The term ‘balanced diet’ means having enough food from each group of nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) to help ensure you get the vitamins and minerals needed for good health.
A balanced diet also provides essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. These nutrients play a crucial role in our body’s function and ensure the proper functioning of our organs and tissues.
There are many different diets available today, each claiming to offer the perfect solution for weight loss.
But what does eating a balanced diet mean? How should you eat to stay fit and healthy?
Let’s look at what finding more balance in your diet means.
What is a Balanced Diet?
Let’s first define what a healthy diet is.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy eating plan is full of nutrient dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, lean proteins, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and heart healthy fats.
On the other hand, a diet loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed meat, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and alcohol, can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other health problems.
The primary food groups to include are:
- Grains (whole grain breads, cereals, rice)
- Fruits (apples, oranges, berries, kiwi, melons)
- Vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach, zucchini, squash, peppers)
- Proteins Meat/Poultry/Seafood (chicken, beef, pork, tuna, salmon) and the subgroup of
- Beans/Peas/Lentils (kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, split peas)
- Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Nuts & Seeds (almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds)
- Oils (olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil)
These food groups provide all the nutrients we need to live a long and healthy life.
When eating foods from these groups, try to balance them throughout your day and week. This will help ensure you stay healthy.
For a quick and easy way to plan meals, consider using MyPlate.org. It’s a free online tool that allows you to create personalized weekly menus based on your personal preferences.
To track your meals and nutritional status there are several useful apps such as:
10 Practical Tips for Finding More Balance in Your Diet
Eating right is one of the most important things you can do for yourself because it helps your body and mind perform optimally,
Here are some practical tips for improving the nutritional balance in your meals:
#1. Don’t Skip Meals
Skip meals too often and you won’t feel satisfied after each meal. Instead, eat smaller portions of nutritious foods every 3 hours. This allows your body to receive the nutrition it needs without causing you to become hungry again.
#2. Think Whole Foods
Most of the time, choose foods in their natural form, i.e., whole grains instead of refined ones, fruits over fruit juices, nuts instead of nut butters, olives over olive oil, etc.
Whole foods are more nutrient dense and contain fiber, which makes you feel fuller longer. They also provide essential nutrients that help prevent chronic diseases.
#3. Include Vegetables in Every Meal
Vegetables have several nutritional benefits and add color and flavor to any dish. For example, broccoli contains vitamin C, folic acid, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium,
Besides loading your salads with a rainbow of vegetables, try adding veggies to your egg dishes, throw them in your soups and stews, layer them on your sandwiches, use them in your pasta dishes, and even blend them up in your smoothies.
#4. Drink Water
Drinking water helps you stay hydrated and provides additional health benefits. Drinking plenty of water helps flush toxins from your system and reduces bloating.
Water also helps regulate digestion and controls appetite. If you drink water regularly, you’ll notice that you tend to eat fewer calories than usual.
#5. Keep Added Calories out of Your Beverages
Limit your intake of sugary drinks like soda, juice, energy drinks, sweetened teas, and coffee drinks. These drinks don’t give you much nutrition and they can contribute a ton of extra calories to your diet.
Instead, opt for healthier options like plain or flavored milk, black coffee, unsweetened tea, and 100% fruit juices or vegetable.
#6. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are full of preservatives and artificial ingredients; these chemicals can cause digestive problems and contribute to weight gain.
Avoid processed and packaged foods whenever possible. Read labels carefully and avoid products containing hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and MSG.
#7. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol has been shown to slow down metabolism. Consuming alcohol can also interfere with sleep patterns.
This means that you’ll wake up tired and unable to focus. Plus, drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration and headaches.
Strive to abstain or limit your intake of alcoholic beverages to no more than two drinks per week.
#8. Be Active
Exercise releases endorphins, which improve mood and relieve stress. Exercise boosts your immune system and improves your overall sense of well-being.
Aerobic exercise is incredibly beneficial. Increase your activity with aerobic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, biking, dancing, jogging, hiking, tennis, basketball, soccer, squash, golf, cross-country skiing, or pickleball.
#9. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy weight. Lack of sleep causes you to consume more calories.
In addition, lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and poor decision-making.
Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night is ideal. If you’re short on sleep, try these tips to get more quality Zzzzs.
#10. Make Small Changes
Small changes over time can result in big improvements.
Start by reducing the amount of red meat and dairy you consume. Then slowly replace these foods with leaner proteins and vegetables.
For instance, swap your beef burger for a turkey burger. Or eat 4 ounces of beef and a quarter cup of beans instead of a 6-8 oz beef portion. Try switching one serving of cheese for an ounce of nuts.
Make small changes to your daily habits and watch them turn into significant results over time.
Find More Balance on Your Plate
Eating healthy can be tricky. Still, eating well isn’t impossible. Start with these 10 tips, and you’ll be eating and feeling better in no time.