Having a balanced diet simply means eating the right type of food in the right amounts at the recommended levels in order for your body to take in the nutrients it needs for health. It is important to have one as it ensures the prevention of obesity, diabetes, some types of cancer and diseases.
According to the 'Australian guide to healthy eating', the number of daily servings required from each food group to meet your body's daily nutrient needs can be roughly broken down into the following:
Carbohydrates: 6 – 9
Protein: 1 – 2
Fats: 1 Dairy: 2 – 3
Next thing you would need to know is what constitutes 1 serving of a food group.
• 1 slice of bread
• 1 cup of Rice or pasta or noodles
• ¾ cup of ready to eat cereal
• 1 medium bread roll
• 70 – 90 grams of cooked lean meat / fish / poultry
• 2 small eggs or 1 large egg
• ½ cup peanuts / almonds
• 2 small lamb chops
• 1 tsp of vegetable oil / butter / peanut butter
• 5 grams of fat in food such as cakes and pastries
• 1 cup of yogurt / milk
• ½ cup of ice cream
• 1 slice of cheese
• ½ cup of freshly squeezed juice
• 1 apple / orange / banana
• ½ cup of chopped fresh fruit
• ¼ cup of raisins or dried fruit.
• Half a cup of cooked vegetables
• One whole tomato
• 10 baby carrots
• 1 cup of salad vegetables
Now, a major problem in trying to follow this guide to ensure that your body has all the nutrients it needs to be healthy, is that a person would have to consume (for example), a minimum of 2 slices of bread, 4 cups of rice, 70 grams of cooked meat cooked in some vegetable oil, 2 cups of yogurt, 2 apples, 30 baby carrots and 4 cups of cooked vegetables per day. Though this may be easily achievable by some, for many others, especially those who live extremely busy lives or are trying to reduce their portion size and calories to lose weight , it is not. Thus, I have outlined a few recommendations and tips on how to achieve a balanced healthy diet.
• Try choosing high-nutrient density foods such as a sandwich that is packed with lean meat and vegetables. This will provide a higher amount of vitamins and minerals without too much calories
• Avoid foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients. These are mainly foods like candy, soft drinks and cake.
• Always serve a salad with your main meal for lunch and dinner. This will ensure you will increase your intake of vegetables.
• Swap rice / pasta / noodles for bread, 1 slice of bread is already 1 serving of carbohydrates!
• A cup of freshly squeezed juice in the morning covers your recommended daily intake of fruit
• If you have a busy lifestyle or, you're trying to lose weight and still finding it hard to meet the daily requirements, it is also a good idea to try and take supplements. Supplements can ensure that your body will receive all the nutrients it needs if you're unable to consume enough food for your body to extract the required vitamins and nutrients to reach optimum health.
However, please keep in mind that it is important not to replace your real fruits and vegetables with the supplements (if you choose to take them). Nothing can ever replace a healthy diet!