A simple guide to eating a balanced diet
By Roy Kim, Apr 15 2015
Eating a balanced diet may be as daunting as rocket science but it really does not have to be. As long as you follow the basics and include a balance of a variety of foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables you should be reaping all the benefits. The types of diets that are out there are absolutely limitless : paleo or vegetarian, gluten free or whole grains. Although, some of them are complete opposites if there is variety and balance then a wholesome diet can be attained.
Tailor Your Diet
There is no single cookie cutter diet that is perfect for everyone because everyone’s lifestyle and health differs, so diets must be tailored for each person. Whether, you are male, female, an athlete, pregnant, vegan or vegetarian, lactose intolerant or have certain medical conditions your daily nutritional requirements will differ and your diet must be tailored to specific needs and goals. If you are an athlete/ train regularly or pregnant you need to make sure that you are providing your body with enough calories and protein to fuel your body and replenish your energy. There are basic dietary requirements that everyone needs and all you need to do is tweak to be fit your goals and you should be in good standing.
Follow the Basics
Our bodies require six essential nutrients for proper functioning and fuel. These include: protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Protein should make up 10 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. These numbers differ with age, physical activity and other factors and there are many online tools that help determine specific requirements.The amount of carbohydrates consumed daily should make up 45 to 65 percent of your total calories for the day. Limit or avoid refined and processed carbs such as white pasta, bread and sugar and aim for whole wheat and whole grain products. Of course let’s not forget our 5 a day- that is 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. In general it equals to two cups of fruit a day and 3 cups of veggies a day. Incorporate these into every meal and as much variety as possible to you are getting all those antioxidants and vitamins.
Breakfast is the first meal of the day and it gets you off to a great start by powering you up. Having a protein filled meal and some berries or veggies will provide your body with steady fuel. Our bodies burn more calories digesting protein as compared to carbs and protein keeps us fuller longer and powers us through the day. Foods high in added sugar content and refined carbs should be avoided at breakfast, because they will cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then you will experience the dreadful crash. Start your day with some protein: eggs, low-fat yogurt or a tofu scramble and add berries or veggies- which are rich in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins.
Eating small amounts of food more frequently throughout the day keeps your blood sugar steady and your metabolism active. They key to mastering snacking is being mindful of the portion size and making sure that it is filled with nutrients, making it really count. Healthy snack ideas include: banana with nut butter, veggies with dip or a healthy beef jerky snack.
Choosing healthy breakfast and lunch meals will prevent the afternoon slump which is caused by a drop in blood sugar levels. A good lunch combination is lean protein and starchy carbs. As mentioned before refined and processed carbs like white bread or pasta and added sugars make the blood sugar spike. For lunch you want to choose carbs such as whole grain or whole wheat toast, barley or buckwheat. You can choose a sandwich on rye bread with a protein such as: salmon, turkey, chicken or lean beef; or a salad with fresh greens and a whole grain like quinoa or barley and a protein of your choice.
If you need a little pick me up before dinner time comes you can reach for snack filled with protein and healthy fats. It will keep you full longer and give you energy if you are heading out to work out. You can snack on a mix of dried fruit and nuts, healthy jerky or greek yogurt with some fruit.
Dinner can be kept light and healthy with plenty of veggies, you may want to include some fiber rich grains and/or some protein such as fish, chicken or tofu depending on your calorie needs. Dinner is a time when you can wind down and get creative and colorful with those veggies which are low in calories and fat but high in vitamins and minerals; aim to fill half of your plate with veggies.
It is important to remember that food is energy and fuel for our bodies and it must be balanced so that the energy used equals the energy consumed. If there is no balance then we run into malnutrition and chronic diseases. Additionally, in order for our bodies to function efficiently, the fuel must be clean, balanced and wholesome.