- Written by News in Health, National Institutes of Health
- Published: 10 February 2019
Part 3: Making a meal plan & talking with a nutritionist
“Figuring out what to eat is less than half the battle,” says Dr. Holly Nicastro, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) nutrition research expert. “Sticking to your plan is a bigger challenge. So that’s why it helps to be really prepared and plan ahead.”
You’re much more likely to stick to your meal plan if you have healthy food that is ready to go. Some people find it helpful to prepare meals for the week in advance so that healthy food is within reach.
The DASH eating plan is a good start. DASH was developed by NIH-supported research to help people lower blood pressure without medicine, but it’s for anyone. Studies have shown that it reduces the risk of many diseases.
“The DASH diet is very flexible because you can follow DASH without going to a specialty grocery store. You can follow it with items that are very familiar to most people in this country,” Nicastro says.
The DASH eating plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, and fish. Compared to the typical American diet, it’s lower in salt, added sugars, fats, and red meat. It’s also higher in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and calcium than the typical American diet.
“Anybody can follow it, despite specific preferences or culture,” Nicastro says. It even works for people who are vegetarian or only eat Kosher foods.
You can find weekly DASH menus to use and a form to track your food and physical activity habits.
Get expert advice
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are designed to help people avoid developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. But everyone is different. You may have needs and risks that aren’t like the average American. Talk to your health care provider about your unique nutritional needs.
“A great resource for someone to help you with your diet is a registered dietitian nutritionist, or RDN,” Nicastro says.
You can find this type of expert in your area by visiting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Article adapted from the NIH December 2018 News in Health.