The Appropriate Servings for Meals is How the DASH Diet Works

Most advice for eating heart healthy comes in the form of general guidelines. Eat less saturated fat, replace refined grains with whole grains and eat more fruits and vegetables. But when it comes to implementing these guidelines, it's often the individual who has to translate these guidelines into an actual menu for the day.

But don't forget that not only eating right but taking part in any number of cardio exercises is an even better way to take charge of your health and move towards a better way of life.

To help with lowering blood pressure and the risks of heart disease and stroke many people are turning to the DASH Diet. Here are the basic goals of a heart diet plan and tips for turning them into everyday meals (these goals are based on a 2000 calorie per day diet):

Eating Grains

Eating 6-8 servings per day is the goal. One serving equals 1 slice of bread, 1 oz of cereal, or ? cup of cooked pasta or rice. To implement the grain goal try eating one serving (1/2 cup) of oatmeal or one serving of cold cereal for breakfast, a sandwich with two slices of whole grain bread for lunch, dinner with 1 cup of rice, pasta or other grain, and an optional snack with a few crackers.

Eating Vegetables

With vegetables the goal is to eat 4-5 servings per day. That sounds like a lot but if you can make a habit of adding veggies to meals and snacks, the goal gets easier to reach. Try adding some spinach, tomatoes or other favorite vegetables to every sandwich, make stews and soups with extra vegetables and beans, and stock up on bags of frozen vegetables which are convenient for last minute meal planning. To reach the vegetable goal, eat 1 cup of frozen vegetables in a stir fry for dinner, ? cup of raw veggies with lunch and plenty of veggies on your lunch sandwich.

Eating Fruits

Eating 4-5 servings of vegetables per day is the goal. To get there, drink a cup of 100% fruit juice at breakfast, add a banana or berries to your morning cereal and have a piece of fruit as a mid-morning snack. Another place to add fruit on days you are low is with dessert. If you are going to indulge in dessert, choose one with fruit like bananas with ice cream, strawberry parfait, or apple pie.

Consuming Milk Products

Eating or drinking 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free milk products is an ideal goal each day. One cup of low-fat or fat-free milk and 1 cup of yogurt is enough to meet your daily goal. If you don't eat milk products, try to include other sources of calcium, magnesium and potassium like fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds and certain meats.

Lean Proteins

Eating six ounces or less of lean meats is the goal per day. Lean meats include lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken and seafood. One egg counts as one ounce of lean meat but it is advised that you eat four egg yolks or less per week. If you eat meat, it may take more effort to eat only six ounces in a day than is to reach or exceed that amount. To keep moderate your meat intake, try using nut and bean spreads on sandwiches in place of meat, using beans in place of meat in stews and soups, and giving up breakfast meats like bacon and sausage.

Nuts, Seeds and Legumes

4-5 servings per week of nuts and seeds is the goal. One serving equals 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of nut butters or seeds, and ? cup of beans. Nuts and seeds make tasty and filling snacks and beans can be used in dips, spreads and in many main dishes like soups, stews and Mexican cuisine.

Fats and Oils

The goal is to eat 2-3 servings per day. One serving equals 1 teaspoon of margarine, butter or oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons of salad dressing. Fats and oil help make many foods more palatable and can go a long way in helping you reach your diet goal for vegetables as well.

Sweets and Added Sugars

Added sugars should be limited to help keep calorie intake in check. The goal is eat 5 servings or less per week. One serving equals 1 tablespoon (12 grams) of sugar, 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam, and 1 cup of sweetened beverages.

Lastly, a major goal of the DASH Diet is to keep sodium at 2300 mg per day or less. Blood pressure lowering was shown to be even greater when the DASH Diet is accompanied by a sodium intake of 1500 mg or less. All of these suggestions will help in lowering your risks of heart conditions and in the long run make you feel much better, physically and mentally.