This will be a little bit longer blog as it is a “week in the life of” reflection. For my George Brown College assignment I am to select a diet and follow it for a week. I selected the DASH diet, and acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Last year I had mild hypertension and my personal trainer, Sean at Goodlife Fitness, suggested looking into the DASH diet. Now, I’m returning to it to let you know a little about the diet and how to reduce sodium and fat in your own culinary adventures. (And my blood pressure is fine now).
For the assignment I made 21 meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner for 7 days. I’ll now present each day along with some thoughts on the diet and what I experienced.
The DASH diet is primarily plant based accompanied with lean meats and fish. They have a website if you want to read more about it. It was pioneered by the American National Institute of Health as a way of reducing hypertension by non-medication means. It has been endorsed by:
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (one of the National Institutes of Health, of the US Department of Health and Human Services)
- The American Heart Association (AHA)
- The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure
- The 2011 AHA Treatment Guidelines for Women
- The Mayo Clinic
- And the Canadian Heart and Stoke Foundation
Marla Heller, MS, RD is a nutritionist whose bestselling books have promoted the DASH diet. The book I used for this blog is The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook which she co-wrote with cookbook author Rick Rodgers.
For day 1 I made a Papaya smoothie for breakfast, turkey sausage soup for lunch and spicy baked catfish for dinner.
The cookbook comes with a Cajun Spice recipe. This is important because salt can be an addictive seasoning that needs to be replaced. The DASH diet focuses on using a wide variety of herbs and spices in order to do just that.
The premise of the DASH diet is that most people want to eat healthier but do not want to go strictly vegetarian. By emphasizing wholesome fruits, vegetables, seeds, beans, grains in addition to poultry, pork and lean fish, tasty family meals can be prepared. As you will see, the recipes in the book are exactly that. I found them to be quite delicious. The only thing I didn’t do was to recalculate and reduce the portions. So I ended up with a few containers of leftovers (which I’m eating this week).
Here is a copy of the lunch I made on Day 2. You can see it provides a brief explanation, additions you can make and, most important for me, is the nutritional analysis. Anyone who is on a low fat or low sodium prescribed diet will greatly benefit from this.
Breakfast- Apple Spice Oatmeal (with “Raisin”). Lunch- Salmon Salad. Dinner- Cauliflower Mac n Cheese
The DASH diet emphasized wholesome ingredients. For the Chicken Curry dish, I’m using one of my pasture raised chickens I got from Stone Horse Farm. One of the interesting challenges I found with this diet is to find low-sodium, no salt, low fat dairy products. Label reading is crucial. For example, some low sodium chicken broths may contain 700 mg of salt. 1 cup could be about 1/3 of your daily sodium intact. So READ YOUR LABEL. Making your own chicken broth is best but it is time consuming.
Also from Stone Horse Farm was a wonderful, lean, red, ham steak that I used for the sandwich along with 1/2 the fat Mayo. A little Dijon helped to spice up the sandwich.
Day 3 – French Toast, Ham & Cheese, Chicken Apple Curry. You can see that Raisin was really enjoying these delicious meals (yeah, she got some almonds).
I was fortunate that the Metro grocery chain carry the Life Smart products. For example, I used their No Salt Chicken Broth when I need broth. I cut down on my salt intake ages ago but never read labels for salt percentage. Now, I do because sodium is everywhere.
One thing I should mention is that No Salt Broth is much tastier. One of my chef instructors explained that the salted broth is made weaker because the taste is boosted with salt. With the no salt, the broth is made stronger to get the required taste.
Also Eve likes a drizzle on her kibble.
Egg yolks are a source of cholesterol. If you are on a low fat diet then suitable egg substitutes may be included in the recipe. This plant based Vegan Egg is good for scrambled eggs. There are seasoned, liquid egg replacements like Egg Beaters for omelets.
For Day 4 I had two servings of meat – the turkey minestrone at lunch then the beef and bulgar for dinner. The breakfast sandwich was non-meat with Becel as the spread and low fat Swiss cheese. This was one of the few times I missed salt. There was no seasoning with it. I should have spritzed some soy sauce on it.
The beans in the minestrone adds the fiber which helps to lower cholesterol. And the kale makes a striking color balance to the beans. This hearty soup is great for making me feel good about cold winter days. I made a big batch and stored in the freezer.
Yes, there is low-sodium ketchup – a godsend. You can see I’ve dribbled it on the beef and Bulgar. Here I am using it for my turkey meatballs. A true comfort food.
You may remember my post on Toronto Taste where I won the T-fal multi-grain cooker. I’ve been using it instead of soaking beans and chickpeas overnight. They are ready in about 2 hours. Unlike the salted canned chickpeas, this was I can control the salt.
Now this one was an challenge for me in that I’m not a big fan of a kale/apple cider vinegar. I realize the nutritional value of both is through the roof. This gives a real boost to the morning but if you are used to having sweetness for breakfast, this will take getting use to.
However, the spinach in the turkey sausage pasta was excellent. The recipe called for the casings on the sausage to be removed but I kept them as slices.
Seitan is not included in the Dash Diet cookbook. However, given that it is a non-meat source of protein, seitan fits right in. I prepared it in my other blog where I made the Seitan Kabobs. For breakfast, I couldn’t find the liquid egg substitute so I made the omelet with eggs and reduced fat Jack cheese. I suppose a Whole Foods or the Carrot Common carries the liquid egg. The powdered Vegan Egg that I used for scrambled does not work for omelets.
Of course, most of the nutrients are in the yolk so incorporating them into the diet is necessary, only in moderation or through supplements.
I roasted the beets for the salad. Roasting brings out the sweetness. It stored well in the fridge and had it regularly throughout the week.
The Roasted Cauliflower was blogged in a previous post. For the pancakes I used unsweetened Almond milk. The cookbook lists 1% cow’s milk but, surprisingly, does not list plant based milk as alternatives. I used the unsalted butter as the fat source. I had leftover raspberry sauce from the French Toast so added it. And, because we are in Canada, I poured a little, luxurious Maple Syrup.
I try to have fish or seafood twice a week. The Dash cookbook has a few excellent seafood recipes. Once I get the rhythm of the diet I can build more recipes.
Finally a few reflective thoughts to end this blog.
If were to tailor this diet to someone who had egg allergies, how would I do it? The DASH diet lends itself well to eliminating eggs from a diet. If the person were allergic to egg yolk, the recipes call for either egg whites or egg substitutes. In fact, I did the open face breakfast sandwich a second time using a carton of egg whites from Metro supermarket.
If the person were allergic to the whole egg, the DASH diet can accommodate. A simple Internet search on egg substitute reveals a wealth of ideas for the clever cook.
As for the food taste, in the beginning I really noticed the absence of salt – except maybe the Cajun Catfish. Things tasted bland and I became aware of my salt addiction. Most of the recipes did have a 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt but that was not enough for my taste buds. There have been scientific studies on the addictive nature of salt and its effects on our brain. I did not go through any withdrawal symptoms but simply noticed the taste difference. But then, I had started to reduce my sodium intake a few years ago.
Mrs Dash has made a great product and built a loyal following for no salt substitute seasoning. I purchased several different selections to use and experiment with for this blog.
Gradually, over the 7 days, I became accustomed to less salt and less fat. Of course, having a blog assignment that will be marked is a great motivator. But I believe, now that I have experienced the diet, and cooked it, that I can continue with maintaining a low-sodium, low fat culinary lifestyle (much better term than diet). Especially with the help of the cookbooks and the Daily DASH Action Plan book. Therefore I will incorporate what I have learned in this assignment into my food choices.