If you're searching for the best diet to use for shedding pounds in 2014, you might want to take a bite out of the DASH diet. It won the best diet overall honors in U.S. News & World Report's annual rating of popular diets this year, reported the Meadville Tribune on Jan. 13.
What makes the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) plan so effective? It was created using clinical research designed to determine the most effective diet for reducing your blood pressure. In the process of conducting those studies, researchers discovered that the DASH diet is also safe and effective for short-term as well as permanent weight loss.
If you're interested in using the DASH diet for weight loss, calorie control is built into the plan because of the emphasis on low calorie vegetables and fruits. The plan features fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy.
The diet also involves avoiding foods high in sugar, fat and salt, such as sweets, red meat and snacks. But you don't have to go cold turkey when it comes to those foods. Gradually phase out those unhealthy foods and phase in more fruits and vegetables until you've achieved your goal.
In addition, you'll need to learn to track your sodium intake.Your goal: 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams daily. Read the labels on foods ranging from bread to soup, and replace that salt shaker with salt-free spices and herbs.
And when it comes to dairy, you've got a green light on low-fat forms of that food group, from yogurt to cheese. It plays a role in keeping your blood pressure low while providing your body with enough protein.
Trying to figure out a way to add more variety? In an exclusive interview on Jan. 14, we consulted Marla Heller, a registered dietitian who authored "The Dash Diet Weight Loss Solution: 2 Weeks to Drop Pounds, Boost Metabolism, and Get Healthy" (click for details).
Marla says that creating meal plans that use unprocessed, natural foods is a key way to reduce sodium and take control of your overall calorie intake. Here is a sample day from her plan:
- 8–12 ounces latte
- 1–3-egg veggie omelet
- 4–6 ounces tomato juice, low-sodium
Midmorning Snack (Optional)
- 4–6 ounces strawberries
- 10 cashews
- Cheeseburger, with whole-wheat bun, if available. If not, have it without the bun.
- Small or medium pear
- 2 deviled eggs
- Small or medium plum
Before-Dinner Snack (Optional)
- 10 peanuts in the shell (20 individual peanuts)
Dinner (see recipes below)
- Rosemary Pork Chop with Balsamic Glaze
- Arugula, Peach, and Almond Salad
- No-added sugar frozen fudge bar
Marla suggests getting into the habit of creating your own meals to reduce the amount of sodium in canned and frozen foods. The following recipes and notes are from her cookbook: "The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook: Over 150 Fresh and Delicious Recipes to Speed Weight Loss, Lower Blood Pressure, and Prevent Diabetes."
Rosemary Pork Chops with Balsamic Glaze
Makes 4 servings
Cooking with fresh herbs is one of the best ways to improve your everyday meals. There are many times when dried herbs will do. But this dish relies on just a few ingredients, so the bracing flavor of fresh rosemary is key. To keep the lean chops moist, cook them with medium heat so they brown at a steady pace without burning.
- Olive oil in a pump sprayer
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Four 4-ounce boneless pork loin chops, cut about 1/2-inch thick
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1. Spray a large nonstick skillet with the oil and heat over medium heat. Season the pork with the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Add to the skillet and cook until the undersides are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the pork and cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the pork cooks steadily without burning, until the other side is browned and the pork feels firm when pressed in the center with a fingertip, about 4 minutes more. Transfer each chop to a dinner plate.
2. Off heat, add the vinegar to the skillet. (Do not inhale the fumes, as they are strong.) Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits in the bottom of the skillet. The residual heat of the skillet should be enough to evaporate the vinegar to about 2 tablespoons. If necessary, return the skillet to medium heat to reduce the vinegar slightly. Drizzle the glaze over each chop and serve hot.
(1 serving) 178 calories, 24 g protein, 3 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 67 mg cholesterol, 579 mg sodium, 376 mg potassium. Food groups: 3 ounces meat.
Arugula, Peach, and Almond Salad
Makes 4 servings
Make this salad in the summer when peaches and arugula are in season and at their best. Cling peaches (you will have to cut away the flesh from the pit) arrive first in late spring, and then the freestones (with loose pits) show up throughout the summer. Nectarines are delicious in this salad, too. The combination of spicy arugula and sweet peaches will have you going back for more.
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
- 1 tablespoon water
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 5 ounces arugula, well washed and dried
- 3 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
- 1/2 cup sliced natural almonds, toasted
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. Whisk the vinegar, water, oil, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the arugula, peaches, and almonds and toss. Season with the pepper. Serve immediately.
(1 serving) 152 calories, 4 g protein, 15 g carbs, 10 g fat, 4 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 72 mg sodium, 431 mg potassium. Food groups: 1 vegetable, 1 fruit, 1/2 nuts, 1 fat.