Best tips for starting DASH diet?
September 16, 2021 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I am starting the DASH diet for high blood pressure and I'm interested in how you made the transition to cooking a lot more/eating so many vegetables and fruits easier if you've done a similar change.

I have depression and some days it's hard to even feed the cat. I am interested in stuff that will make cooking easier. For example, I'm thinking about an air fryer for faster roast veggies. Fruits will probably be covered by smoothies/snacks. But any other tips? I am most worried about the sheer amount of veg/fruit servings I need and having to cook most days, which historically has not been something I can stick to.

(YANMD and I am on BP medication and exercising, AND trying to lose weight even before this. And the diet is on the recommendation of my doctor.)
posted by clarinet to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I decided to get all my nutrition from food and went with the "I don't have to like it, I just have to eat it" approach.

I pressure cook everything so it's as little effort to actually eat as possible. 2 cups lentils and 2 cups cooked greens gets me most of the way to my vitamin and mineral needs (some exceptions may apply). Instapot all the way! And then I plonk myself in front of a screen because it's easier to eat food I'm not excited about if I'm not paying attention to them.

I got the farts during the transition but now's the perfect time for it!
posted by aniola at 7:42 PM on September 16, 2021

The thing about pressure cooking is it reduces cook time, volume, and chewing.
posted by aniola at 8:16 PM on September 16, 2021

I eat most of my veggies at breakfast.

Cons: it’s cooking. Farty.
Pros: I have 2 cups of chopped veggies and eggs and cottage cheese.

To get more veggies, I also keep arugula, kale around for salads. Is a salad cooking? Or assembling?
posted by gregglind at 8:33 PM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Salad is assembling but I also have trouble eating all my veggies before they go bad. Sigh. I will have to get better at estimating servings. Thanks for the ideas so far!
posted by clarinet at 8:59 PM on September 16, 2021

Best answer: Pre-prepped veggies & fruits are your friend. My grocery store has a whole section devoted to pre-cut stuff. Baby carrots, celery sticks, chopped celery (good for adding to tuna or egg salad, or soups), broccoli florets, bagged salad, the list goes on. Buy yourself a party tray of cut veggies and a tray of cut fruit and you have snacks just about covered.

Healthy soups are a cinch in a crockpot. When your party-tray veggies are starting to look a little tired, you can chuck them into the crockpot with some broth, canned tomatoes, frozen veggies, meat if you want, and make a nice vegetable soup. Add beans and pasta for minestrone.

I've made a vegetarian version of 15 bean soup, adding a couple of handfuls of spinach in for more nutrition.

One of my favorite soups is just a big bag of frozen green beans, a pound of lean ham chunks, and a chopped onion (you can use frozen.) Add a couple of peeled and chunked potatoes, if you want. Cover with water, add a tablespoon or so of italian seasoning, and boil the shit out of it. You want the green beans very soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Baked potatoes make a nice base for a meal. Top with a bit of greek yogurt and steamed broccoli, or veggie chili.

Or bake a sweet potato and top with steamed broccoli. Heat up a can of black beans mixed with salsa from a jar, and spoon over the top.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:26 PM on September 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

Frozen veg is your friend. I usually have most of my vegetables at breakfast in a scramble, or at lunch I might make a grain bowl with lots of sautéed frozen veg and some black beans. If there’s a Trader Joe’s near you, they have great frozen mixed assortments. I also buy their frozen grains.
Also I just always have a big bag of baby arugula or baby kale or spinach. Anything at all that I’m eating, I throw a handful in. If I’m cooking, I’ll wilt it and stir it in, I’d it’s something like a sandwich or salad I just throw the extra handful in.
posted by assenav at 10:20 PM on September 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Washing and prepping veggies and fruit ahead of time is very helpful for me. This could be as simple as rinsing the blueberries or more complicated, like washing fresh greens or chopping hard veggies like carrots and onions. Then these can be stored in the fridge for easy adding to meals and snacks. You could do this right after a store trip, or the next day or two if that's better.

Also, could you make "smoothie packs" ahead of time? Assemble all the ingredients except liquid and ice (using precut or frozen fruit, bagged greens, etc) for one serving of smoothie in a container. You can keep these in the fridge or freeze them. Then add liquid and ice, and blend. I also discovered that you can freeze raw greens, just put a portioned amount in a freezer bag. When you are making a smoothie, pull out the greens and add them in.
posted by Red Desk at 10:56 PM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I (re?-)discovered my love for spending the time to cook vegetables and discovered my love of cooked vegetables, recently.

In at least a similar category boat, mental health wise, as you but cooking vegetables is something that kept me going/ provides temporary relief.

After encountering a succession of low priced asparagus and buying a bunch, I 'got reel gud' at making it consistently delicious. Even with an anhedonic head most of the time.

I think that you need to find a format for all the different vegetables that you enjoy, first. Then have facourites. Actively seeking those out again (by preparing it) becomes a habit, or at least lowers the threshold for getting something done.
posted by porpoise at 11:09 PM on September 16, 2021

Best answer: What’s up my fellow depressed person with high blood pressure! Congratulations on making lots of great and difficult changes. The best thing is that all of the things you mention doing can also help mitigate symptoms of depression, so as doing them becomes more routine you may also feel relief from the thing making them even harder to accomplish. A win-win, even if you sometimes don’t manage them consistently, because every little bit helps.

I’m lucky because I love food and interesting produce and am a pretty good cook so switching up my diet has been like more of a project that I have to keep myself from falling into rabbit holes on rather than a mountain (of broccoli) to scale. But I still have difficulty with the things you mention.

The vast majority of suggested diets are truly unsustainable and also a product of massive compromise, so keep that in mind as you adjust. The DASH diet is a helpful guideline and a good inroad for learning about nutrition but you need to pay attention to your body and listen to its signals for adjusting to your needs. Don’t strive for perfection, and remember that you can do things like make different choices on different days, try other things to improve your health (like exercise, which you are doing), or look into other dietary guidelines that might fit you better.

As far as serving sizes and amount go, this is something that gets easier with a combination of time and a little work at first. You need to actually experience what a serving of each thing you want to eat actually looks like, in various stages and styles of preparation. The classic example here is that a cup of raw spinach vs a cup of cooked spinach is vastly different. But also, chopped cauliflower vs riced cauliflower vs a wedge of the head vs cream of cauliflower soup are all different things to visualize. You might be surprised to see how few veggies are actually in a single serving. Try to portion a few different things out like this each day for a couple weeks and you will be able to estimate better going forward with new foods.

Another issue is satiety. You’ve probably run into this term before, it’s all about how satisfied you are by a meal. Key components for achieving this are some amount of fats, some amount of complexity or depth of flavor, some amount of fiber, and plenty of actual chewing. So pair a bunch of your fruit snacks with a handful of nuts, and dress your salads with delicious oils for more satiety. Encourage yourself to eat whole vegetables and fruits vs puréed, smoothied, peeled things because that’s how you miss a lot of fiber and chewing. And get some complexity and depth of flavor by learning a few different ways to cook or prepare your favorites so it’s not just ten cups of zucchini and three apples a day or whatever thing your depression is encouraging you to think of it as. If you have a meal that fits the new diet and you are consistently still hungry a little while later, think of ways to increase that meal’s satiety.

As for the depression, I feel you. Some days it is hard to feed the cats. One thing I did that has been super helpful especially during the pandemic is a while back I thoroughly went over the menus of a bunch of nearby places that delivered and really thought about what things would be best for me to order in terms of nutrition. I did this while I wasn’t hungry over the course of a few weeks and even made notes. Any chain restaurant will have nutrition info you can look through, and smaller places will often be responsive if you email and ask about ingredients, but you can also use educated guessing, since you aren’t attempting to calorie count or whatever. This will also be helped by practicing eyeballing portion sizes. Yes, there is a ton of salt and sugar and etc in most restaurant food, but it really has improved. Places like Panera, Qdoba, and some smaller burger and sandwich chains all have options where you can pile on the veggies and get smaller portions of carbs. Heck, even Jack in the Box has a teriyaki bowl that isn’t so completely bad. Anyway, do this research ahead of time and when you need to eat but cannot cook/shop/even you can fall back on them without needing to figure it out in that difficult moment.

Don’t hesitate to put some budget (if you have it) towards partially prepped things like washed and cut produce (butternut squash is a pain and totally worth buying prepped), fancier frozen things, and condiments that many grocery stores make regularly like fridged marinara or fresh salsas. If you are like me and will just graze on things if they are set in front of you, focus on finger food friendly stuff like berries, cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, pepper strips, mandarin slices, nuts and seeds of all types. If you like seafood there are some very nice frozen things that are portioned and individually packed so you just need to heat them up and you’ve got a simple protein to complement whatever vegetables you have. And again, look at the premade options and figure out - when you aren’t hungry - what choices work for you nutritionally, so you can grab a few and have that knowledge in reserve for times when you can just manage to heat something up rather than cook.
posted by Mizu at 11:35 PM on September 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Frozen vegetables are my lifeline. I buy big bags of frozen mixed wok veggies. I pour 4 cups into a marked pitcher I own and then stick it into the refrigerator to thaw. I eat 2 cups a day when I am paying attention. Because I am an older person, 2 cups of veggies a day is all I need. One common meal is 2 cups of heated frozen veggies with a tin of sardines in tomato sauce dumped over the top and mixed in.

This gives me a lot of nutrition in a single meal. I don’t have to cook, which I prefer to avoid. I am eating the rainbow, which is to say lots of different colors of vegetables, which is a good and healthy thing. If I’m not in the mood for sardines then I will add nuts and/or raisins, canned pineapple chunks (unsweetened pineapple, which turns out to be surprisingly nutritious), avocado, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or other stuff that seems tasty. If I’m not using those sardines I may also make a peanut sauce or some other kind of sauce. Because I like a little crunch, I will often smash one slice of whole-wheat Swedish hard bread and sprinkle that over the top for extra fiber and crunch.

I’m supposed to give up salt and it’s hard. I am leaning into various curry powders and spices. But I’m also OK with re-educating my taste buds and letting them learn how food tastes with minimal or no salt added. Your attitude is everything. Try thinking of this as an experiment rather than some form of punishment if you want to make the adjustment less painful. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:35 AM on September 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Oops, Forgot to mention that I also eat about two pieces of fruit every day. Usually at least one apple, sometimes pears, kiwi, or bananas. Also frozen berries. Again, no cooking involved and these are healthful, nutritious items. Finally, I swap out my frozen wok vegetables with frozen mushrooms and onions a couple of times a week for variety. When I am feeling ambitious, I roast several sweet potatoes, which can be frozen for later use as well.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:41 AM on September 17, 2021

1. Roasted veg: The only prep is roughly chopping things into largish pieces (about an inch). Chuck them on a baking tray in the oven, sling some olive oil on it, and roast it. You get a huge tray of veg big enough to add to several meals, and roasted veggies are tastier than boiled.

If you can, it's best to add in the most solid stuff first (eg. carrots, sweet potatoes) and the lighter stuff (peppers) later so you don't get some solid and some burned. But it's pretty forgiving.

If you can be arsed with (mostly simple) recipes, The Green Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer has a lot of super-tasty roasted veg based recipes.

2. Soup made with pre-chopped veg: I chuck a couple of packs of the pre-chopped veggie soup mix I get at the supermarket into a big pan with a clove or two of crushed garlic (you can buy this frozen, use garlic salt, or garlic puree, if you want to make it easier) leave heating gently for 5-10 minutes, then chuck in some stock (made with stock cubes), dried herbs, a tablespoon of miso sauce, and some chopped chicken. Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes. Squeeze half a lemon into it right at the end for great flavour. You can also chuck in leafy things like spinach at the end if you want added veg. And you can add tinned beans/pulses/sweetcorn too.

3. Packets of pre-prepped salad. Handfuls of raw baby spinach go with most things; lots of other salad options in the supermarket.

Bonus tip number one - I've discovered that the way to cook broccoli and have it be delicious instead of soggy is to drop it in boiling water for exactly 4 minutes, no more no less. Always perfect. If you want to stir fry it, do this first, drain it, then chuck it in the wok.

Bonus tip number two - If you're trying to cut butter out of your diet and want a healthier spread, you can pour olive oil into a shallow tupperware box with a lid, stick it in the freezer, then transfer it to the fridge, and it stays spreadable. Don't leave it on the counter for too long or it turns back into oil! It does take a few days to get used to the taste if you're transferring from butter, but once you do, it's great.
posted by penguin pie at 4:20 AM on September 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm late to this, and you've gotten a lot of great advice here. I managed to lower my blood pressure to normal by changing my diet (in my case, whole foods, vegan), and it's very possible to make the kind of changes you want to. But there can be a learning curve, and sometimes it is hard, especially when you're depressed.

One thing I can add is that for me the best way to make sure I eat fruits and vegetables is to not have the foods I don't want to eat in the house. If I have cookies or cereal or even toast and jam available, I WILL eat those instead of having an apple and I will end up having to throw fruit away when it goes bad. What you keep in your kitchen can support you or make it harder to change. The more you can control your environment, the easier this will be. (A big advantage for me in this is that I live alone - it's much more complicated if you live with someone who doesn't want to eat the way you do.)

I also do better when I listen to health-oriented podcasts that support the way I want to eat. If you're stepping away from the way your friends and family eat, it can feel very lonely, and podcasts can provide encouragement and tips. Most of those I listen to are oriented toward vegans so I won't share them here (you can MeMail me if you want to know), but one that isn't is "Feel Better, Live More" with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee. Dr. Chatterjee feels that his patients can do well on a lot of different diets, so that would probably be more supportive of DASH.

Congratulations on working to support your health, and best of luck to you.
posted by FencingGal at 7:28 AM on September 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Roasted squash: Cut squash in half. If you are up to it removed the seeds. Wrap squash in tinfoil, place on a baking sheet to catch any ooze and throw in the oven. It's done when you poke the tinfoil and the stuff inside dents. Scrape away from the rind, add whatever makes it tastier and eat. Leftovers may be saved in the same foil in the fridge. Reheat in microwave. Add large spoonfuls to other recipes such as canned chili, scrambling eggs, cookie batter, etc.

Applesauce: Buy in jars, add a dollop to everything you feel like, mix half and half with baked squash, pair with cheese, throw into cookie or cake batter. Have on cottage cheese.

Frozen veggies: They tend to release masses of water as they start to cook which makes them not good for stir frying. Use a vegetable steamer or add to dishes that can take the fluid.

Fresh or frozen peppers, mushrooms and onions and spinach etc: Put chopped veggies into a bowl in the microwave until they release a lot of the fluid and drain them using a fork to hold the veggies into the dish. Dollop onto the top of pizza (in a ring to ensure the centre doesn't need too much time to cook and leave the dough soggy), or on top of a frozen lasagna at the stage when you remove the film to brown the cheese. Pile additional cheese on top of veggies and put back in oven to cook and begin to brown the cheese.

Crudities and pickles: Try to always grab some raw fruit, raw veggies or pickles or olives or salsa to have on the side with any meal or snack. If your olives come in a can save one of the small pickle jars as soon as it is empty and decant the olives into that to store in the fridge. If you can tolerate coleslaw and find a prepared brand you like have a table spoon of that with every suitable meal.

Train yourself to eat the skins if you can. It is much easier to cut an apple into quarters and eat it than to peel and core it. Just eat it from the small plate you cut it on and leave the cores on the plate. It is much easier to roast your carrots skin and all. When purchasing look at the skins and try to find thinner less gnarly veggies to save on this step. Scrape carrots instead of peeling so you get more nutrition and don't take as long prepping.

Smoothies: Take one can of peaches or fruit cocktail or pears in fruit juice and dump in a small tall bowl. Beat them to puree with an immersion blender and drink with a milkshake straw. Alternatively pour some frozen fruit into a bowl forty five minutes before you want your smoothie and puree that with the blender. Combine frozen strawberries with canned peaches, or frozen blueberries to pears. Add a dollop of ice cream if desired.

Fresh fruit and veggies: Celery sticks with peanut butter or mayonnaise or salad dressing. Raw peppers cut into eighths and the seeds shaken out go with those dressings too.

Add fresh or frozen or dried fruit to your oatmeal if you do porridge. Microwave oatmeal with raisins only requires putting the ingredients in a bowl and microwaving for three minutes.

Nthing the soup made with pre-chopped frozen veggies. They can also be added to the water you are bringing to a boil for ramen or thrown into a pot of regular soup. A small can of mixed veggies and a regular can of vegetable beef or similar soup makes a much more hearty vegetable soup. You just open two cans.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:45 AM on September 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One of my adopted cousins had to go on DASH (she's on the kidney list), and at least for her, it's been (probably a literal) lifesaver. Both her and her husband lost of ton of weight, they're feeling great, relatively speaking (he has some health issues too), etc. So just one anecdote that if you can stick to it, it should help.

Salad is assembling but I also have trouble eating all my veggies before they go bad.

I know this is hard right now, especially with the pandemic, but it may help to shop more often. It's really easy to out and buy All The Vegetables and one person can only eat so many at a time. If you work outside the home, stopping after work every two or three days may be the thing for awhile. If you don't, the grocery store during slow hours (if you have a flexible enough schedule for that) is a good way to get out of the house (and get some easy exercise, bonus). As you get used to cooking more, you'll figure out what vegetables keep longer, which ones don't, how much you're going to reasonably eat in a few days, etc. It's going to be a process, and just remember, each day doesn't have to be perfect - just keep doing better and you'll get there.

I would definitely get an air fryer; it's a game changer and lets you do so many things without added fat, which is really important on DASH. And +10 or wherever we're at for frozen vegetables; it's a golden age of steam in a bag vegetables. Don't forget the spices, it's what's going to keep steam in a bag veg interesting. Spend a little time in the spice aisle and grab a couple of no-salt mixes (if you can find no salt lemon or orange pepper or chili pepper, those are my favorites). You'll get better at spice without the mixes as time goes on, you're just trying to keep yourself from going "steamed broccoli again?!" right now.

You got this! :)
posted by joycehealy at 7:54 AM on September 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Penzey's is a great source for salt-free seasoning blends. Their salt-free lemon pepper seasoning is called Sunny Spain, and Justice is a salt-free version of their Fox Point seasoning that is great in scrambled eggs.
posted by amarynth at 8:22 AM on September 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The air fryer is your friend! i mostly fry fresh foods, but i've had success with throwing frozen okra, broccoli and brussels sprouts into the air fryer and getting a crisp finished product. For fresh, i try to use the pre-cut kind. i haven't bought a whole carrot in years; i mostly cook with the packaged, peeled baby carrots. I don't get bored with food, so this was much easier when i lived alone, but i would prep proteins and veggies for the work week, my proteins on the George Foreman with Penzey's seasonings and veggies in the air fryer. Each night, i would mix and match. Easy peasy.
posted by BlueBear at 8:30 AM on September 17, 2021

I've found that Indian recipes tend to be tasty, legume/vegetable based, and filling. Get an instant pot and a rice cooker/those microwavable rice packets. An instant pot also allows easy bean soup (beans, can of tomatoes, low sodium chicken or veggie stock, onion/carrot/celery and some spices and you're good to go).
posted by kingdead at 8:57 AM on September 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Smoothies can start to cover veggies as well, if you get into green smoothies! Just throw in a couple-few good big handfuls of fresh dark green leafy vegetables, like baby spinach or kale, into whatever fruit smoothie you are otherwise making. If you are using red fruit like berries, the result will be a weird color, but it will taste good. If you are using white/yellow fruit like banana, pineapple, or peach, the result will be a lovely fresh green color and also taste good. With baby spinach, at least, the result does not taste “spinachy.” (Do not use frozen spinach, though.)

I find green smoothies to be a good easy way to add dark green leafy vegetables to my diet.

You can experiment with blending in other veggies as well. Maybe carrots, fresh broccoli, or red bell peppers?
posted by snowmentality at 9:40 AM on September 17, 2021

I love roasted vegetables. Brussels sprouts are way better fresh, but roasted frozen sprouts are still pretty great. If you get peeled butternut squash, it goes slimy and gross fast, frozen is fine for roasting. Bagged frozen spinach is in chunks, easy to add to any vegetable dish that needs more spinach, perfect for adding to ramen, along with peas and any leftover veg. I haven't tried roasting frozen cauliflower, but cauliflower is so good roasted; I add a bunch of Red's hot sauce for Buffalo Cauliflower. Roasted baby carrots carrots are easy and delicious. (roasted veg. - toss with a little olive oil, add herbs, garlic, roast @ 400F or so, turn occasionally, let it get brown)

Arugula is available in big containers. I have resigned myself to throwing out some arugula every time as part of the cost of having it some of the time.

Kale is really good in soups. I make chicken, sausage, and vegetable soup with lots of kale. There are recipes for the Olive Garden Tuscan sausage & bean soup, add extra cooked kale. I don't add the dairy because I can't, still tasty. Frozen kale is fine. In any soup or other recipe, increase the vegetables.

Note: pickles may be quite salty, check to see if they're allowed. I make quick-pickled onions and carrots in sweet pickle juice - livens up salads and sandwiches, or stand at the fridge door and eat them.
posted by theora55 at 9:55 AM on September 17, 2021

Best answer: I like the "human kibble" approach for dietary goals. Basically, you pick a few things that you like that work with your desired diet and eat a lot of those, then add in variety as you have capacity to plan that out. If your primary focus is more veg, then pick a couple veggie dishes that you like and eat them every day (ideally these would be part of a preset meal, like vegetable barley soup for lunch every day). I shoot for same breakfast and lunch every day and more varied dinners, but that depends on if I get a week of lunches made over the weekend...

+1 to instant pot, it turns hot meals into much more of an assembly process than a cooking process.
posted by momus_window at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not on DASH, but I did play around with a similar diet for a while. One thing I found that I absolutely loved and still purchase to this day is (what was then called) AlsoSalt. It's now MySALT.

Nearly all of the Potassium Chloride substitutes are bitter or have a bitter top-note to them. But MySALT is made with KCl and lysine. That combo kills the bitterness, and it ends up delivering much of the same punch NaCl does.

I sometimes use it in bread baking still, subbing in half MySALT for the regular salt. I've never met anyone who can taste the difference.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:39 AM on September 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for being so encouraging! This was really helpful. I think it's worth it to spend the money for pre prepped veggies. And the freezing tips like smoothie packs are great. Thanks again.
posted by clarinet at 8:35 AM on September 19, 2021

I like the "human kibble" approach for dietary goals

Same! I was like this for years, but I harnessed this power recently to train myself to eat vegetables (and to transition to a lower FODMAP diet). To be honest, I started with just forcing myself to eat a bowl of broccoli as a side for 1 to 2 meals a day. And adding spinach to my morning smoothie (although now I eat enough spinach other times of the day that I don't bother)

Now I have transitioned to the following diet:

Breakfast: Smoothie (1 to 2 tablespoons of flax seed*, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 a banana, a handful of strawberries and/or blueberries)
Lunch: Quinoa bowl with broccoli and spinach and whatever else I decide to throw in. I use a marinade that I just mix up each week and keep in the fridge. My go to is 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce, a couple spoonfuls of rice wine vinegar, a tablespoon of sesame oil. But even low sodium soy is pretty high sodium, although I only use a couple spoonfuls - a little goes a long way.
Dinner: Generally some form of chicken (roast chicken, rotisserie chicken from store, or sometimes just some raw chicken breast I cooked in the microwave + some side veggies. Usually something like 1/2 sweet potato + green beans.
Snacks (if I get hungry in between meals, although that quinoa bowl and smoothie are both so filling, I often don't: Some fruit like a banana or watermelon or a handful of nuts.)

In terms of logistics, I make about 2 weeks of quinoa in my rice cooker, then freeze in individual portion bags. It only takes like a minute to defrost in the microwave.

Usually every 4 to 5 days or so, I cook up a fresh batch of spinach and broccoli so that I can just reheat it for lunch as part of my quinoa bowl. It can get a bit mushy, but eh, I don't really care. It only takes like 3 minutes to steam the spinach. More like 8 to 10 minutes to cook the broccoli. But that's like max 30 minutes a week, spread out over two separate days. And then reheating just takes 30 seconds.

Oh, and I for sure get prewashed baby spinach, and I get broccoli that's already been washed and chopped up. Absolutely get the pre chopped/pre washed veggies. Because cooking them takes no time at all. It's the chopping and prep that will take up time.

Oh, and I have my portions worked out so that I cook 2 clamshells of spinach and 2 12 oz bags of broccoli, and I can generally get through that in 4 days. No food waste! No feeling guilty about veggies languishing in the fridge!

Every few days, I cook a few sweet potatoes in the microwave. It also turns out that taking some raw chicken breasts, dousing them in some chicken stock and some soy sauce, and then just cooking them until they're cooked through in the microwave makes for some reasonably edible chicken. I usually cook about 3 days worth at once.

Sweet potatoes are great because they're relatively healthy, so easy to cook in the microwave, and best of all, they have a long shelf life. Not sure if this adheres to the DASH diet.

I used to be very anti using microwave except to reheat things. I plan on branching out for my dinners eventually, at least some of the time. I know some people really need variety, and I do try to change up veggies a bit just to make sure I'm not having anything missing nutrient wise, but it turns out, I'm happy just eating the same thing every day. And while I don't exactly love my quinoa bowl, I've come to like it well enough. Having a good marinade or spice/flavoring combination is really key for that though.

I've spent my whole life not really liking any of the good healthy vegetables like broccoli and leafy greens. I didn't hate them but I've always been more of a carnivore at heart. but turns out I can tolerate them once I get used to them.

And now at this point (about 3 or 4 months in) I honestly don't want to go back to my old diet. I haven't seen any super striking health improvements and I'm still not losing weight like I'd like to but I don't know... it just feels better? I'm not sure how to explain it, but I think my body appreciates getting like actual fiber and whatever. I'm sure I'd probably see even more striking changes, except I currently have a lot of medical issues that are way beyond what diet can fix and cause fatigue etc so I think once I get those sorted out, I'll probably see even more benefits.

But also, I spend way less time in the kitchen than I used to. And that is honestly the thing I care about most when eating - efficiency. I don't mind cooking, but I resent being forced to. And while I'm not currently suffering from depression, I do have extreme fatigue issues. Also a lot of pain/mobility problems. But even I can handle this.

Also, I've given in to just permanently doing grocery orders through amazon fresh/whole foods. It's a bit pricier and yes ethically horrible but like, I just physically can't manage making it to the grocery store twice a week. Or even once. So you know, if you can afford it, that's something to consider. I usually make an order every 4 days. And the bonus of eating basically the same thing all the time is that my grocery order barely changes, so it takes like 2 seconds to order.

* I was super skeptical that this would work, but flax seeds - when mixed with water, blended, and then allowed to sit in the fridge for a bit - actually give the smoothie a nice creamy texture. Also taste isn't that noticeable. I don't notice it at all anymore, but when I first started, it was just a nice sort of nutty flavor that paired well with banana in the smoothie.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:33 PM on September 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh, and since I know soy sauce marinade is unlikely to be blood pressure friendly, I just wanted to mention that I"ve also previously enjoyed seasoning the quinoa bowls by doing curry powder + cumin. I've also been thinking about messing around with some sort of fish sauce Vietnamese inspired marinade or maybe like a thai peanut marinade.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:36 PM on September 19, 2021

You might be surprised at how tasty frozen vegetables can be with just a bit of butter and some salt and pepper. I have started eating a big bowl of frozen peas or a big bowl of frozen corn, just microwaved with about 3-5 grams of butter and a bunch of pepper and, like, one shake of the salt shaker, and it's really satisfying.
posted by kristi at 10:47 AM on September 20, 2021

Best answer: Ah, I forgot to mention how I dramatically cut down on added salt: vinegar! I already enjoyed sour and citrusy flavors so it wasn’t a stretch for much of what I liked to eat, but by keeping the salt to smaller and smaller pinches, and increasing or sometimes adding the right kind of vinegar to a dish, I have kept most of my cooking much lower in salt while having a fully rounded well seasoned taste. These days when something tastes under seasoned I first reach for some lemon or sherry vinegar and not the salt shaker.

For example, I like malt vinegar on French fries. So when I roasted potatoes at home, I used to toss them in olive oil, paprika, garlic and onion powder, black pepper and then a bunch of coarse salt. Now, I do all of that but only a little pinch of kosher salt per serving, roast them, then toss with malt vinegar and pop them back into the oven for a few minutes to crisp up again. They are awesome and way less salty. I do this with a lot of different root vegetables. On a mix of peppers, eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms I use red wine or balsamic vinegar and drop the paprika.

Most hot sauces have a strong vinegar component. My favorite is cholula original, but it’s always very dependent on personal preference. I started to put hot sauce on my eggs for breakfast instead of about half the salt I would have seasoned them with before, and over time have used less and less salt as my palate changed. Cholula has more salt than some other hot sauces so I treat it like combination hot sauce and salt when estimating how much of it to add, but I overall need less of it than just salt because the flavor complexity is so much more. Try hot sauce in place of anywhere you might add some salt for seasoning after cooking or in an assembly, like in a salad dressing, on a sandwich, on a vegetable fritter, tossed with steamed veggies and a little avocado oil.

If you’re trying a low sodium prepared meal and it tastes flat and boring, try sprinkling some culturally-relevant acidic condiment on it first before adding salt. I have a whole roster of different vinegars, and always have at least part of a lemon or lime. Sherry vinegar is my default for salad dressings, and chinese black vinegar goes into almost all my dipping sauces.
posted by Mizu at 2:14 PM on September 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

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