The DASH diet (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was developed by the nutritionist Marla Heller, and was recently voted the healthiest diet in the U.S. by a panel of doctors.
The plan, which is endorsed by The National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute and The American Heart Association, was devised to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and help ward off diabetes. However, its amazing ability to help people lose weight has quickly turned it into a bestseller.
Now, just in time for Christmas, Marla Heller has turbo-charged the original regime to create an even more powerful weight-loss plan.
In this exclusive extract from her new book, The DASH Weight Loss Solution, Heller explains how her simple diet can transform your figure in time for your Christmas party – without counting a single calorie or following a punishing fitness regime.
But unlike other crash diets, which can have an adverse effect on your health, this one is scientifically proven to boost health.
Over the next two weeks, you can not only drop a dress size and flatten your tummy, but fire up your metabolism and train your appetite to resist all those calorific treats you’ll be tempted by over the festive season.
If you’re worrying whether you’ll be able to squeeze into that unforgiving party dress this season, the DASH plan is a godsend.
So how does it work? Instead of counting calories and fussing over fat, Marla Heller says the best way to lose weight is to focus on the type of foods you are eating. The key is to choose lean proteins and healthy fats that will help to fill you up and control your appetite, rather than spend time worrying about the things you need to avoid.
Divided into two phases, the diet promises not only to help you lose weight – in particular around your stomach area – but has been proven to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and developing diabetes.
Phase One of the DASH diet (the initial two weeks of the programme that we will be outlining here) is a low-carbohydrate transition period designed to reset your metabolism.
This protein-rich eating plan – which cuts out fruit and wholegrains for 14 days – will keep you feeling satisfied for longer and, because it’s low in carbs and sugars, also helps trigger fast, immediately visible weight loss.
Phase Two then reintroduces wholegrains, fruit and starchy vegetables in order to maintain and continue your weight loss, as well as improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Marla Heller says that although the DASH diet is not designed to be an aggressive weight-loss regime, and results will vary from person to person, people tend to lose around 5 lb in the first two weeks – and between 10 lb and 35 lb over a period of two months.
So what are the key things you need to change about your eating habits to see results before Christmas? First, you will learn to consume lots of vegetables. You can eat as much non-starchy veg as you want to – there are no limits. You should also include protein-rich foods, such as lean meat, fish, low-fat cheese and nuts, that increase satiety, helping to reduce snacking by keeping your blood sugar levels more stable.
By cutting out starchy and sugary foods, your metabolism will operate more efficiently, since you will have a reduced demand for insulin (the hormone that keeps blood sugar levels in kilter). You will also notice you are eating lighter, healthier foods, which will make you feel more energized.
Within the first few days, you will notice your waist shrinking as you lose belly fat, which tends to build up when we eat large amounts of carbohydrates.
PHASE 1: Lose that bulge in 14 days
For the next 14 days, include moderate-sized servings of these three food groups in every main meal (i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner). As a guide, a portion of meat, fish and poultry should be the size of your palm. A handful of beans, nuts, lentils and soy foods is about right. A portion of cheese should be the size of a small matchbox.
1. Foods that are protein-rich and low in saturated fat. These include:
- Lean meats
- Fish and poultry
- Beans and lentils
- Soy foods
- Low-fat cheeses
- Unsweetened or artificially sweetened yogurt (one small pot per day)
2. Heart-healthy fats. These are foods that contain omega-3 and polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown, if eaten regularly, to have beneficial effects on circulation and reduce the risk of heart disease. Good sources include:
- Vegetable oils, especially olive, rapeseed and nut oils
Note that coconut oil and palm oil are excluded, since they are high in saturated fat, along with salad dressings, especially those based on these two oils.
3. Foods that are protein-rich and contain healthy fats. These include:
- Nuts (preferably non-roasted and unsalted) and seeds
- Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel.
As much sugar-free, fruit-flavored jelly as you want – this will become your fruit and dessert substitute. All vegetables, with the exception of starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, are also unlimited.
Starchy foods (other than beans). This means no: bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, all foods fried in batter, sugary foods (which includes fruit, fresh, frozen, dried or tinned), alcohol, caffeinated beverages, milk.
SIX STEPS TO SUCCESS
- Eat three meals a day, plus a morning, afternoon and optional pre-dinner snack. Do not skip any of the main meals or snacks. This will keep your blood sugar steady, and help you avoid hunger.
- Challenging fitness activities such as jogging, Zumba, aerobics, cycling and weight training should be avoided. Instead, try to do no more than 30 minutes of light or moderate activity per day. Moderate activity such as walking or gentle yoga will keep blood sugar stable and burn belly fat.
- Go to bed earlier. You may initially feel less energetic on this two-week “jump start” programme. Don’t worry – your energy levels will go back to normal once you move on to Phase Two of the programme.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeine and instead aim for at least eight glasses of water, vegetable juice and herbal tea a day.
- Don’t cut out salt altogether. This 14-day programme can be dehydrating. Without starchy and sugary foods, your body will flush out excess fluid more quickly than usual. Allowing yourself to have plenty of drinks and a moderate amount of salty foods will help prevent too much fluid loss.
- Relax. You may get frustrated in the middle of the jump-start period. Your body is going through lots of changes, all for the better. Keep going – it will get easier. Focus on your weight-loss results. Your success will keep you motivated and make it easier to stay on track. It is absolutely ok to weigh yourself daily; it will build an aura of success. Although weight loss will vary widely from person to person, you can expect to lose at least 5 lb over the fortnight.
PHASE 2: KEEP THE WEIGHT OFF FOREVER
After this initial reset phase, if you want to continue losing weight and feeling well you are ready to move on to Phase Two.
Working your way through Phase One, you will have already learnt to make your meals more satisfying with proteins, non-starchy vegetables and heart-healthy fats.
In Phase Two, you should continue to eat some protein and plenty of vegetables at every meal – but you can start to add wholegrains (no more than three portions) and fruit (two portions) to your daily diet. You can also ramp up your exercise regime with more aerobic activity and toning exercises.
One portion of wholegrain = 1 slice wholemeal bread; half a wholemeal muffin; half a wholemeal bread roll; half a cup cooked wholemeal pasta or brown rice; half a jacket potato or three new potatoes with skins on, or one tbsp wholegrain cereal.
One portion of fruit = 1 small piece of fresh fruit; half a glass of fruit juice; 1 dessertspoon of dried fruit; 2 tbsp of canned fruit in juice.
You will continue to lose weight, although slightly more slowly after the initial reset phase, but it’s a plan you can enjoy for life.
You should have a breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack every day. If you feel you need it, you can also have a pre-dinner snack:
Breakfasts (Choose one)
- One sliced boiled egg served with one or two slices of grilled lean bacon and a small glass of tomato juice
- Two scrambled eggs plus a small slice of roast beef and sliced tomatoes
- One turkey and cheese roll-up (place a large slice of turkey on top of a slice of reduced-fat cheese, such as Leerdammer Lightlife, and roll up) plus a glass of vegetable juice
- Egg-white omelette (made using two egg whites and a squirt of cooking spray) with lean ham and mushrooms
- A handful of mixed nuts with vegetable crudités (celery, radishes, carrots, cucumber and peppers are all suitable)
Snacks (Choose one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon)
- One Babybel Light cheese plus a handful of carrot batons
- One small no-fat yoghurt plus ten walnuts or cashews
- One dessert spoon of peanut butter with celery sticks
- One stick of low-fat cheese served with celery sticks
- Two tablespoons of low-fat cottage cheese with crudités
Lunches (Choose one, plus a pot of sugar-free jelly for dessert)
- One grilled chicken breast served with large green salad dressed with oil and vinegar
- Two or three ham and cheese roll-ups (place a slice of low-fat/light cheese on top of a slice of lean ham). Served with a tablespoon of raw coleslaw topped with an oil and vinegar dressing and cucumber
- One can of flaked tuna in spring water mixed with light mayonnaise and finely chopped pepper and onion, served with a large salad dressed with an oil and vinegar dressing
- Large tomato stuffed with low-fat cottage cheese with chives and black pepper, served with a side salad
- One grilled Portobello mushroom topped with one thin slice of ham and sprinkle of low-fat cheese
Pre-dinner snacks (Optional)
- Red pepper strips with a tablespoon of guacamole
- Handful of unsalted, roasted peanuts or pistachios (approx 20)
- Tablespoon of low-fat hummus with crudités
Dinners (Choose one, plus a pot of sugar-free jelly for dessert)
- One lean grilled beef burger served with steamed vegetables
- Portion of rotisserie chicken served with a vegetable salad, sprinkled with pine nuts and oil and vinegar dressing
- Stir-fried salmon portion with Chinese vegetables (use a Chinese or Thai spice paste for flavoring)
- Grilled pork chop with mashed cauliflower and green beans with balsamic dressing
- Three-bean salad served with a large green salad