Hi! I’m DD. Welcome to DASH n’ Delish! This blog is focused on DASH diet recipes and tips on following this sane approach to food, health and eating, based on my own experience. (Two other important things about me: I’m a cat lady in training, and my drawing skills suck.)
Food, Writing and Me
I’m not a believer in “diets” in most forms. Most diets cause more harm than good: They can’t realistically be followed for a lifetime. They often lack scientific evidence. Many are plain dumb. They are abused by food manufacturers. They are reductionist when eating is not just about nutrients and calories. They warp your conception of what’s healthy and make it harder to have a normal relationship with food. They transform eating from being a pleasure, an integral part of life, into suspicious, ugly, immoral activity that needs to be scrutinized and regulated. They turn otherwise nice people into nosy zealots.
Why am I writing a blog about DASH “diet,” then? Well, I feel weird about that, too. Let me explain.
I’ve always loved food–eating, cooking and exploring restaurants high and low. I’ve had my fair share of now-defunct food blogs and dabbled in food writing for online publications. (I like writing, too!) I enjoyed the creative outlet, but I always felt like there was no higher purpose to my writing about food, and that’s probably why I stopped. A long time ago and in a place (somewhat) far away.
Finding the DASH Meal Plan
I’m also not a new year’s resolution type, but in the beginning of 2017, I made a “bucket list” of mostly fun things with a couple of “I should probably do this…” type items thrown in. One of those was to organize our finances to better prepare for financial independence, i.e., retirement. (Yes, I’m kinda sorta middle-aged at this point. Eep.) That work led to a life insurance application earlier in the year, which required a medical exam, which led to an unpleasant discovery that Hubby had elevated blood pressure in the prehypertension range.
I started reading up on what we can do to avoid him developing full-on high blood pressure, and came across the DASH diet. An “eating plan” designed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to prevent hypertension and its complications, DASH is more like a dietary approach than a strict plan or that dirty d-word, “diet.” I’ll leave the specifics to the experts at the NIH, but the gist of it comes down to these three points:
- Use whole grains as well as lots of vegetables and fruits as the basis of your diet
- Eat lean meats, low-fat dairy, oil/fat and sweets with moderation
- Limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day
This seemed like a reasonable approach, and more importantly, it was already close enough to what I’ve always loosely aimed for in my cooking that I felt like it was doable over the long run, i.e., basically for the rest of our lives. I liked that.
There was something else. I’d gained 5-6 lb over the last few years while I was in grad school part time and working full time. While it was still within the supposedly healthy weight range and I wasn’t too concerned, I’d felt a bit sluggish and, truth be told, some of my pants were getting a little tight. I wanted to get back to where I was before, in terms of weight, of course, but also in terms of my lifestyle. (Nighttime grad school classes do mess up your eating schedule and how healthy you can realistically hope to eat.)
So, I decided to give DASH plan a try. I studied the plan a bit, made some tweaks to suit my lifestyle and preferences, then got started. (You can read how I set up my own DASH diet goals.
Hey, This Might Be Working…
Then something interesting happened: I started losing weight. And I wasn’t doing anything drastic; I was enjoying my meals, still having my craft beers, and still eating cookies and ice cream, just a bit less of them. So that was good news. And even better news? I didn’t feel deprived or constricted, at all, and I felt better overall.
Because eating this way is easier when we cook at home, our eating out went down a bit as well, which also aligned with our goal of financial freedom sooner rather than later. Importantly, the spousal unit was peachily on board with this experiment–though to his credit, he never, ever complains about what I cook anyway. (He’s truly a rare find, if I may brag a tiny bit.)
So I stuck with the DASH “diet.” As of now, December 2017, I’ve been happily cooking more or less according to this philosophy for about 8 months. While I’m still learning new things, I feel like I have something valuable to share now.
It seems like a confluence of a few things. Reading lots of personal finance blogs (and a fabulous management blog, too, come to think of it) made me realize something reading food blogs didn’t: Blogs can be of real help to people. I don’t intend this to mean that food blogs aren’t helpful–they are. It’s just that I didn’t necessarily learn a lot from food blogs, perhaps because I wasn’t a novice cook. But in personal finance, I was a novice, and I needed a lot of guidance and pointers to figure out what I needed to do. And that’s what I got from the (amazingly generous and talented) personal finance bloggers. Then I started thinking: What can I offer others?
I didn’t have the answer right away, but I kept coming back to food, because that’s what I enjoy and where I feel the most comfortable being the “talker” rather than the “listener.” I thought about a blog about eating well on budget. That would be a nice intersection of personal finance and food. But then I realized: I don’t pay a ton of attention to the cost of my home-cooked meals in real life, and don’t have a lot to offer in this regard. (My focus has been more on cutting back on restaurant meals when it comes to controlling our food costs.) Plus, there are already many great blogs out there that teach you how to cook and eat well on a budget. (I’m looking at you, BudgetBytes.)
On the other hand, it seemed as though there aren’t a lot of great resources for the DASH diet. I couldn’t find a single interesting, contemporary blog that focuses on this topic; most of the top results are institutional pages with just a few menu suggestions that, frankly, didn’t sound delicious to me and weren’t helpful in terms of figuring out how to construct your own. This was in a pretty stark contrast to other diets that are… well, on less than solid ground. For example, this is what I saw:
|Search Term||Number of Results|
|Paleo diet blog||33,600,000|
|Whole 30 Blog||15,100,000|
|Atkins diet blog||6,960,000|
|DASH diet blog||1,400,000|
|Search Term||Number of Results|
|Whole 30 recipes||7,330,000|
|DASH diet recipes||6,850,000|
DASH diet’s low presence on the Internet is rather strange, considering that this is a NIH-validated approach with a good amount of studies to back it up, and has been consistently ranked the best “diets” for many years–as dubious as those rankings may be.
Maybe it’s the unsexy name that smacks of governmental public health initiatives (I mean, “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”? C’mon.), or maybe it’s the rather unexciting, moderate nature of the approach itself–following the DASH philosophy certainly doesn’t give you that cathartic sense of “cleansing” your sins and toxins that some of the other diets may bring. Whatever the reason, I felt that I found a gap that I could fill by writing about how I try to follow the DASH diet over the long run and posting easy, unfancy yet delicious DASH-compatible recipes.
Of course, I was also thinking about the SEO benefits of writing in a less competitive niche. I don’t deny that. However, I felt that this is a gap that needed to be filled. After all, almost 30% of American adults have hypertension and only about half of them have it under control, according to the CDC. Even if only a tiny fraction of this population wanted to try following the DASH methodology to bring down their blood pressure, that’s still a lot of people, considering the prevalence of hypertension (30% of adult population means 75 million people have it in the United States!) I thought this might be my niche where I can actually be helpful to some people. SEO visibility is an integral part of it–if the blog is not found, it can’t help anyone.
That’s how this blog was born.
What You’ll Find Here
I’m still figuring things out, but there will be recipe posts, DASH evaluation posts (in which I evaluate my diet based on the DASH approach) and occasional random how-to posts.
- DASH recipes that are relatively quick, inexpensive and tasty.
- What I eat throughout the week, along with a reflection on how close I got to the DASH meal plan.
- Strategies and tactics I use to steer our diet in the right direction.
- Thought processes that go into what I cook and what I eat.
- Honesty, authenticity, whatever you call it. I want to keep it real, although I won’t reveal everything about my life.
Also! Because I’m Japanese with an American spouse and both of us have pretty adventurous taste buds, I cook a lot of things that aren’t traditionally American, thus don’t show up in typical “weekly DASH meals” type of lists. My hope is that it’ll help people see how cuisines that aren’t mainstream American can fit into a DASH meal plan. Different cuisines have different strengths (and weaknesses), and I believe incorporating ethnic foods and cooking methods can be a boon to people trying to stick to the DASH approach.
You’ll also find a lot of words. ‘Cause I’m incurably long-winded and love to write. #sorrybutnotsorry
What You Won’t Find Here
There’s more than enough of it in the food world. I’m opinionated, yes, but I’ll try my best not to preach.
Food as “guilty pleasure,” “reward,” “cleanser of one’s sins” and other nonsenses.
I derive pleasure from food (it’s one of the main purposes of my life, lol), but I don’t like to ascribe outsized meaning to what I eat, whether good or bad. Similarly, while I think seeing my experimentation with different tactics to achieve my DASH goals might be helpful to others, I don’t want the blog to be a series of “I was bad today, I’ll behave tomorrow” confessions. It’s a tricky balance, but I’ll try my best!
Foolproof, professional medical/nutritional advice.
I do want readers to benefit from the recipes, strategies and thought processes I post here. However, I should make it clear that this blog chronicles just one food lover’s amature attempt to eat healthier, and what works for me. I don’t have any formal education in medicine or nutrition (though I do have some in an adjacent field). I don’t have anyone with that kind of expertise advising me for the blog. Causal research I do for my posts are bound to contain errors. Furthermore, medical and nutritional sciences are always evolving, and what’s considered healthy today may be proven unhealthy 5 years from now. (Remember the margarine? Which, incidentally, is still on the DASH-recommended food list.)
All that is to say that the posts here contain my opinion based on my best effort, but they aren’t a substitute for advice from real, professional doctor, nutritionist or recipe developer.
TL;DR: Consult your own expert before trying this at home!
I’ve done my fair share of food porn blogs, and while I enjoyed it, it got tiring. Taking good food photos is pretty involved–especially on the lighting front, which I’d say determines about 90% of the quality of the photos. I want this blog to be as low-effort as possible so that I can keep doing it for the long term. Attractive food photos are important for drawing people in, and I enjoy them as much as anyone, but I’ve decided that it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make in favor of more useful content. So, most of the photos will be shot in crappy light, and many will have some effects applied to them in order to hide the crappiness. #stillonthefence
Casserole recipes and oatmeal.
Nothing’s wrong with casseroles or oatmeal. They just aren’t my thing.