Balanced Nutrition

Balanced nutrition means eating a variety of foods from all the groups to achieve the right amounts of carbohydrates, fats, protein, minerals, vitamins and fiber. It also limits added sugars, salt, saturated and trans fats, and calorie intake.

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The precise make-up of a healthy diet will vary depending on age, gender, lifestyle and dietary customs, but it should include all the groups.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are low in calories and fat and provide dietary fibre. They can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Most countries have dietary recommendations that include fruit and vegetables. They often divide fruits and vegetables by colour categories, which makes sense for menu planning but does not always correspond with nutrient content.

However, it can be confusing to know whether a food is a fruit or a vegetable. For example, tomatoes are generally considered to be vegetables, but botanically speaking, they are a fruit. This is why it is important to be aware of how much fruit and vegetables you are eating each day. You should aim for at least five servings per day excluding starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and cassava. This will help you get the optimum balance of nutrients that you need. You should also try to eat a variety of colours to get the full range of antioxidants.

Grains

Grains are a staple food in many cultures around the world. They provide essential carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Cereal grains are the edible seeds of grasses from the botanical family ‘Poaceae’ including wheat, barley, rye, freekeh, millet and corn (maize).

Grains can be whole or refined. When a grain is whole it contains the bran, germ and endosperm in their original proportions. When the bran and germ are removed during processing, creating flour or other forms of grains, the result is called a refined grain. Refined grains are less healthy than whole grains, as they do not contain the fiber and iron that are found in the bran and germ.

To get the most nutritional benefits from grains, try to eat at least half of your grains as whole grains. This will help prevent nutrient deficiencies and promote a healthy weight. If you cannot consume whole grains at every meal, a good alternative is to choose enriched or fortified grains that have added nutrients (such as B vitamins, folic acid and iron) after processing.

Dairy

In a world of TikTok wellness claims, it’s easy to get the impression that dairy is either bad or good for us. But it’s important to understand the role dairy plays in a balanced diet, especially if you have lactose intolerance or are concerned about animal rights.

Dairy foods are rich sources of calcium, vitamin D and protein. They provide the building blocks of strong bones and are an important part of a healthy weight management plan.

The dairy group includes milk, yogurt and cheese, and other products made from or containing milk like kefir, curd, butter, ghee, sour cream and cream cheese. It also includes foods made from milk that have been processed to create reduced fat or non-fat versions, such as low-fat and skim milk, or fortified soy products. The goal is to eat enough foods from the dairy group that are low in fat and added sugars. This is called balancing your plate.

Protein

A healthy diet requires protein, carbohydrates, fats or lipids and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates should make up about 50- 60% of your diet, while proteins should be around 10 to 12%. The other important components are fats or lipids and water.

Proteins are made up of amino acids and some can be made in the body while others cannot. Those that can’t are known as essential amino acids and must be supplied by the diet. Animal products are good sources of these, but also plant foods such as beans, nuts, seeds and grains can provide them.

A balanced nutrition plan is important for everyone regardless of age, weight or dietary restrictions and includes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and protein and limiting empty calories from foods and drinks. It’s also important to listen to your body and honor hunger and fullness cues and drink plenty of water. This helps reduce your risk for overweight and obesity and promotes overall health.