, or fish
1 egg
Select only lean; trim away visible fats; broil, roast, or poach; remove skin from poultry Rich sources of protein and magnesium
Nuts, seeds, and legumes
⅓ cup or 1½ oz nuts
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp or ½ oz seeds
½ cup cooked legumes (dried beans, peas)
Almonds, filberts, mixed nuts, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, kidney beans, lentils, split peas Rich sources of energy, magnesium, protein, and fiber
Fats and oils
1 tsp soft margarine
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp salad dressing
Soft margarine, vegetable oil (canola, corn, olive, safflower), low-fat mayonnaise, light salad dressing The DASH study had 27% of calories as fat, including fat in or added to foods
Sweets and added sugars
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp jelly or jam
½ cup sorbet, gelatin dessert
1 cup lemonade
Fruit-flavored gelatin, fruit punch, hard candy, jelly, maple syrup, sorbet and ices, sugar Sweets should be low in fat

 

To benefit from the DASH eating plan, it is important to consume the appropriate amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight. To help, read nutrition labels on food, and plan for success with DASH eating plan sample menus and other heart-healthy recipes.

The DASH eating plan can be used to help you lose weight. To lose weight, follow the DASH eating plan and try to reduce your total daily calories gradually.

General tips for reducing daily calories include:

  • Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
  • Reduce the amount of meat that you eat while increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or dry beans.
  • Substitute low-calorie foods, such as when snacking (choose fruits or vegetables instead of sweets and desserts) or drinking (choose water instead of soda or juice), when possible.

Increasing Daily Potassium

The DASH eating plan is designed to be rich in potassium, with a target of 4,700 mg potassium daily, to enhance the effects of reducing sodium on blood pressure. The following are examples of potassium-rich foods.

Sample Foods and Potassium Levels

Food Potassium (mg)
Potato, 1 small

738

Plain yogurt, nonfat or low-fat, 8 ounces

530–570

Sweet potato, 1 medium

542

Orange juice, fresh, 1 cup

496

Lima beans, ½ cup

478

Soybeans, cooked, ½ cup

443

Banana, 1 medium

422

Fish (cod, halibut, rockfish, trout, tuna), 3 ounces

200–400

Tomato sauce, ½ cup

405

Prunes, stewed, ½ cup

398

Skim milk, 1 cup

382

Apricots, ¼ cup

378

Pinto beans, cooked, ½ cup

373

Pork tenderloin, 3 ounces

371

Lentils, cooked, ½ cup

365

Kidney beans, cooked, ½ cup

360

Split peas, cooked, ½ cup

360

Almonds, roasted, ⅓ cup

310

 

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.