Looking for Healthy Lunch Ideas? Consider the Criteria of the DASH Diet

Posted by on Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 with Comments Off on Looking for Healthy Lunch Ideas? Consider the Criteria of the DASH Diet Comments

Never heard of the DASH diet? Congratulations — that probably means you don’t have to worry about your blood pressure. However, if you’re trying to start the new year off right when it comes to your eating habits, you may want to take note. The DASH diet has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the top overall diet for three years running, thanks to its flexible meal options and emphasis on heart-healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, and moderate amounts of lean meats. While its main goal is to help stave off hypertension, don’t think of it as an old-person diet: studies have found that following the DASH diet’s high-fiber, moderate-fat, veggie-centric recommendations can also naturally lead to weight loss — even in teenage girls.

Want to take a cue from the DASH diet when it comes to your own eating habits? Here are a few of the primary guidelines of the award-winning diet, along with a few healthy lunch ideas plucked right from the eating plan’s official recommendations (one added bonus: since the DASH diet was primarily developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the reading materials and recipes are free to access).

stir fry with vegetables and chicken

Make veggies the star and meat the accessory.
Image source: flickr user Dalboz17

1) Eat lean meats, in moderation

The DASH diet recommends limiting your meat consumption to lean meats and cancer-fighting fish, and eating no more than 6 ounces per day. Just for reference, Chipotle scoops four ounces of chicken onto your burrito bowl or salad — there goes 2/3 of the daily allowance before you’ve even thought about dinner. Ask for extra black beans and half the chicken, along with brown rice and fajita veggies for a DASH-inspired Mexican lunch, or go for a veggie-heavy stir fry with a small portion of meat at the Chinese restaurant.

Vegetables & hummus at the desk

Get ready to up your vegetable intake.
Image source: flickr user gemb1

2) Eat LOTS of fruits and vegetables, but start gradually

The DASH recommendations call for 4-5 servings of veggies and fruits per day — each! That’s a lot of produce. If you aren’t already eating a lot of fruits and veggies, a sudden increase can upset your digestive system. The DASH diet suggests adding a serving each at breakfast and lunch for a few days, so you can gradually work your way up to the recommended amount. Start with some easy substitutions — instead of grabbing a bag of chips at lunch, order a side salad with low-fat dressing or opt for a cup of raw veggies and hummus. Make it a point to branch out and try new fruits and veggies: pick up a few apricots instead of a banana for a snack, or dip slices of red bell peppers instead of cucumbers. That’s the beauty of DASH — there’s plenty of room for a wide variety of food.

sushi with brown rice

Choose whole grains for a healthier choice.
Image source: flickr user Pabo76

3) Carbs are allowed, but whole grains are key

DASH recommends your daily calories come from a certain ratio of foods: 27% from fat, 6% from saturated fat, 18% from protein, and 55% from carbohydrates. Don’t think this means that half your lunch plate should be filled with soft pretzels or rolls, though: DASH suggests choosing whole grains whenever possible, and eating plenty of legumes (that is, beans). At lunch, that may mean picking brown rice instead of white in your sushi roll, swapping whole-wheat bread for ciabatta on your deli sandwich, or requesting a whole-grain salad like tabbouleh instead of mac and cheese at a catered office meal.

There are several other components to DASH, like sodium intake and cutting back on sugary foods, but these three simple rules of thumb can help guide you to find the healthy lunch ideas that will start your new year off right. Sticking to a diet at the office can be tricky, but with the wide range of catering options available from Waiter.com, it becomes much easier to make smart choices and eat the kind of delicious and wholesome foods that the country’s top-ranked diet recommends.

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — Waiter.com is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & deliveryWaiter.com offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

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