It is an incredibly fast- paced and ever-changing world that we live in today, one that throws up numerous challenges upon us every day. One of the most common of those challenges is the nutritional challenge - how to maintain a healthy balanced diet and stay fit, without making any significant compromise to our lifestyles or eating habits.
This article talks about balanced diet and its importance in our lives. I have tried to answer every question about healthy eating and at the same time, included tons of useful information about balanced diet that you may not find at one place anywhere else on the internet. Read on to find more for yourselves!
Meaning of a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet refers to a food plan that fulfills all the dietary needs of the human body and helps it to stay healthy and fit for all purposes in life. Notably, it does not mean giving up on your favorite foods or drinks, rather it involves striking a healthy balance between them all.
Definition of a Balanced Diet
A more complete and scientific definition of a balanced diet explains it as a diet that contains the proper proportions of all the essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals and water, that are required for a healthy growth of the human body.
While proteins work as the building blocks of the body (cells, tissues and muscles), carbohydrates are the main source of energy that keeps it running. On the other hand, vitamins and minerals are responsible for ensuring a healthy metabolism rate and the maintenance of nerves, muscle and soft tissues. Finally, fats are required to provide energy too and help to produce hormones as well as store vitamins in the body.
Importance of a Balanced Diet
A healthy diet alone is not enough to ensure a healthy human body, striking a balance between the kind and quantity of food consumed is the all-important key. A balanced diet plan allows your organs, muscles and soft tissues to work properly and effectively. It protects the body against various kinds of diseases and contributes to an optimum body weight in a person. It also happens to be an important step towards achieving a blissful and healthy lifestyle that allows for maximum enrichment of life.
Without wholesome nutrition, the human body becomes prone to diseases, dehydration, exhaustion, infections and poor efficiency. A balanced diet is all the more important in kids as they are in their early growth phase and poor nutrition can disrupt their overall development. Poor eating habits are also likely to result in an unwanted weight gain and are hard to give up later in life.
How to Achieve a Balanced Diet Plan?
A balanced diet menu contains a wide variety of foods and drinks in just the right amount, without an excess of any one component. Following food (or food groups) can be considered as the basic ingredients of a proper balanced diet.
1) Fruits & Vegetables - These are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Ideally, one-third of your daily diet must contain a variety of fruits and veggies in order to derive the necessary nutrients from them. Additionally, scientific studies have proved that people who eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day have significantly lower chances of getting heart diseases, strokes, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.
2) Grains - They are a great source of carbohydrates and fiber. Grains come in variety of forms - oats, brown rice, pasta, whole-wheat bread, bulgur, rye, bran flakes, muesli, sorghum etc. Women require 5-6 oz. per day of grains every day while men need 6-8 oz., with at least half of it all being whole-grain products. Unfortunately, most of the people consume the refined form of pure grains, which has poor nutritional value. Try choosing food products instead that are prepared using the entire grain as they have the most of the nutrients.
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3) Meat, Fish, Chicken, Eggs & Beans, Pulses etc. - All of these are excellent sources of protein as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals. While lean meat such as chicken, fish and certain cuts of beef and pork are best for proteins, nuts such as almonds, walnuts, flax seeds and legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, are also wonderfully rich in protein. Soy-based products such as tofu and tempeh also contain useful amounts of protein and are a healthy alternative for those who don't eat meat. On an average, an adult woman needs 5-5.5 oz. of protein per day and an adult man needs 6-6.5 oz. of protein per day, with about 8 oz. per week ideally coming from sea food.
4) Milk and Dairy Products - These provide calcium, protein, vitamin D as well as some other essential nutrients. It is advisable to stay with low-fat or fat-free products though, in order to reap the health benefits without consuming too much fat. Use skimmed or fat-free milk, low fat hard cheeses or cottage cheese or only small portions of full-fat cheeses, low fat, low sugar yogurt. An excellent alternative to dairy products are unsweetened, calcium-fortified plant-based milk and milk products like soya milk, soya yogurt, soya cheese, flaxseed milk, almond milk etc.
5) Oils - These should be taken in small amounts as they usually contain too much fat and high on calories. Try to use healthy options such as olive oil and avoid using fatty vegetable oil while cooking.
Apart from incorporating these essential foods and food groups, it is equally important to consume plenty of fluids and at the same time, go easy on saturated fats and sugar in your diet. Saturated fats can lead to higher cholesterol levels in the blood whereas, regularly eating foods and drinks that are high in sugar can lead to obesity, tooth decay and diabetes.
Balanced Diet and Exercise: Should you eat more if you exercise a lot?
No. Irrespective of their activity levels, everyone should adopt a healthy, balanced diet that provides ALL of the essential nutrients in correct amount, instead of loading up on meals.
Even if you are exercising more than once a day or if you are an active athlete, you still need to stick to a balanced diet. To fulfill your higher energy requirements though, you can include foods that are rich in carbs such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, cereals, potatoes etc. You can also add fish, eggs, nuts and lean meat to stock up on essential fats and enrich your muscles.
All said and done, it is always better to engage a qualified health professional, sports nutritionist or dietitian to find out the best diet suited to your individual requirements and the type of activity that you are involved in.
Balanced Diet and Weight Loss
To shed weight or in other words, body fat, you must consume less energy via your daily diet than the amount you are able to burn every day. A balanced diet alone will not be able to achieve weight loss though, you will need to undergo weight loss programs that involve regular exercising.
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Some important points that you must keep in mind while following a balanced diet for weight loss are as follows:
- Reduce fat intake in your diet
- Reduce sugar intake as well as alcohol consumption
- Include smaller amounts of carbs (whole-wheat bread, rice, pasta) and essential fats (nuts, seeds, oily fish)
- Increase protein intake to build muscle mass (chicken, fish, lean meat, low-fat or fat-free dairy products)
- Include lots of fruits and vegetables
- Include daily physical exercises that range from 30 minutes to an hour everyday
- Drink ample water gradually throughout the day and shortly before every meal. This helps to flush out the toxins and allows for proper kidney function. Both of which leads to greater weight loss results.
How to Make a Balanced Diet Chart for a Healthy Life?
Ideally, a good balanced diet chart aims at limiting all the excess energy intake and at the same time, also ensures that none of the essential nutrients is missing out in the diet. Importantly enough, a daily healthy diet chart goes hand-in-hand with a regular exercise program and a healthy lifestyle.
Key Points to consider in a Balanced Diet Chart
i) Should include 5-6 daily meals in small amounts
ii) Should contain 50% carbohydrates, 30% proteins, 10% fats and 5% water
iii) Must avoid alcohol, smoking and tobacco
iv) Must incorporate a regular workout schedule of 30-45 minutes
v) Must include ample sleeping hours daily (6-7 hours)
A Sample Balanced Diet Chart Outline
Breakfast - 1 Glass of milk, 2 whole eggs, oats or cereals with cold milk. (This should be ideally taken within 1 hour of waking up)
Mid-Morning Meal - Fruits (Apple, Strawberries, Oranges, Watermelons) followed by green tea
Lunch - Salad, Whole-wheat Bread (two ideally), vegetables, lean red meat like chicken, fish or mutton, tofu
Evening - Sprouts, nuts, dry fruits with coffee/tea/juice (to be taken after 2 hours of lunch)
Dinner - Light meal that includes soups, salads, soybeans, boiled/steamed veggies
It is important to mention here that while following any form of a balanced diet plan, you should never skip breakfast and always include a workout routine that takes care of any extra calories that you might have taken with your diet. Also, you must avoid eating saturated fat foods such as pizza, regular cheese, desserts, bacon and fries to the maximum extent possible. All of these lead to unhealthy weight gain and unwanted calories in the body. Instead, try to include as much of leafy vegetables, fruits, cereals and milk as you can in your diet. These go a long way in helping you stay fit.
How Does Balanced Diet Help Us? Or How Can a Balanced Diet Affect Your Health?
By eating healthy and following a balanced diet meal plan, you stand to achieve the following benefits:
- Proper growth, development and maintenance of your body
- Strengthen your immunity system to help it fight off allergies, diseases and infections
- Avoid risks of developing major illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer etc.
- Avoid unwanted and unhealthy weight gain or weight loss
- High levels of energy and stamina that helps you carry out daily activities at maximum efficiency
- An overall healthy personality that reflects in everything you do in life
Eating healthy is your key to an active and happy life. On top of that, you should also include exercising or gym or other activities such as dancing, playing in the ground, gardening, and even household chores in your daily routine. Always choose the healthier option - walk instead of driving, use stairs instead of elevators, eat fresh fruits and veggies instead of processed or fried foods/snacks, catch up with your friends instead of spending your day cooped up inside your house. All of these activities help you attain physical as well as mental wellness, and help you lead a long and joyful life.
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