What Is a Balanced Diet?
The topic of what makes a balanced diet has undergone radical changes since the 1920's four food groups and then again with the release of the food pyramid guide in 1992. Today, the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes for Health make the following statement: "A balanced diet means getting the right types and amounts of foods and drinks to supply nutrition and energy for maintaining body cells, tissues, and organs, and for supporting normal growth and development." It may be helpful to you to break it down into the following categories: carbohydrates, ...view middle of the document...
Where to Begin
Two examples of a balanced eating pattern are the USDA Food Guide at MyPyramid.gov and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH Diet).
Both eating patterns emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as low or no-fat dairy products, and lean animal proteins. Fish is recommended at least two times per week, beans, nuts and seeds are encouraged, and unsaturated fats are always the fats of choice - like olive oil.
What About Calories?
Your balanced diet must be planned at your own calorie level, and portion size is key. You want to get the most nutrients for the calories by choosing food with a high-nutrient density. Nutrient-dense foods provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat and fish, and whole grains and beans. Low-nutrient dense foods have few vitamins but lots of calories, such as candy bars, soda, donuts and onion rings.
A high nutrient-dense lunch would look something like this:
2 slices whole wheat bread
1 slice roasted red pepper
1 tsp mayonnaise
8 oz non-fat milk
A low nutrient-dense lunch would look something like this:
One ground beef hamburger patty
Two hamburger buns
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 slice American cheese
Order of French fries, fried in peanut oil
Large regular soda