Nutritional Expert- Saba Shaikh, Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
What Is Balanced Diet
The importance of a balanced diet can’t be emphasized enough for a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle can be attained by maintaining a balanced diet and keeping into consideration to meet all the essential nutrients required by the body. A proper meal plan helps to attain ideal body weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular and other types of cancer. (1)
When we talk about a balanced diet it means choosing a variety of foods from the different food groups – specifically: vegetables and fruits; protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans, soy); dairy (low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt); carbohydrates (starchy foods like rice, pasta, potatoes and bread – preferably wholegrain or wholewheat varieties); and a small quantity of healthy fats such as the unsaturated fat from olive oil. Avoid sugary drinks and foods, and foods with added saturated fat like processed meats, chips, pastries, and pies. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and to help your body function better. (2)
Calories are an indicator of the energy content in the food. Once you intake the food, the calories are consumed when you walk, think, or breathe. On average, a person may require about 2000 calories a day to maintain their body weight. Generally, a person’s calories may depend on their gender, age, and physical activity. Moreover, men need more calories than women. Again, people who are more into exercising require more calories in comparison to people who don’t. It’s also important to remember that the source of calories is equally important as the amount. Stuffing your food with empty calories, i.e. those that don’t contain any nutritional value doesn’t help in any way. Empty calories can be found in foods such as: Sugar, Butter, Cookies, Cakes, Energy drinks, Ice cream, Pizza. (1)
What Are The Benefits Of A Balanced Diet?
- Prevents diseases and infections. When you eat the full range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you improve your immune system and your healthy diet may even help prevent diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
- Helps you control your weight. Most people at some point want to lose weight or gain weight, eating a balanced diet helps you control your weight and maintain it over time. It is not feasible to be on a weight-loss diet forever, a balanced diet is the only way to healthily control your weight in the long term.
- Improves your mental health. Getting the right mix of nutrients can help to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety – looking after yourself by eating well is essential as you take steps to good mental health.
- Good for growth. A balanced diet is crucial for children and adolescents. As the body grows it is important to receive the right nutrients so that cells are built and maintained and the body grows at the right pace.
- Better skin and hair. A healthy balanced diet also improves your looks. Eating well contributes to healthy skin and hair and a “glow” that makes you look younger. (2)
The Importance Of A Healthy Lifestyle
It’s not just a balanced diet that’s enough but also healthy practices of eating. Some of them which you can follow are:
• Eat-in smaller portions – You can do this by eating in small bowls to trick your brain into thinking it to be larger portions.
• Take time to eat – Not rushing your meals in between other work but taking the time to nourish your meals can send signals to your brain that you’ve had enough food necessary for functioning.
• Cut down on snacks – Unhealthy snacks are a strict no as they hamper your hunger. Switching to healthy bite-sized food can help.
• Curb emotional eating – Binge eating can be extremely harmful. Using it to relieve yourself from stress, sadness, or anxiety may affect your health. Instead, you can use healthier alternatives to beat negative emotions. (1)
• Opting for a balanced, adequate and varied diet is an important step towards a happy and healthy lifestyle.
• Vitamins and minerals in the diet are vital to boost immunity and healthy development.
• A healthy diet can protect the human body against certain types of diseases, in particular noncommunicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer and skeletal conditions.
• Healthy diets can also contribute to an adequate body weight.
• Healthy eating is a good opportunity to enrich life by experimenting with different foods from different cultures, origins and with different ways to prepare food.
• The benefits of eating a wide variety of foods are also emotional, as variety and colour are important ingredients of a balance diet. (3)