Hypertensive patients are those with high blood pressure. It’s important to follow a diet that will help to keep the blood pressure to a minimum, and in some cases, medication will need to be taken. Planning your meals and thinking ahead is something that you will need to consider more frequently.
The good news is there’s a diet that is perfect for hypertensive individuals. It’s known as the DASH diet and is considered one of the healthiest diets around. It can also be followed by those with diabetes since the diet helps to keep sugar levels to a minimum.
But just knowing about the diet isn’t good enough. Knowing why you need to follow it and why it helps isn’t going to help you plan your meals. Here’s your complete guide to meal planning when following the DASH diet.
Why Is the DASH Diet Important?
Let’s start with a look at the DASH diet. You need to know why it’s important for your health and what it will entail moving forward. Just how difficult will it be to follow?
The term diet is often used to denote someone who’s following a meal plan to lose weight. This isn’t necessarily the case with the DASH diet. This is more than just a quick fix, but a long term, healthy living option. It will help you not just reduce your weight (if you need to) but maintain your weight for a healthier overall lifestyle.
The DASH diet is a low-sodium, low-sugar, high-fibre diet. It follows the recommendations that you should get at least 30g of fiber daily.
Fiber is one of the most important nutrients in the diet. It breaks down slowly, helping you to feel full. However, it also regulates the digestive system. It helps to encourage the body to break down food slowly, regulating your insulin production, glucose levels, and blood pressure levels. You will naturally feel the need to eat less throughout the day, which is where the weight loss benefits can come into play.
The DASH diet will help you follow an eating plan that will manage your calorie levels. If you need 2,000 calories to maintain your weight, you will be able to eat those and not feel hungry. If you need to lose weight, you can eat fewer calories than your body needs to encourage calories burned from the fat you store. This leads to weight loss without the feeling of being hungry or “on a diet.”
What will you eat on the DASH diet? The focus is on fruits and vegetables. The daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables is five, so the diet will help you get those portions throughout the day. However, the diet also regulates the amount of dairy, fat, and lean protein that you eat daily. This is a diet to help you get all the macro and micro nutrients that your body needs.
The intake of legumes and nuts is reduced. While they are good for you, they can be high in calories and cause problems for your blood pressure in large amounts. You’ll have a meal plan that encourages no more than five portions of legumes, nuts, and sweet items on a weekly basis.
Is the Diet Easy to Follow with a Busy Lifestyle?
Nobody has time to diet anymore, do they? Well, that can seem like the truth, but you will have time for the DASH diet, especially with this meal plan below. The idea of the diet is that it is livable. It doesn’t get in the way of life but work with your need to take medication, your need to run around after family, and the need to look after yourself.
The diet is one of the easiest to follow with a busy lifestyle. In fact, it will help your lifestyle. You will get the energy that you need throughout the day. There isn’t the feeling of hunger that other diets give, and you’ll get all the nutrients you need for sustained, long-term energy levels.
A diet for hypertensive individuals is low in sodium. Salt and sodium are major issues for high blood pressure, more than other ingredients. But you can get sodium in so many foods, so the diet looks more into the overall ingredients and not just which foods have added salt in them.
Preparing Before You Follow the Diet
Let’s start with some preparation before you put together your meal plan. Preparation is important to get yourself in the right state of mind and get your cupboards to help you follow the diet.
The very first thing you need to do is talk to your doctor. Even if you know the DASH diet is good for hypertension, you want to make sure your doctor is happy with the change in lifestyle. Your doctor needs to make sure your change in diet isn’t going to affect your medication and will need to know if anything good affect your blood pressure levels in good and bad ways. After all, following the diet could help to reduce the need to take medication in the future. Your doctor won’t want you taking medication that becomes unnecessary.
Give your doctor your meal plan to look over. This will give you both a chance to discuss the full changes and whether anything else needs adding or cutting back on to help sustain your health.
The next thing you’ll want to do is give yourself some goals. It can be difficult to stick to new changes in the diet. Nobody likes change, and the body will be in the habit of your current lifestyle. Set some goals that you want to achieve, helping with motivation to stick to the plan when you feel tired or fed up.
You don’t want unachievable goals. Stick with losing a few pounds and work with your doctor on achievable health goals linked to your diet.
Get a list of alternative ingredients for the ones that you don’t like. There’s no point in eating something that you hate. This will put you on the diet and mean you’re less likely to stick with it. With a list of healthy alternatives, you will always have something to go to when it comes to trying out new recipes.
And don’t be afraid to try out new recipes. Make it a habit of looking out for new recipes online regularly. You’ll be surprised at the way your favorites can still be eaten. You just need a few alternative ingredients.
Get rid of all the food that you shouldn’t eat right now. Clear out your cupboards of the processed junk and sweets. If they’re not there, you are less likely to eat them. After all, do you want to go to the store whenever you have a sweet craving? After a while, you won’t miss the processed junk and will enjoy creating healthy meals that keep your high blood pressure problems to a minimum.
Stock up on spices and herbs. You will need them to make your dishes stand out. Porridge will taste amazing with a little nutmeg or cinnamon over the top. Your popcorn will get a kick with some Italian seasoning. You can use chili flakes to add a little extra to your pumpkin soup. You’ll be amazed at the benefits of herbs and spices.
Now it’s time to start your meal plan. Here’s a seven-day plan to follow to get you started on the DASH diet.
7-Day Hypertensive Meal Plan
- Breakfast: porridge made with milk, banana
- Lunch: salad with a balsamic vinaigrette
- Dinner: chicken with vegetables and sweet potato mash
- Snacks: a handful of cashew nuts/almonds
You can enjoy a couple of handfuls throughout the day, but avoid eating too much in one sitting. Nuts are good for selenium levels and healthy fats, but they can be high in calories. Just a handful will keep your hunger levels at bay while waiting for your next meal.
Make sure the chicken has no skin. The skin is the fattiest and unhealthiest part of poultry.
- Breakfast: banana and peanut butter smoothie
- Lunch: tuna salad
- Dinner: salmon and asparagus with a small portion of quinoa or wild rice
- Snacks: Cup of vegetable sticks with some hummus or ricotta cheese
Avoid the cottage cheese when on a low-sodium diet. Most manufacturers will add extra salt to their cottage cheese. Carrot and cucumber sticks are the best options for snacking, but you can also choose broccoli and cauliflower florets if you’d like.
- Breakfast: green smoothie of choice
- Lunch: quinoa salad topped with nuts
- Dinner: chicken sweet potato skins
- Snacks: Greek yogurt with a banana
Sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes for nutrients and carbs. They are packed with fiber that balance out the protein in the chicken. You can add a chipotle sauce if you want to add a bit of a kick.
When it comes to the Greek yogurt, always opt for plain yogurt. The fruity ones will have added sugar that just isn’t good for your blood sugar levels. Look out for the sodium levels on the back of the packets to make sure there is nothing added.
- Breakfast: porridge made with milk, with some crushed walnuts over the top
- Lunch: vegetable soup; you get to choose the veggies, but pumpkin is excellent for the fall, and squash soups are to die for!
- Dinner: lentil and walnut bolognese with whole grain pasta
- Snacks: vegetable sticks with hummus or a handful of almonds/cashew nuts
Soups are an excellent choice for the winter and fall months. Keep them chunky, so your digestive system must do a little work. This will help to keep you fuller. The liquid will absorb quicker, so you’ll be able to take in far more nutrients from your meals.
- Breakfast: peanut butter and chocolate smoothie
- Lunch: sweet potato salad
- Dinner: opt for a leftover from the night before
- Snacks: one piece of fruit
The leftover night is good for those nights that you just don’t want to cook. Think of it as a takeaway. You can cook too much of one dish from the week and then store it in a sealable tub. You just must heat it up, and it’s good to go.
The peanut butter smoothie doesn’t sound like the healthiest option, but it is full of healthy fats. Look out for an all-natural peanut butter to make sure it’s made mostly of peanuts and not additives.
- Breakfast: your favorite food
- Lunch: vegetable/chicken/pork rice-paper spring rolls
- Dinner: honey and lime chicken kebabs with a side salad
- Snacks: air-popped popcorn with a seasoning of choice
Make your spring rolls but use the fatless cuts of meat. If you’re not too certain about meat, add in some kidney beans or a small helping of other lentils or legumes to get some protein into the meal.
Air-popped popcorn is good for you. It’s the toppings that are bad. Avoid the toffee and opt for some cinnamon or some Italian spice from the kitchen cupboard.
- Breakfast: coconut milk quinoa salad
- Lunch: leftover day
- Dinner: chicken curry and wild rice
- Snacks: kale or sweet potato chips
You can make your chips in the oven. They’ll have a slightly different taste and texture than you’re used to, but the crunch will make you feel like you’re eating an unhealthy snack.
When making a curry, opt for one that has little cream to it. A tikka masala is a good option.
The DASH diet is what you make of it. Initially, it can sound a little boring, but the above is just a start to help you get into it. You can start experimenting with more seasonings and find meals that are perfect for your taste buds. Don’t be afraid to look up new recipes online. Look after your blood pressure and your blood pressure will look after you!