What Is “Balanced Diet?”
On average, you need to eat approximately 2,000 calories every day to maintain your current weight. If you are trying to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you are burning. The opposite rule applies when trying to gain weight. For the purposes of understanding a balanced diet, we will be looking at what needs to fill your diet, regardless of the number of calories you are targeting.
A balanced diet includes a specific amount of nutrients – protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Reaching these ideal amounts can be achieved by eating a specific number of servings from the key food groups. Think back to the food pyramid that you see in your doctor's office or your child's elementary school classroom. The USDA and Department of Health and Human Services recommend that you eat the following number of servings from each food group each day:
Bread, Cereal, Rice, Pasta – 6 to 11 servings
Vegetables – 3 to 5 servings
Fruit – 2 to 4 servings
Dairy – 2 to 3 servings
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts – 2 to 3 servings
Fats, Oils, Sweets – Limited
Understanding Your Caloric Intake
In a world full of fad diets and the next-best-way to burn fat, it is hard to find reliable information regarding what is good and what is bad in relation to a balanced diet. So, let's take a look at why your body needs different nutrients and what those nutrients do for you when you eat too little, too much, or just enough.
Protein is commonly recognized as the most important macronutrient in any style of diet. The body breaks protein down into amino acids that serve a number of purposes, including tissue growth, immune function, and nutrient transportation. Depending on your goals, you should be eating anywhere from 0.5 grams of protein to 2.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. We recommend you calculate your protein goals first and build the rest of your nutrient requirements around what is remaining.
Fats are another macronutrient that is inaccurately perceived as bad for you. Fats are actually an essential nutrient that is necessary for vitamin absorption, hormone regulation, brain function, and more. Eating fat doesn't mean that it automatically converts to fat in your body, thus a balanced diet that includes fats will not make you fat. Depending on your goals, fat consumption should fall between 0.35 grams and 0.7 grams of fat per pound of lean body mass.
Between Atkins and Ketogenic diets, carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap. As with anything else, in the right moderation, carbohydrates are necessary for a balanced diet. There are two types of carbs – simple and complex. Simple carbs offer little in the way of nutritional benefits, but complex carbohydrates are all part of what is considered a healthy diet. The body has limited storage availability for carbs, so they are used quickly when the body needs energy. Carbohydrates should fill the remaining calories in your diet after you've determined the right amount of protein and fat for your goals.
Vitamins & Minerals
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that provide nutritional benefits without actually providing substance. Getting the right amount of micronutrients is necessary for muscle growth, physical development, and immune support. There are quite a few micronutrients the body needs to function properly, most of which can be consumed through the foods we eat when following a balanced diet. A general rule of thumb is to eat a lot of different types and colors of vegetables to reach your micronutrient requirements. If this is difficult, which for many Americans it is, the next step is to supplement with a high quality multivitamin.
The Benefits Of A Balanced Diet
A balanced diet includes finding the right mix of servings from different sections of the food pyramid that add up to the right proportions of macronutrients. A balanced diet is a key to leading a happy and healthy lifestyle. Not only does a balanced diet play an essential role in weight management, but also helps the body fight disease, prevent diabetes, cardiovascular problems, cancer and some types of skeletal conditions. When you understand how what goes into your body affects the way it performs certain functions, you can achieve your physical goals much quicker in a much more sustainable fashion.
Need help incorporating a balanced diet into your lifestyle? Contact the nutrition expert at Whole Intent today for a consultation.