Archive for Monday, November 7, 2011

Boomer Girl Diary: Weathering the DASH Diet

November 7, 2011


How I love the first real cold snap of fall! Logs crackling in the fireplace, plush polyester Snuggie covering my legs, pot of tomato soup with Goldfish crackers at the ready. I love it all!

I’m crazy about cold-weather clothing. Gone are the skin-revealing styles of summer. My pasty arms, legs and feet go into hiding for six glorious months. The layered look — a middle-aged woman’s BFF — roars back with a vengeance.

After all, is there anything better for that unsightly turkey gullet than an oversized turtleneck that covers you up to your ears? Feeling extra jowly? Try a mile-long muffler wrapped around your neck. Go ahead, try two! They work wonders for the chin line.

Speaking of scarves, is there an accessory in the world more versatile? European chic and toasty, they hide those unsightly salad dressing stains on your bust better than any statement necklace from Chico’s.

And don’t get me started on the miracle of black tights and boots. The first time I slip my deathly pale gams into a pair of Spanx Tight-Ends and zip up my black knee-high Borns for the season, I feel like Wonder Woman. Strolling down the sidewalk with confidence, I have no concern for neglected toenails, unshaven legs or varicose veins.

But fashion isn’t the end-all of fall. The best part, of course, is comfort food — red chili, meatloaf and gravy, cream of whatever soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Alas, not for me. Not this year. Not in my household.

This year, thanks to my husband’s recent annual physical, the Hamiltons are on the DASH diet. DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was recommended as a prophylactic measure, a step to counter my spouse’s slow-climbing blood pressure (a condition for which I accept only a particle of blame) and avoid medication.

The DASH is OK as diets go — plenty of fruits and vegetables, high in fiber, low in fat, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.

But here’s the rub (and I don’t mean a succulent dry-rub slathered on a slab of baby-back ribs): There’s no salt allowed! At least, no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

It turns out that all those salty french fries, chips, pastas alfredo, pulled pork sandwiches and sushi rolls can kill you. Who knew!?! (As a matter of fact, I did. But it took a white-coated professional to make it sink in to my stubborn hubby’s head.)

For the patient’s sake and for yours, here are a few of the most common offenders and their respective sodium contents:

  • 1 ounce American cheese — 443 mg (Goodbye, grilled cheese sandwiches!)
  • 1 cup of tomato soup — 744 mg (Call me later, Campbells!)
  • 3 ounces Canadian bacon — 1,197 mg (Ta-ta, Eggs Benedict!!)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce — 914 (Sayonara, Chef’s Roll!)

For the past week, I’ve been scouring grocery store shelves for low-sodium, DASH-approved alternatives: chicken broth, tomato soup, string cheese, V-8 juice and all manner of salt substitutes for the table. (Do you suppose that’s how Mrs. Dash got its name?)

The products aren’t difficult to find. There are, apparently, scads of Americans in the hypertensive boat searching for salt-free lifesavers. It’s not like cooking will be a huge challenge. I’ve got more spices than Carter’s got pills.

What worries me is going out to eat, something we do more often than not. With the exception of fruit plates (hold the cheese) and vegetable platters (hold the butter), there aren’t an abundance of DASH-appropriate items on local menus.

What will my husband consume if not hamburgers, sweet potato fries, pub chips and ranch dressing (370 mg for a 2-ounce serving)? He’s not really a salad kind of guy, and the grilled chicken and steamed veggies thing loses its appeal after one or two orders.

The only solution is to — gasp! — eat in. Cook a new kind of comfort food, like baked tilapia with roasted cauliflower and carrots to nibble in front of the fire.

Fortunately, according to the Marquette University School of Medicine, there’s a silver lining to this dark cloud. It seems the average sodium content of beer is only 12 mg per 12-ounce serving. In fact, according to the study, “more accurate salt restriction is obtained on the diet in which beer is included.”

Still, it’s going to be a lo-o-o-o-ng winter. Wonder Woman’s going to need some new tights and a pair of boots. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta dash.

— Cathy Hamilton is the executive director of Downtown Lawrence, Inc., author of 16 books and blogger at Contact her at


Maddy Griffin 6 years, 5 months ago

Whew! What a relief. I thought it was going to be somed kind of KarDASHian thing.

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