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DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension): Eating for Better Health

These instructions are for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) patients who are recommended to follow a special eating plan to keep their blood pressure normal.

Important Information:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when your heart works too hard to force blood through the body. Over time, blood vessels can be damaged and increase your risk of having a stroke, heart attack or kidney failure. Learn more about hypertension.

  • You can reduce your risk with exercise and healthy eating. One healthy eating plan is known as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) that includes a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans, nuts and seeds. This eating plan is also low in salt and sugar.

Instructions for following DASH guidelines:

  • Eat 4-5 servings of fruit per day.

    • Choose fresh, frozen or dried fruit.

    • Use canned fruit packed in its own juice.

    • Add fruit to your breakfast, lunch or snack.

  • Eat 4-5 servings of vegetables per day.

    • Try salad and a cooked vegetable at dinner.

    • Eat fresh vegetables with lunch or with a snack.

    • Choose colorful vegetables like broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes.

  • Have 2-3 servings of low-fat (or fat-free) dairy products per day.

    • Drink low-fat or fat-free plain milk.

    • Eat low-fat yogurt and cheese.

  • Choose whole grains.

    • Use whole-wheat bread, rolls and bagels.

    • Try whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, barley, and shredded wheat.

    • Choose popcorn for a snack.

  • Choose lean proteins: (up to 6 ounces per day)

    • Eat skinless white meat chicken and turkey.

    • Use 90% lean ground beef or round or sirloin beef cuts.

    • Try fish and non-meat proteins like nuts, beans and lentils.

  • Have 2-3 servings of healthy fats and oil

    • Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats.

    • Choose oils like olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, avocado, and flaxseed.

    • Use vegetable oil-based salad dressings.

  • Eat 4-5 servings per week of nuts, seeds, beans, and peas.

    • Use your favorite nut butter on a whole grain English muffin.

    • Add ground flaxseed to yogurt or a smoothie.

    • Include chickpeas or kidney beans in soup or salads.

Instructions for choosing lower sodium foods:

  • Choose the following:

    • Foods labeled as sodium-free, no salt added, very low-sodium or low-sodium.

    • Fresh or frozen fruits and veggies, rather than canned.

    • Meals that contain less than 500 mg sodium and snacks that contain less than 150-200 mg sodium.

  • Avoid the following:

    • Instant or flavored rice or noodles and canned foods.

    • Salty snack foods and frozen meals.

    • Foods that are pickled, cured or smoked.

    • Adding salt, soy sauce, or seasonings that contain salt to cooked foods.

Sample menu: DASH ideas for every meal


  • Plain oatmeal made with 1% or skim milk. Add fresh fruit, nuts, and cinnamon for flavor.

  • Smoothie made with frozen fruit, spinach, and 1% or skim milk or milk alternative.

  • Multigrain waffle with low-fat yogurt and peach or strawberry slices.

  • Whole-grain tortilla with peanut butter. Add a peeled banana and roll it up.

  • Low sugar, high-fiber cereal, with 1% or skim milk and topped with banana slices.

  • One or two scrambled eggs, turkey or Canadian bacon, fruit and whole-wheat toast.


  • Sandwich with whole-wheat bread, low sodium lunchmeat, low-fat cheese and your favorite veggies.

  • Turkey chili, veggie chili or low sodium minestrone soup, with whole-wheat crackers and carrot sticks.

  • Whole-wheat pasta salad, chopped veggies, low-fat cheese, chickpeas, sliced olives, and low-fat vinaigrette dressing.

  • Whole-wheat tortilla filled with fat-free refried beans or mashed black beans, low-fat cheese and salsa.

  • Whole-wheat pita filled with low-fat ricotta cheese, apple slices and sprinkled with cinnamon.


  • Baked or grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and brown rice.

  • Baked or grilled salmon baked sweet potato, and green beans.

  • Turkey burger, low-fat cheese, whole-wheat bun, and mixed greens salad with vegetables and oil and vinegar dressing.

  • Whole-wheat pasta, ½ cup low salt marinara sauce, 3 small turkey meatballs, parmesan cheese, and salad with oil and vinegar dressing.

  • Ground chicken or turkey tacos, with black beans, salsa, low-fat shredded cheese, shredded dark lettuce leaves, with a side of corn.


  • Multigrain baked tortilla chips and salsa.

  • Small orange and 15 almonds.

  • Low-fat yogurt and ½ cup of berries.

  • Kabobs made with pretzel sticks, low-fat cheese cubes, and grapes.

  • Mini pizza made with whole-grain English muffin, pasta sauce and low-fat, shredded mozzarella cheese; top with peppers, spinach or broccoli.


  • Fast food once per month.

  • Eating out or ordering take-out once per week.

Making balanced choices away from home

If you are headed to college or moving away from home, it is important to continue to make nutritious food choices.

  • Look at nutrition information posted in the dining hall; choose healthier options.

  • Eat on smaller plates or take smaller portions if the dining hall is buffet style.

  • Avoid sugary drinks like soda, sports, energy drink, fruit juice or coffee; drink water instead.

  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.

  • Avoid sauces (unless labeled low sodium), gravy, dressings and foods prepared with a lot of oil or butter.

  • Enjoy the salad bar, but avoid bacon bits, fried noodles, croutons and pasta and potato salads.

  • Choose yogurt and fresh fruit for dessert.

  • Stock your fridge with 1% or skim milk, low-fat cheese, fruits, vegetables, water, nuts, nut butter, eggs, yogurt, hummus and salsa.

Reviewed on March 1, 2023, by Danielle Campbell RD; Oshay Johnson RD

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