How to Eat a Balanced Diet

Why do you Need a Balanced Diet

Many chronic health problems, such as obesity, coronary heart problems, diabetes etc, could well be the result of a lack of balance in your diet. A well balanced diet is your ticket to health and happiness. A balanced diet contains different types of food in adequate quantities, with all the necessary nutrients needed for healthy growth and an active life. A well balanced diet should contain a balance of macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. Macronutrients include fats, carbohydrates and proteins, which provide the calories to meet the energy needs of the body. Micro-nutrients, on the other hand, are necessary to maintain biological functions of vital organs and help guard against diseases. Eating a variety of foods helps you to get all these nutrients into your diet. The trick is to maintain the right balance without having too much or too little of some kinds of food.

A Well Balanced Diet
A Well Balanced Diet | Source
Lentils and whole grains
Lentils and whole grains | Source

How to Eat a Well Balanced Diet?

1. Carbohydrates: Daily requirement: 300-500 gm/day

Base your meals on carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and cereals. These provide you the energy for functioning actively throughout your day. This part of your meal should not be more than one third of your daily requirement. When you choose foods in this group, it would be beneficial to your health to avoid refined foods and choose those foods that consist of whole grains. Processed and refined foods are low in fibre and nutrients, which are so important for the proper functioning of the body. Fibre helps cleanse the system of unwanted fats and toxins. It prevents obesity, cardiac problems and helps maintain healthy blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

2. Fruits and vegetables: The next important part of your diet should consist of fruits, green leafy vegetables, and legumes. This again should comprise another third of your meal. Fruits and vegetables should form a part of every meal. In fact, you should make it a healthy habit to snack on fruits and vegetables between meals, since they provide all the micronutrients without the excess fats and calories. They also provide the much-needed dietary fibre for the body.

Dietary fibres constitute food substances (particularly carbohydrates) which are not digested by the body. These fibers absorb water, facilitate intestinal movement, and have a role in weight reduction and lowering of cholesterol. A deficiency of fiber leads to constipation, heart diseases and gallstones.

Sources: Whole wheat, whole pulses (edible seeds) and the skins of fruits and vegetables.

A Balanced Diet
A Balanced Diet | Source

3. Milk and dairy foods should form the next part of your diet. It is best to use skimmed milk or low fat milk to avoid the excess fat in homogenized milk. Vegans, or those with lactose intolerance and others who simply do not like the taste of milk, could substitute milk products with soy products. This is an important part of your diet, as your body needs calcium for healthy bones, teeth and other vital functions.

4. Proteins: This food group includes both animal and plant sources of protein, which is a major functional and structural component of all cells. Animal sources are milk and its products, eggs, meat and fish, while plant sources include pulses, cereals, dry fruits, nuts and beans. Proteins normally meet only about 10-15% of the body’s energy needs, as their main role is to build up new tissues during the period of growth and in pregnancy. They are also essential for the repair and maintenance of worn out body tissues.

A good way to increase your protein intake is to include more fish or poultry. You might consider avoiding red, fat-laden meats and switching to lean meats. Eating at least five servings of fish a week keeps you healthy and strong. However, it is also important to note that protein intake more than about 1 gram per kg of body weight results in increased fat deposits and its associated risks.

5. Fats: Fats improve the taste of food, they are essential for absorption of vitamins, provide support to the body’s internal vital organs and insulation against cold. They are also a source for essential fatty acids, which promote growth, maintain healthy skin and reduce blood cholesterol. The daily requirement for fat is 10-20 gm per day.

However, it is important to cut down on saturated fats and sugar. Switch to good healthy oils, but try to keep down the amount of oil you use in your cooking. Remember that you get more calories from fats than other food groups. One gram of fat gives you nine calories – two times what you would get from eating the same amount of protein or carbohydrates.

Dietary Requirements for Various Age Groups

 
 
Activity Level b
Activity Level c
Activity Level d
Gender
Age (years)
Sedentary b
Moderately Active c
Active d
Child
2–3
1,000
1,000–1,400
1,000–1,400e
Female
4–8
1,200
1,400–1,600
1,400–1,800
 
9–13
1,600
1,600–2,000
1,800–2,200
 
14–18
1,800
2,000
2,400
 
19–30
2,000
2,000–2,200
2,400
 
31–50
1,800
2,000
2,200
 
51+
1,600
1,800
2,000–2,200
Male
4–8
1,400
1,400–1,600
1,600–2,000
 
9–13
1,800
1,800–2,200
2,000–2,600
 
14–18
2,200
2,400–2,800
2,800–3,200
 
19–30
2,400
2,600–2,800
3,000
 
31–50
2,200
2,400–2,600
2,800–3,000
 
51+
2,000
2,200–2,400
2,400–2,800
 
 
b Sedentary - a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
c Moderately active - a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical dayto-day life
d Active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
Source: HHS/USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005 a These levels are based on Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) from the Institute of Medicine Dietary.

To calculate your BMR

English BMR Formula

Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )

Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age in year )

Metric BMR Formula

Women: BMR = 655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kilos ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )

Men: BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) - ( 6.8 x age in years )

Source Harris Bennet Equation

Make the Balanced Diet even more Effective

  • Cut down on salt: Your salt intake should not exceed 6 grams per day. Excessive intake of salt could cause problems such as hypertension and increased blood volume, which could weaken your heart.
  • Water: Choose water if you are thirsty or hungry. Cut down on sodas, and caffeinated drinks as they only give you empty calories. Water is the medium in which most of the chemical reactions of the body take place. More than 70% of the body is water, and loss of even 10% of total body fluids makes a person feel extremely tired and lacking in energy. Exercise is important: A balanced diet alone is not enough. You need to maintain an active life and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Skipping breakfast or any other meal is not a great idea: You would end up being tired and eat more at the end of the day, thereby storing more fat. This could also reduce your metabolic rate and cause you to add more weight.

Eat Healthy

Some people believe that it is expensive to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It can be even cheaper than eating out if you chose wisely and learn to cook your own meals.

You need to try different kinds of foods; this not only makes meal times more fun, but also brings about a balance. This helps you to get different groups of micronutrients into your diet. Change and variety makes cooking and eating more enjoyable. Trying out different healthy recipes makes eating at home a better experience.

Take care of portion sizes. There is a lot of wisdom in the general advice to use a small plate. A small plate gives you the feeling that you have more than enough food. Visual satisfaction is more important, you would generally feel full when your mind tells you so.

Chewing you food thoroughly and eating slowly is another way to feel full. After fifteen minutes, your mind would tell you that you have had enough, so it is important to chew slowly through the first fifteen minutes of your meal. This also helps avoid indigestion and heartburn (acid reflux).

Harris Benedict Formula

To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor

  1. If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
  2. If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
  3. If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
  4. If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
  5. If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9

Points to keep in mind while Planning a Balanced Diet

Here are some simple steps to help you go about planning a healthy, balanced diet every day.

  • List the food items, which you would enjoy or like to use from each food group.
  • Buy beans, cereals, whole grains etc., in bulk, and stock up. This will help you save yourself some money. You would find that soaking the beans, such as chickpeas overnight will reduce cooking time and you would have fresh food on the table without much trouble.
  • Stock your fridge with vegetables and fruits. You need to include them in every meal. Piling up your plate with vegetables and fruits would help you maintain your ideal weight. Using seasonal vegetables and fruits not only helps in reducing the cost of eating a well balanced diet, but it would also provide you with a wider range of fresh micronutrients.
  • Understand your daily calories requirement. This needs to be calculated based on your height, weight, age, activity level and gender. Here is a simple tool to help you calculate your BMR or Basal Metobolic Rate based on which you detrermine your daily calorie requirements. Now that you have determined your BMR you can use the table here to calculate your daily calorie requirements.
  • Make a list of the menus for the week. While planning your menu, rotate the ingredients or have a variety of ingredients to make your meals more interesting. Try new ways of cooking. You could perhaps get yourself a good cookbook of healthy recipes. Experimenting with new ingredients and styles of cooking could make your meals interesting. You could check out the USDA 7 day menu plan and base your menus on them. You need not necessarily follow the same menus, just substitute food items from your list.
  • If you have been used to eating unhealthy food, or find it difficult to change over completely, you could gradually add in a few good elements until you switch over to a healthy diet.

Eating a well balanced diet is an investment into your health and future. Obesity, cardiac problems and diabetes are some of the biggest problems in most parts of the world today. Switching to a well balanced diet could take care of these, while helping you live a full life. Choose health today; choose a well balanced diet.

More by this Author


Comments 16 comments

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States

I definitely believe that you need to eat less calories at age thirty. I definitely feel like my metabolism has gotten a lot worse since I turned thirty. I used to cut back when I needed to drop five pounds and they melt away. Now I cut back pounds, and there is no reaction in my body.

I am sad to see that it will slow down again when I'm fifty. I just love eating. (I noticed this from your chart).


mizjo profile image

mizjo 4 years ago from New York City, NY

Since I started living with my unmarried daughter, a vegetarian, I have cut down drastically on meat, and I can't remember what year I last ate a hamburger! My intake of fruits and vegetables and pulses have increased dramatically.

Guess what? I couldn't be healthier if I tried. My BMR is well within healthy limits and my diet is balanced, with all the essential food groups.

Unfortunately, the waistline hasn't responded. My metabolism has definitely gone way down south and no matter how I count the calories, age has me defeated. My little spare tire is here to stay. But I can live with that.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Great job on this hub topic! I am all for loading up on those healthy veggies. It is amazing at how much drinking water helps in keeping your weight balanced and appetite curbed.


mwilliams66 profile image

mwilliams66 4 years ago from Left Coast, USA

First rate hub sofs. I have been working very hard to improve my eating habits as of late. Your informative article will certainly help me along my journey to healthful living.


Cheds profile image

Cheds 4 years ago from Maine

This is going to be extremely useful for me right now! I'm working hard on getting healthier. Thanks for writing this!


claudi1176 profile image

claudi1176 4 years ago from Greenville, SC

It is amazing that you really only need about 1800 calories a day and then you look at some restaurant menus and it is quite shocking how many calories some dishes have. That is why I love to cook and eat at home :) and cause you can eat in Pj pants!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Interesting and helpful article. The old cliché is true, 'You are what you eat' I do eat healthy. I might slip in a little chocolate now and then, now we're told that chocolate is good for you. Woopee!!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Angela, LOL aren't we all struggling with those problems? I believe we need to eat sensibly and be more active... Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. Have a great day!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

mizjo, wow! wow!... to be able to change to a healthy lifestyle like that is awesome. I am sure with a little more activity you would see an hourglass figure too... But healthy sounds awesome to me :) Thanks for sharing this with us.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

teaches12345, stock up on those veggies and fruits and shift gears... I agree with you on the water bit... I always reach out for a glass of water.. when I am hungry and boy has it helped! Writing this hub just made me appreciate all the changes I have made in my life.. Thanks, your comments are greatly appreciated.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

mwilliams66, I am so happy for you, that you are working on improving your eating habits. Small changes can make the difference.. keep working... :) Thanks for your comments I appreciate them very much. Have a lovely day.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Cheds, Thanks for stopping by... I am sure with all that planned activity and great food habits your health is going to be at its best... Have a great day!


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

claudi1176, Great point there.. I too love to cook at home, since I have two growing children and I need to be sure that they get all the nourishment they need:) Thanks for stopping by... Have a lovely day.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Hi Ruby, dark chocolate is indeed good for you... enjoy your chocolate :) I love them too :) Have a lovely day!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Excellent hub, Sofs. We've been wondering where you've been hiding these past several days from Sandpit, and I told everyone I was going on an expedition to find you. Heck, you weren't lost at all...merely pumping out these quality hubs filled with useful and interesting (and important!) information.

Thorough information here that is very helpful for someone (and that would probably include 80% of the readers), who is in need of a gentle reminder re: healthy eating. Great job-voted up/U/I


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago Author

Denise, Wow! you have been reading all my hubs and I find it difficult to keep pace with you LOL :) I have had too much happening out here... I will be there in a moment :) Thanks lady for this wonderful comment, I appreciate this very much. Have a great day.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working