What is Balance Diet
A balanced diet consists of essential nutrients like carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. In a balanced diet, it is essential to include nutritious foods that ensure excellent health. A balanced diet helps reduce the risk of various diseases and improve our health.
If we eat a diet high in either carbohydrates or proteins, or fats, then it is not a balanced diet. Each element is essential, and the absence of any of these could hamper our body’s function. Some people believe that only protein is essential for our muscle growth and development and tend to ignore carbohydrates thinking that this will only increase the calorie count. People also remove fat from their diet without knowing that a certain amount of fat is essential for our bodies to function correctly. Some people remove odium from their diet without knowing that it plays a vital role.
Carbohydrates and a balanced diet
Carbohydrates are essential for a balanced diet and a healthy body. They act as the body’s preferred energy source and fuel vital organs such as the brain, central nervous system, and kidneys. They also play an essential part during exercise.
Simple carbohydrates vs complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates such as wholewheat flour, brown rice, Etc., have larger chains of sugar molecules. They take longer to digest and make us feel full for longer, which helps control our appetite. They also provide energy and are crucial sources of fibre, B vitamins and minerals.
Simple carbs are the sugars. They are digested quickly by the body and provide a quick energy source but without nutrient value like complex carbs.
Essential nutrients for a healthy balanced diet
|Nutrient||% of daily calories||Function||Source|
|Carbs||45–55%||Energy||Grains (refined & unrefined): wheat, maize, corn, millet, oats, rice, flour, pasta, noodles; potatoes; sweet potatoes, yam. Fruit (sugar).|
|Protein||10–35%||Tissue growth and maintenance||Meat, fish, nuts, eggs, soya, beans and pulses.|
|Fat||20–35% from fat||Energy, energy storage, hormone production||Nuts, seeds, plant oils, dairy products (milk, cheese).|
|Fibre||Included in carbs.||Regulates blood sugar levels, bowel function and bowel health.||Peas, beans, vegetables, fruit, oats, whole grains, brown rice, nuts, seeds.|
|Vitamins & minerals||trace||Metabolism regulation, aiding cell growth, other biochemical functions||Specific to each vitamin/mineral. A range of vegetables, lean meat, nuts and seeds will cover most people’s needs.|
|Water||0||Maintaining hydration||Drinking water, other beverages. About 20% of water intake comes from food.|
A balanced diet should include a varied selection of foods. Some of these foods are better than others.
Eat more, eat less – balanced diet
|Eat more||Raw and cooked vegetables & fruit (“5-a-day”), nuts, seeds, beans & pulses, whole grain cereals/bread, lean white meat (chicken without skin), fish (especially oily)||Linked to many aspects of better health including reducing LDL.|
|Eat in moderation||Lean cuts of beef, lamb, pork, shellfish, dairy products (low fat), unsaturated fats (olive oil, vegetable oil). Dried fruit, jams. Sucrose, honey, fructose, chocolate.||These foods can all be an important part of your diet.|
|Eat less and in limited amounts||Saturated fat (butter, margarine, lard, cheese, cream, high fat milk), trans fat, salt (less than 5g daily). Processed meats/fatty cuts of meat (sausages, salami, bacon, ribs etc).Processed meals (high in fat, sugar and salt).Pastries, muffins, pies, cakes, sweets, etc.Alcohol is high is sugar and calories and is only recommended in moderation.||These foods are not good for your health.Some guidelines include specific recommendations.|
A balanced diet and Fat
Fat provides essential fatty acids, which our body cannot make alone. It helps the body absorb vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E as these are fat-soluble. It also produces hormones and other signalling molecules and is a crucial energy source.
Saturated and unsaturated fats:
Saturated and unsaturated fats have the same number of calories but different effects on our health. Generally, saturated fats are solid at room temperature, and they harm our health. Butter, hard cheeses, fatty meat and meat products, cream, lard, suet, and some plant oils contain saturated fats, including coconut and palm oil.
Polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and Omega 3 fats are unsaturated fats. They have a positive impact on our health. Olive oil, rapeseed and sunflower contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Oily fish such as sardines, salmon, and mackerel contain essential Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat added to processed foods such as cakes and biscuits. They harm cardiovascular health.
Types of fat and their impact on your health
|Saturated||Generally solid at room temperature. Animal fat from meat and dairy (butter, cheese, cream). Some plant oils including coconut oil and palm oil.||Less healthy. Linked to high LDL and an increase in heart disease. Diets high in saturated fat are linked to raising levels of LDL; this can be a risk factor for heart disease. Saturated fat should not be excluded from the diet however, just consumed in smaller amounts (7-10% of fat intake). A range of fats is needed for healthy functioning of the body.|
|Unsaturated||Vegetable oils like olive, sunflower, and rapeseed/canola oil. Nuts, avocados.Omega-3 (from oily fish or supplements) and omega-6.||Improve insulin sensitivity, LDL and TG compared to saturated fats.Replacing saturated fats by unsaturated fats and carbs reduces the risk of heart disease.|
|Trans fats||Trans fats are included in processed foods.As a processed cooking oil, it was widely used by fast food outlets for frying.||Trans fats increase bad cholesterol, reduce good cholesterol and are bad for your health, especially “partially hydrogenated trans fats”.They are banned in some countries and US states for being used as cooking oils.|
Dietary fibre and a balanced diet
There are two types of dietary fibre, soluble and insoluble. Both are good for health. Soluble fibre regulates how other nutrients are absorbed in the digestive system, and insoluble fibre is not metabolised and absorbs water. Soluble fibre regulates blood sugar levels and balances intestinal pH levels. Insoluble fibre helps with digestion and elimination by speeding up the passage of food in the digestive system. Dietary fibre typically contains a proportion of the carbohydrate cellulose, which humans cannot digest as we lack the enzyme to break it down.
Vitamins, minerals, and a balanced diet
Vitamins and minerals are required in tiny quantities but are essential for a healthy body and mind. IF the body does not receive them at optimum level or if there is a deficiency, then health complications are bound to begin. Instead of taking supplements, always try to have a balanced diet that generally satisfies the need for all essential vitamins and minerals.
Proteins and a balanced diet
Protein-enriched foods help lose muscle, build lean muscle, maintain a healthy weight, and curb hunger. Protein contains a complex combination of 22 amino acids, which is essential in maintaining the function of all cells in the body.
Salt and balanced diet
Salt or Sodium is also essential in how nerves and muscles work. It helps to keep the body fluids in a balanced condition. High salt intake increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Too less salt can cause iodine deficiency. Therefore, a balanced amount is essential in your diet, like every other mentioned item.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF A BALANCED DIET
- Healthy eating provides more energy and improves bodily functions.
- A balanced diet catches up to our nutritional needs. It provides nutrients and helps us to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
- It is preventive against certain diseases. A balanced diet prevents the risk of developing diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It also helps to treat diabetes and high blood pressure.
- A proper diet can help us better manage an illness or condition.
- It strengthens our immune system and prevents weight gain.
- A healthy diet will help us to fight stress.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR HEALTHY EATING & BALANCED DIET
- Do remember that you never skip a meal. Many people do that they will lose weight faster but ultimately, skipping meals only lowers metabolic rate. Healthy eating includes three main meals and two snacks between meals. Also, never skip the most important meal of the day, breakfast.
- Healthy eating is not complicated. Try to learn simple ways to make food. Eat more raw food such as salads, fruits, vegetable juices, etc.
- Do not overeat something just because you like the taste of the food. It will help to maintain weight.
- Drink plenty of water. A healthy adult needs 8 to 9 glasses of water daily, depending on the weather.
- Remember, no single food has all the necessary nutrients. Hence there should be a variety of foods on your plate.
- Always eat 3 to 4 portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
- Never take unhealthy junk snacks. Have a healthy snack ready at hand, so if you feel hungry, go for it.
- Do not forget to skin off the chicken or trim the white fat from the meat. Permanently remove visible fats from foods before you start cooking.
- Limit intake of refined sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Do not eat out much. Try to consume home-cooked food as much as possible.
- Try to eat organic food.
- Try to quit smoking.
HEALTHY COOKING TIPS FOR A BALANCED DIET
In today’s fast life, people are more inclined toward eating fast foods, ready-to-eat meals, etc. It is most healthy to have home-cooked food. Always try to add variety to your meals as repetition can cause boredom. Do not give up your favourite foods but turn them into a healthy option if they are not much healthy.
- Always add more vegetables to your dishes.
- Try to blot fried foods to remove extra oil.
- Use whole wheat flour instead of refined flour.
- Eat more low-fat yoghurt.
- Instead of flavoured yoghurt, add cut fruits to your curd.
- Try to use non-stick cookware that reduces the need for cooking oil.
- Instead of boiling the vegetables, try to microwave or steam them to avoid losing nutrients.
- Use skimmed dairy products and lean meat.
- Take fat from nuts, seeds, fish, and olives as other nutrients accompany them.
- Instead of cream, use low-fat curd or skimmed milk as thicker for gravy.
- Do not peel vegetables; instead, scrub them to get the nutrients in the skins.
- While boiling vegetables, use the water as a stock containing vitamins and minerals for another preparation.
- Instead of white bread, use whole grain bread.
- Use vegetables to make sandwiches healthier.
A balanced diet and Calorie Requirements
A balanced diet provides the nutrients that our body to function correctly. For such nutrition, our daily calories should come from:
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins
An average person needs about 1600 calories daily to maintain weight, depending on age, sex, and physical activity level.
Males generally need more calories than females, and people who exercise regularly need more calories than people who do not exercise. See the calorie requirement table below.
|Sedentary children: 2–8 years||1,000–1,400|
|Active children: 2–8 years||1,000–2,000|
|Females: 9–13 years||1,400–2,200|
|Males: 9–13 years||1,600–2,600|
|Active females: 14–30 years||2,400|
|Sedentary females: 14–30 years||1,800–2,000|
|Active males: 14–30 years||2,800–3,200|
|Sedentary males: 14–30 years||2,000–2,600|
|Active people: 30 years and over||2,000–3,000|
|Sedentary people: 30 years and over||1,600–2,400|
Some foods do not provide negligible nutrition but only calories. These foods are known as “empty calories”. Examples of such foods are
- Processed meats
- Energy drinks
- Packed fruit drinks with added sugar
- Ice cream
- Chips and crisps
- Cakes and cookies
One must remember that food’s ingredients make it healthy or unhealthy. For example, homemade pizza with a multigrain or whole wheat base and plenty of vegetables or fresh chicken kebabs are healthy than the pizza you buy from a store.
Limit consumption of empty calories and get calories from nutrient-rich foods.
Provide children with a balanced diet, or they will not get the necessary nutrients. As a result, kids may face growth and developmental problems, poor academic performance, and frequent infections. Unhealthy eating habits are the primary cause of
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
A healthy balanced diet includes a variety of foods from the following groups:
- Protein foods
Fruits are full of nutrition. They make a tasty and healthy snack or dessert. Always try to eat seasonal fruits as they provide many nutrients.
Fruits are high in sugar called fructose. However, it is not harmful as natural sugar; it does not cause a sugar spike. Fruits provide fibre and other nutrients such as essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For a diabetic patient, the dietitian can advise which fruits to choose, when, and how much to eat.
Vegetables provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Different variety of vegetables provides different types of nutrients. Seasonal vegetables are very good for a healthy diet. Seasonal vegetables in the salad, side dishes, base in soup, juices, etc., are prevalent.
The use of refined white flour is standard in bread and baked items. It has limited nutritional value as the grain hull is removed during processing.
Whole grain products provide additional vitamins, minerals, and fibre as they include the entire grain, including the hull. The whole grains also add texture and flavour to the dish.
Our primary sources of protein are meats, beans, and pulses.
Healthy animal-based options include:
Lean meat from poultry, such as chicken and turkey
Fish, including salmon, sardines, tuna, etc.
Red meats and processed meats may increase cancer risk, high cholesterol, high triglyceride, etc. Processed meats contain many preservatives to increase shelf life, which is unsuitable for our health.
Beans, nuts, pulses, and soy products are good protein sources. E.g., lentils, beans, peas, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, etc.
Tofu and other soy-based products are excellent sources of protein.
Dairy products provide essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, Vitamin D, etc. If you want to limit your fat intake from a dairy product, you can go for skimmed or low-fat dairy items.
People following a vegan diet have many alternatives to dairy products such as flax seed, almonds, cashews, soy products, oats, coconuts, etc. These provide us with calcium and other nutrients.
Fats and oils
Though too much fat is harmful to our body and may lead to many diseases and weight gain, still fat is essential for energy and cell health. Saturated and unsaturated fat in low quantity is not bad, but trans fat is a big no.
•Fish oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oils- Fats to love.
•Butter, cheese, and heavy cream- Fats to limit
•Trans fats or trans fatty acid – Fats to lose
Healthy Eating Plate
A balanced diet should combine all the nutrients and food groups mentioned above. The USDA and Harvard School of Public Health recommend almost similar guidelines for Healthy Eating Plate:
•Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Two-thirds must be vegetables, and one-third should be fruits.
•Fill just over one quarter with grains
•Fill just under one quarter with protein foods
A varied and balanced diet usually contains plenty of fresh, plant-based foods and limits the intake of processed foods.
What to eat for a balanced diet?
A balanced diet includes the following food items
Carbohydrates and fibre
Minerals and antioxidants
Which foods should we avoid?
We should avoid food such as:
- Processed foods
- Refined grains
- Added sugar and salt
- Red meat
- Processed meat
- Trans fats
What should be the diet of a Gluten intolerant person?
Gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity is the body’s inability to digest the gluten protein. This protein is present in wheat and certain other grains.
What foods to avoid in case of Gluten intolerance?
Wheat is the standard and primary source of gluten. In addition to wheat or wheat products, one should avoid semolina, barley, rye, chicken broth, malt vinegar, salad dressings, veggie burgers, soy sauce, seasonings, and spice mixes.
What are the foods without gluten or gluten-free foods?
Many food items are gluten-free, including fruits and vegetables, beans, seeds, legumes, nuts, potatoes, eggs, dairy products, corn, rice, fish, lean beef, chicken, seafood, millet, quinoa, and rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, etc.
Why should you not skip breakfast?
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It increases energy levels and metabolism and helps to avoid snacks between meals.
Why should we eat at least three meals a day?
Eating regular meals helps to manage hunger and avoid eating extra snacks. You should include carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread, rice, potato, and protein like meat, fish, and eggs with vegetables and fruits.
Why should we carry lunch from home?
Always try to take lunch from home to work. It will stop you from being tempted by less healthy options.
What are intelligent snacks?
A piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, a cup of soup, low-fat milk or yoghurt are considered more thoughtful snacks.
Why should you take your time to eat?
Taking time to eat your foods reduces overeating, aids good digestion, reduces anxious thoughts surrounding food, and improves your psychological relationship with food.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is paying attention to the eating experience with all our senses. It helps reduce overeating, aids good digestion, reduces anxious thoughts surrounding food, and improves your psychological relationship with food.
Why do portion sizes matter?
Eating excessive healthy foods can still cause health problems such as weight gain.
Why should you eat vegetables and fruit every day?
Vegetables and fruits provide fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are also low in calories. They help prevent heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, etc.
Why should you eat whole grain foods?
Whole-grain foods are high in fibre, so they keep you fuller for longer, and they are suitable for health as they provide more nutrients than processed grains.
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. (n.d.). Health.gov. Retrieved August 2, 2022, from https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015
- Diet: a balanced diet and your health. (n.d.). I-Base.Info. Retrieved August 2, 2022, from https://i-base.info/guides/side/diet-a-balanced-diet-and-your-health