The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is one of the few “diets” I am a fan of. It was designed to help treat and prevent high blood pressure. In order for a diet to help lower the risk of Hypertension, it is crucial that sodium levels are low and a variety of foods rich in heart-healthy nutrients are high.
I highly recommend the following “steps” to ensure your DASH to the grocery store is “fruitful”.
First, do as I do, make a list. Next, stick to it! Seriously, decide which ingredients you are going to need to prepare each meal for the week and write it down. Be sure not to leave anything off. That way, you’ll be sure not to put anything extra in (your cart and thus your stomach).
Next, before you leave for the store, eat. That’s right people, it’s not good to go to the store hungry. Studies have shown that if you shop on an empty stomach, everything will look appealing, especially those unhealthy treats.
Once you get through the electronic sliding doors, grab your cart and head towards the perimeter aisles. While there are certainly healthy items in the center of the store, focus on spending most of your shopping in the areas of the market where there’s fresh produce, low-fat diary products and lean meats (skinless chicken and turkey, pork tenderloin, extra-lean ground beef, and round or sirloin beef cuts).
And if you do buy packaged items, read the nutrition label. Look for “foods” that don’t contain trans fats, are low or “reduced” sodium, are low calorie and low in sugar. If you buy canned fruit, make sure it is in water or its own juice. If you buy frozen produce, pick veggies without added salt and fruit without extra sugar
When buying grains, aim for quinoa, whole-wheat couscous and pasta, whole grain rice and bread (Ezekiel)
If you are feeling like a nut, almonds and walnuts are your best bet. Lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas (garbanzos) and sunflower seeds are among the healthiest legumes. But remember to buy raw or, if canned, low sodium varieties.
For extra seasoning, toss the shaker over your shoulder and add fresh herbs, spices, flavored vinegars, and salsas. For an extra taste kick as well as a metabolism booster, add onions, garlic, ginger and, of course, hot peppers.
When cooking, make use of nonstick cookware (or spray), a vegetable steamer insert, a rice cooker and a spice mill or garlic press. Using these tools of the kitchen will help you avoid going under the knife of your doctor.
But don’t stop there. Don’t sabotage all of your good efforts by using other unhealthy cooking habits. Rinse of your foods that contain salts (canned tuna, beans and veggies). Beware of broths. You can “saute” your vegetables in that nonstick pan in water instead of purchased broth. Use lower fat dairy products, such as reduced-fat cream cheese and fat-free sour cream, instead of their higher fat siblings. Prepare stews and casseroles with only two-thirds of the meat the recipe calls for. Add extra vegetables, brown rice, tofu, bulgur or whole-wheat pasta instead.
Oh, one last thing. As you all know, exercise also helps reduce Hypertension. So, if you are like me and are lucky enough to live close to where you shop (or even if you don’t), do what I do…grab your dog, your partner, your kids or your neighbor and walk to the store. I tie RBI outside of TJ’s and she’s always got a crowd around her when I exit. Then when we walk home, she’s tied around my waist as I haul four double-bagged packages back to the Loft.