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Following the DASH Eating Plan

The DASH eating plan is easy to follow using common foods available in your grocery store. The plan includes daily servings from different food groups. The number of servings you should have depends on your daily calorie (energy) needs.

To figure out your calorie needs, you need to consider your age and physical activity level. If you want to maintain your current weight, you should eat only as many calories as you burn by being physically active. This is called energy balance. (For more information about energy balance, go to the Health Topics Overweight and Obesity article.)

If you need to lose weight, you should eat fewer calories than you burn or increase your activity level to burn more calories than you eat.

Consider your physical activity level. Are you sedentary, moderately active, or active?

  • Sedentary means that you do only light physical activity as part of your typical daily routine.
  • Moderately active means that you do physical activity equal to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, plus light physical activity.
  • Active means that you do physical activity equal to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, plus light physical activity.

Use the chart below to estimate your daily calorie needs.

Daily Calorie Needs for Women

Age (years)Calories Needed for Sedentary Activity LevelCalories Needed for Moderately Active Activity LevelCalories Needed for Active Activity Level
19–302,0002,000–2,2002,400
31–501,8002,0002,200
51+1,6001,8002,000–2,200


Daily Calorie Needs for Men

Age (years)Calories Needed for Sedentary Activity LevelCalories Needed for Moderately Active Activity LevelCalories Needed for Active Activity Level
19–302,4002,600–2,8003,000
31–502,2002,400–2,6002,800–3,000
51+2,0002,200–2,4002,400–2,800

After figuring out your daily calorie needs, go to the table below and find the closest calorie level to yours. This table estimates the number of servings from each food group that you should have. Serving quantities are per day, unless otherwise noted.

DASH Eating Plan—Number of Food Servings by Calorie Level

Food Group1,200
Cal.
1,400
Cal.
1,600
Cal.
1,800
Cal.
2,000
Cal.
2,600
Cal.
3,100
Cal.
Grainsa4–55–6666–810–1112–13
Vegetables3–43–43–44–54–55–66
Fruits3–4444–54–55–66
Fat-free or low-fat dairy productsb2–32–32–32–32–333–4
Lean meats, poultry, and fish3 or less3–4 or less3–4 or less6 or less6 or less6 or less6–9
Nuts, seeds, and legumes3 per week3 per week3–4 per week4 per week4–5 per week11
Fats and oilsc1122–32–334
Sweets and added sugars3 or less per week3 or less per week3 or less per week5 or less per week5 or less per week≤2≤2
Maximum sodium limitd2,300 mg/day2,300 mg/day2,300 mg/day2,300 mg/day2,300 mg/day2,300 mg/day2,300 mg/day

a Whole grains are recommended for most grain servings as a good source of fiber and nutrients.

b For lactose intolerance, try either lactase enzyme pills with dairy products or lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk.

c Fat content changes the serving amount for fats and oils. For example, 1 Tbsp regular salad dressing = one serving; 1 Tbsp low-fat dressing = one-half serving; 1 Tbsp fat-free dressing = zero servings.

d The DASH eating plan has a sodium limit of either 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg per day.

DASH Eating Plan—Serving Sizes, Examples, and Significance

Food GroupServing SizesExamples and NotesSignificance of Each Food Group to the DASH Eating Plan
Grainsa
1 slice bread
1 oz dry cerealb
½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cerealb
Whole-wheat bread and rolls, whole-wheat pasta, English muffin, pita bread, bagel, cereals, grits, oatmeal, brown rice, unsalted pretzels and popcornMajor sources of energy and fiber
Vegetables
1 cup raw leafy vegetable
½ cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetable
½ cup vegetable juice
Broccoli, carrots, collards, green beans, green peas, kale, lima beans, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoesRich sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber
Fruits
1 medium fruit
¼ cup dried fruit
½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
½ cup fruit juice
Apples, apricots, bananas, dates, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, grapefruit juice, mangoes, melons, peaches, pineapples, raisins, strawberries, tangerinesImportant sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber
Fat-free or low-fat dairy productsc
1 cup milk or yogurt
1½ oz cheese
Fat-free milk or buttermilk; fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat cheese; fat-free/low-fat regular or frozen yogurtMajor sources of calcium and protein
Lean meats, poultry, and fish
1 oz cooked meats, poultry, or fish
1 egg
Select only lean; trim away visible fats; broil, roast, or poach; remove skin from poultryRich sources of protein and magnesium
Nuts, seeds, and legumes
⅓ cup or 1½ oz nuts
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp or ½ oz seeds
½ cup cooked legumes (dried beans, peas)
Almonds, filberts, mixed nuts, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, kidney beans, lentils, split peasRich sources of energy, magnesium, protein, and fiber
Fats and oilsd
1 tsp soft margarine
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp salad dressing
Soft margarine, vegetable oil (canola, corn, olive, safflower), low-fat mayonnaise, light salad dressingThe DASH study had 27% of calories as fat, including fat in or added to foods
Sweets and added sugars
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp jelly or jam
½ cup sorbet, gelatin dessert
1 cup lemonade
Fruit-flavored gelatin, fruit punch, hard candy, jelly, maple syrup, sorbet and ices, sugarSweets should be low in fat

a Whole grains are recommended for most grain servings as a good source of fiber and nutrients.

b Serving sizes vary between ½ cup and 1¼ cups, depending on cereal type. Check the product's Nutrition Facts label.

c For lactose intolerance, try either lactase enzyme pills with dairy products or lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk.

d Fat content changes the serving amount for fats and oils. For example, 1 Tbsp regular salad dressing = one serving; 1 Tbsp low-fat dressing = one-half serving; 1 Tbsp fat-free dressing = zero servings.

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June 06, 2014 Last Updated Icon

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