Finding a healthy diet and sticking to it is no small feat, especially since some plans require food groups to be entirely cut out. But nutritionists recommend some eating plans above the rest.
The Dash diet
The Dash diet isn’t just for those who are trying to lower or prevent high blood pressure.
“The Dash diet is really a safe plan for everyone,” Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health at US News & World Report, told Business Insider in 2016. “There’s nothing exciting about it, and that’s what makes it a good plan. It’s not some fad diet making outlandish claims that you can’t rely on.”
The distinguishing factor for the Dash diet is that it limits how much sodium you eat. Since many frozen and prepackaged foods contain large amounts of salt, Dash dieters stick to fresh produce and lean proteins like fish and poultry.
Here’s what a typical day on a 2,000-calorie Dash diet looks like:
No more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, eventually working down to no more than 1,500 milligrams (for reference, a single slice of pizza contains about 640 milligrams of sodium)
6-8 servings of grains
4-5 servings each of veggies and fruits
2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy (plain dairy products are much lower in sugar than flavored)
6 or fewer servings (equal to about one ounce) of lean meat, poultry, and fish
2-3 servings of fats and oils
No more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks (a serving is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor)
Per week, DASH dieters must have less than 5 servings of sweets, and 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes
In a typical day, for example, you could have an omelet with veggies and reduced-fat cheese for breakfast, minestrone soup for lunch, low-fat yogurt as a snack, and spaghetti squash with meat sauce for dinner.
With all the fiber-packed fruits and veggies in the Dash diet, you won’t go hungry.
For people with abnormally high blood pressure, the Dash diet may over time help drop that blood pressure by as many as eight to 14 points.
The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is packed with vegetables, spices, beans, and even wine.
Here’s what a typical day should include:
2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits, or about 6-7 servings (leafy greens should be emphasized)
1 serving of beans
5-6 servings of whole grains
1-2 servings of fish per week, limiting meat/poultry to once a week
Use olive or canola oil instead of margarine, butter, and other oils
A handful of nuts
A very small amount of dairy if any, and ideally a low-fat variety
One glass of red wine
A sample dinner might include a glass of red, a salad with arugula and spinach topped with Parmesan cheese, followed by salmon served with couscous, asparagus, and zucchini.