What Is a Balanced Diet?
A balanced diet is one that includes:
Why Should I Eat a Balanced Diet?
A balanced diet can provide all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrient that your body needs. This diet will also supports your overall health and well-being. It will help you to look and feel your best.
When combined with regular physical activity, a balanced diet can help prevent conditions such as:
How to Eat a Balanced Diet
Balancing each meal with the proper food groups and the correct amount of food is the start of a balanced diet. At first you will need to plan each meal. Once you are more comfortable with food groups and portion sizes, it will be easier to create balanced meals. Some key tips from the United States Department of Agriculture include:
Choose My Plate is a website of the US Department of Agriculture. It can help you identify foods by their food group and show how much of each food to include in a meal.
Exact amounts of each food group and calories you will vary based on your age, sex, and activity level. The website has a tool called the SuperTracker to help you create a personalized eating plan. You will also be able to track your diet.
A Closer Look at the Food Groups
There are two main types of grains: refined and whole. Refined grains are are grain products missing the nutritional elements of the whole grain because of processing. Enriched grains have nutrients like vitamins, folic acid, and iron added back in.
Whole grains are made from the entire grain seed, which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains come in a many varieties. You may see labels with the words cracked, crushed, or flaked. Many grains are also a source of dietary fiber.
Grains Balanced Eating Guide
Daily amount: 6 ounces
Labels are not always what they seem, so learn to read them in order to maximize your food knowledge. For example, whole wheat bread is not the same as whole grain bread. Ideally, whole grain should be the first ingredient on the list.
Vegetables can be divided into five subgroups: dark green, orange, dry beans and peas, starchy, and other. Each of these groups provides different nutritional values. Vegetables in the dark green and orange groups are rich in vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants.
Vegetables in the dry beans and peas group provide considerable amounts of protein, iron, and zinc. They are also considered part of the protein group.
Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn, contain more carbohydrate than other vegetables and are sometimes treated as part of the grains group. If you are keeping track of what you are eating, count them in one group, not both.
Vegetables Balanced Eating Guide
Daily amount: 2.5 cups.
When it comes to fruit, fresh, dried, frozen, or canned are all excellent choices. Fruit juice packs in a lot of calories and does not contain all the added fiber of foods eaten in their whole form. Like vegetables, fruits are an important source of vitamins and antioxidants.
Fruits Balanced Eating Guide
Daily Amount: 2 cups
Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium, and milk is also fortified with vitamin D, a vitamin that many of us would otherwise not get enough of. Individuals who choose not to eat dairy should be sure to include other calcium-rich or calcium-fortified foods in their diet. You may also consider supplements of calcium and vitamin D.
Dairy Balanced Eating Guide
Daily Amount: 3 cups
Proteins Balanced Eating Guide
Daily Amount: 5.1 ounces
Other Foods and Beverages
Foods and beverages high in added sugar or solid fat should be consumed in limited amounts. These foods include cookies, cake, ice cream, soda, muffins, French fries, and potato chips. For the most part, these foods are low in nutrients and high in calories.
Other Foods and Beverages Eating Guide
Daily amount: <265 calories
Alcoholic beverages, if consumed, should be limited to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Suggestions on Eating a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet will help you meet all your nutrient needs and stay healthy. Here are some final suggestions on how to eat a balanced diet:
Remember to go slowly. You do not have to make drastic changes when starting out. Try simple daily substitutions. Before you know it, you will be eating right every day.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
Dietitians of Canada
Health Canada Food and Nutrition
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.... . Accessed February 12, 2013.
Food Groups. United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website.Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov . Accessed February 12, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN