Nutrition & Recipes

The DASH diet – 8 healthy swaps for Xmas

By Fiona Bugler • 10th December 2020

It is not the most exciting acronym – dietary approaches to stop hypertension – but stick to the basics of the DASH diet and you can keep healthy even at Xmas.

This may be the last thing on your mind as 2020 daws to a close, but the DASH diet is a healthy eating plan that doesn’t lead to deprivation and if you’re protecting your heart, it’s important to keep your eye on the longer-term goal of good health. If you abandon all healthy eating you’re faced with starting again in the New Year when motivation is often low. You can still enjoy indulging yourself this Xmas, with some simple healthy swaps.

Dr Satjit Bhusri, a triple board-certified cardiologist and Council Member of the American Heart Association, understands the importance of diet in relation to heart health. He recommends the DASH diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. This diet promotes eating nutrients such as potassium, calcium, fibre, and protein to help reduce high blood pressure. Like many diets that are good for us, it’s not about quick fixes or magic potions, but it does work.

Here’s the 8 Guidelines for the DASH diet PLUS some healthy swaps for the holidays

1.    Six to eight servings of whole grains a day – this includes wholegrain pasta, rice and cereals. These have the added bonus of keeping blood sugar levels stable. Start your Xmas morning with healthy oats, honey and blueberries and stay full for longer.

2.    Four to five portions of vegetables – used to meat and two veg? It’s now ‘and three’. You can also find quick solutions in healthy soups packed with extra veg, or add veg snack dishes next to the crisps and nuts. Try carrots, celery and broccoli with houmus or beetroot dips.

3.    Four to five pieces of fruit daily – It’s not always easy to fit these in if you’re looking for a quick- fix, blend five pieces of fruit in a smoothie for breakfast. Snack on dried fruit, swap just one or two Quality Street for an apricot or fig for a healthier Xmas.

4.    Two to three servings of dairy – milk, yoghurt, cheese, eggs all serve a dietary purpose providing calcium and protein. If you’re plant-based opt for one of the many alternatives. Choose lower-fat creme fraiche with your Xmas pudding if you’re wanting to enjoy your treat without the hassle of too much fat. And fill your cheese plate with a few chunks of lower fat Gouda, rather than piling it high with blue cheese.

5.    Lean meat, poultry and fish: 25 to 30g servings or fewer a day – cutting off excess fat can make all the difference to your health. It’s Christmas so enjoy your turkey, a low-fat option for meat-eaters.

6.    Four to five servings of nuts, seeds and legumes: four to five per week – Nuts and seeds are calorific, so watch portion size but don’t cut them out to save calories, nutrient density is of value when you want good health, quality not quantity. Enjoy those brazil nuts!

7.    Two to three servings of healthy/fats and oil per day – Choose olive oil and avoid saturated fats where possible. avocados and oily fish are great sources and fresh options for a base to healthier meals between Xmas and New Year.

8.    Cut back on sugar, aim for five or fewer servings of sweets a week – you do not have to cut out sugar completely. Choose dark chocolate and quality puds… enjoy!


Dr Satjit Bhusri recommends DASH for a healthy heart he recommends because:

  • The diet has little to no fatty meats such as steak and pork.
  • It promotes lower caloric intake and eating large portions of vegetables.
  • Less sugar and sweetened foods and beverages such as ice-cream and soft drinks.
  • Encourages the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods such as salmon and avocados.

Need more common-sense healthy eating tips, you can stick with through the holidays? Follow the 5-step easy eating guide.

Fiona Bugler

Fiona is the creator of all things editorial, she’s a journalist with a life-long passion for health, fitness and wellbeing. For more than a decade she worked with business leaders and large groups as a personal trainer and running coach and this background informs the content she creates.

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