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YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT: How To Eat A Balanced & Healthy Diet

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A lot has been said and written on what a balanced diet is and what it should consist of. Most of us are already aware of it, yet we always fall short of having a balanced diet in routine life, thereby nurturing a host of deficiencies and diseases. Nutrients are a must have to sustain life. Without them, you will cease to exist. In most basic terms, a balanced diet refers to variety in food that your body demands in order to function infallibly.

What is a Balanced Diet?

balanced diet

A healthy balanced diet gives your body the energy and nutrients it needs to function correctly. You should consume the majority of your daily calories in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean proteins to get proper nutrition from your diet.

Daily Calorie Recommendations

balanced diet

A calorie is the amount of energy stored in a particular food. The body uses calories from food for breathing, thinking, walking and various other important functions. Few examples of daily calories intake based on the United States Department of Agriculture Guidelines are:

  • children ages 2 to 8 years: 1,000 to 1,400 calories
  • girls ages 9 to 13 years: 1,400 to 1,600 calories
  • boys ages 9 to 13 years: 1,600 to 2,000 calories
  • active women ages 14 to 30 years: 2,400 calories
  • sedentary women ages 14 to 30 years: 1,800 to 2,000 calories
  • active men ages 14 to 30 years: 2,800 to 3,200 calories
  • sedentary men ages 14 to 30 years: 2,000 to 2,600 calories
  • active men and women over 30 years: 2,000 to 3,000 calories
  • sedentary men and women over 30 years: 1,600 to 2,400 calories

You should limit your intake of empty calories that provide little or no nutritional value such as the calories that come from sugars, cakes, cheese, cookies, doughnuts, energy drinks, fruit drinks, ice cream, sports drinks and sodas, pizza and solid fats such as butter.

How to Achieve a Balanced Diet

balanced diet

A balanced diet comprises of foods that are low in unnecessary fats and sugars and high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. These are the six essential parts of a healthy balanced diet:

Nutrient Percentage of Daily Calories Function Source
Carbohydrates 45-55 % Provide Energy Grains (refined & unrefined): wheat, maize, corn, millet, oats, rice, flour, pasta, noodles; potatoes; sweet potatoes, yam. Fruit (sugar).
Proteins 10-35 % Help in Tissue Growth & Maintenance Meat, fish, nuts, eggs, soy, beans and pulses.
Fats 20-35% Source of Energy, Energy Storage & Hormone Production Nuts, seeds, plant oils, dairy products (milk, cheese).
Fibers Included in Carbohydrates Regulates Bowel Health, Bowel Function & Blood Sugar Levels Peas, beans, vegetables, fruit, oats, whole grains, brown rice, nuts, seeds.
Vitamins & Minerals Trace Amounts Biochemical Functions, Cell Growth & Metabolism Regulation Specific to each vitamin/mineral. A range of vegetables, lean meat, nuts, and seeds will cover most people’s needs.
Water Zero Maintaining Hydration Drinking water, other beverages. About 20% of water intake comes from food.

If you have questions about your diet or you feel that there is a need to lose weight or change your lifestyle or your eating habits, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a dietitian. They can suggest the required dietary changes that will help you get the nutrition you need while improving your overall health.

What Does a Balanced Diet Includes

balanced diet

A healthy diet should include a varied selection of foods. But some types of food are better for us than others.


Food Categories

Healthy Choices– Adopt Them

Unhealthy Choices– Avoid Them
Fats, Oils & Nuts
  • Sunflower, canola, olive and soy oils
  • Soft margarine (check the label to see if it’s free of trans fats)
  • Non-stick vegetable sprays
  • Almonds, pecan, hazelnuts, and peanuts in moderation
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Cooking Fat
  • Fried Foods
  • Mayonnaise
Meat, Fish & Poultry
  • Lean cuts only
  • Portion sizes must be 90g to 120g a day – about the size of your palm
  • Eat chicken without the skin
  • Eat fish at least twice a week
  • Shellfish is fine, but limit your intake of prawns, shrimps, and caviar
  • Tinned fish should be in water or brine
  • Fatty beef, pork, and mutton
  • Processed meats such as salami
  • Organ meats such as liver and kidneys
  • Tinned meat
  • Take-aways such as fried chicken and hamburgers
  • Deep-fried foods such as doughnuts and samosas
Milk and milk products
  • Low-fat and skim milk
  • Low-fat, and fat-free yogurt
  • Low-fat and fat-free cottage cheese
  • Low-fat buttermilk
  • Full-cream milk
  • Condensed milk
  • Cream, artificial cream, coffee and tea creamers
  • Full-fat ice cream and yogurt
  • Full-fat cheeses
Bread and cereals
  • Brown, wholewheat and low-GI bread
  • Oats, oat bran and maize meal
  • High-fibre, low-fat breakfast cereals
  • Low-fat wholewheat crackers
  • Rice and whole wheat pasta
  • White bread and rolls
  • Refined breakfast cereals
  • Salted, high-fat savory snacks
  • Biscuits, cakes, puddings, chocolates, fudge, etc.
  • Crisps, corn crisps, other savory snacks

Why a Balanced Diet is Important

balanced diet

The body needs proper nutrition for all its organs and tissues to work efficiently. Without a healthy balanced diet, the body is more prone to infection, disease, fatigue and poor performance. Rising levels of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes are prime examples of a poor diet and a lack of exercise.

Rules for a Balanced Diet

balanced diet

  • 1. Get moving to achieve and maintain your desirable body weight
  • 2. Ensure adequate intake of mono- and certain poly-unsaturated fats
  • 3. Reduce your intake of foods high in cholesterol
  • 4. Reduce your total fat intake, particularly the intake of saturated fats and trans fats
  • 5. Increase your fiber intake
  • 6. Drink alcohol only in moderation and regularly rather than in binges
  • 7. Drink enough water or other fluids throughout the day
  • 8. Eat a variety of foods
  • 9. Use sugar and foods high in simple carbohydrates in moderation
  • 10. Use less salt

Bottomline

Thus, the energy you receive to be able to get on with the highs and lows of the day and life can be maximized if your intake of all the nutrients is on point, that is when you are having a balanced diet. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals are so important that if you are deficient in even one of these, your body will feel crippled in one or the other way.

So, eat well and live well. After all, you are what you eat!

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