Most nutritionists recommend a diet that is balanced for anyone to remain fit and healthy. The exact meaning of a balanced diet, however, is not very clear in everybody’s mind. A balanced diet is not like a crash diet as it allows you to eat everything that an average adult should, but in optimum proportions.
Moreover, to maintain a proper balance, you cannot indulge in only one type of food. This would result in you missing out on essential nutrition that comes from comprehensive meals. A ‘balanced diet’ is complete only when you have a variety of food from all food groups contributing to your nutrition intake.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, a diet which comes from a healthy mix of carbohydrates, proteins, calcium, fat, vitamins and minerals, is ideally a ‘Balanced Diet’. With reference to the Indian food habit, our traditional diet is considered to be healthy. Since an average Indian diet consists of cereals, grains, pulses, legumes, milk products, oils, nuts, fruits and vegetables, you can easily plan a balanced meal from these food products.
4 Reasons for you to start a balanced diet right away
- The vitamins and minerals you consume from a wider range of foods help maintain your cells, tissues, and organs.
- A good diet keeps you fit, allows you to maintain a healthy weight, reduces the fat percentage in your body, and gives you energy.
- Proper nutrition leads to improved immunity, thus ensuring that you don’t fall sick too often.
- A well-balanced meal helps in improved brain functions and keeps your mind active.
Nutrition derived from a balanced diet
The concept of a balanced diet is nothing but a practical execution of the food chart that we had studied in school. It includes all food groups and gives us the required amount of nutrition from each of them.
Pulses, legumes (peas, rajma, chana, soybean etc.), eggs, fish, and meat are the main sources of protein in a regular meal. The Indian diet is, by and large, based on vegetable sources and there are selective food items that yield ample protein from a basic vegetarian diet, as opposed to fish and poultry. However, including enough lentils and legumes in your daily meal can replenish the protein requirement.
Dairy items like ghee and butter, seed-based oils from olive, rice bran, groundnut and sesame, dried nuts etc. are good sources of fat. Such fat is essential for your protein to function effectively and protect the vital organs. Nevertheless, you must keep a watch on your fat consumption, so you don’t overdo or under-do it. You can also include fish and other seafood in your diet since they are high in healthy fatty acids. Such healthy fat supports your brain function and is good for your liver.
Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, paneer, and animal products like eggs and some fishes can fulfill your daily calcium need. Those intolerant to milk products, or unable to source calcium naturally, can resort to alternative sources of calcium.
Vitamins and Minerals
All fruits, vegetables, and nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals. Vitamins help all other nutrients to do their work efficiently. Minerals, which you can derive from fish, seafood, and vegetables, work on your skin, hair, and bones.
Ideally, as ICMR states, an average healthy adult should break down their meals into 50% carbohydrate, 20% protein, and 30% fat. The vitamin and mineral intake will depend upon any deficiency or excess of the same in your body.
How to maintain your diet
Starting something is easy. Maintaining it over time is the most difficult task. But, here’s a quick checklist to help you continue with a healthy diet.
- Fix your meal times and stick to it. Ideally, you should eat 3 major meals and 2 snacks in a day, with a 3-4 hour gap between each, unless otherwise instructed by your physician.
- Try to get the major nutrients from each meal. A snack with a protein-carb-vitamin balance is healthier and more satiating than a carb-sugar based snack.
- Replace processed, packaged food with fruits, nuts, and fresh food.
- Limit your fat intake to the percentage required. Also, watch your sugar and salt consumption.
- Include more protein than starch in your meals. Balance it out with vegetables and fruits.
- Consider using whole grains like millets, quinoa, oats, brown rice and similar cereals.
- Be active- physically and mentally. Exercise helps break down the carbs and proteins so your muscles absorb the required nutrition.
- Have the necessary starch and healthy fats, so you don’t lose out on energy.
- Don’t forget your calcium and mineral intakes. If your meals don’t suffice for the necessary amount, consider food supplements, after consulting your physician.
- Drink at least 2-3 liters of water daily. Water helps break down your food and detoxify your body, so the essential nutrients can work properly.
- Last but not the least, sleep well. A balanced diet will only be effective if your body gets the necessary exercise and rest. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) remains steady and food is best digested when you are sleeping.
Food has a positive effect on us when we listen to our body and not just our taste-buds. A healthy diet, supplemented with exercise, good sleep, and positive thinking can comprise a balanced diet in its truest sense. Speak to India’s top dietitians to know what diet works best for you.