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The Guide To Eating a Balanced Diet For A Healthy Lifestyle

Updated: Feb 4, 2023


You body needs vitamins, minerals and nutrients in order for it to function properly. When you eat a balance diet, you are helping your body work at it's optimal state. A balanced diet contains the right portion sizes, essential amounts of proteins, carbs and healthy fats. Your body also needs a certain amount of calories in order to function well too. Whether you are trying to loose weight, or just wanting to live a healthier lifestyle, knowing what foods to eat to give your body what it needs is so important.


A balanced diet features foods from the following core elements:

  • ‌Proteins

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Grains

  • Fats/oils






Why Is a Balanced Diet Important?


As a personal trainer, I have been asked this question quite a few times. A balanced diet is so important to help your body maintain good health throughout your life. When you eat the right foods, you also decrease your risks of developing chronic health diseases and conditions such as diabetes and thyroid complications.


When you start paying attention to what foods are going into your body and eliminate sugary, salty and junk food your body will experience less fatigue, brain fog, and increase your immunity to illnesses.


A balanced diet also decreases heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and stroke.






Tip #2 - Choosing a Balanced Diet


When you consume foods that are nutrient-dense, such as whole foods that provide the most nutritional value for the number of calories created. Your body will be able to process high-quality components and fuels you for the long term. We all have experienced that 'crash' from sugar or caffeine. It usually gives you a boost of energy, but just a few short hours later, you feel more tired and then you drink or eat more sugar or caffeine just to keep up the boost of energy. It's almost like a never ending cycle.


When you consume high-quality foods, your body will process it differently, therefore creating more natural energy. Here's some foods that have a variety of nutrients that you can include in your balanced diet journey:

  • Vitamins

  • Minerals

  • Fiber

  • Healthy fats

  • Carbohydrates

  • Protein

  • Antioxidants





Foods to Avoid or Limit

It's really important to be able to limit or even try to avoid empty calories. When you are able to limit your intake of foods, you might even drop a few extra pounds!


Think of all those extra drinks that you consume throughout the day - whether it's a fancy Starbucks drink, or several sodas throughout the day - each of those can add up throughout the year.


Examples of this broad range of foods include:

  • Highly processed foods

  • Refined grains

  • Refined sugars

  • Sweetened drinks

  • Red and processed meats

  • Saturated and trans fats

  • High-glycemic foods


It's also important to be able to limit your intake of salt and added sugars. You aren't doing your body a favor by consuming these. Although, adding salt to your meals may taste good, but consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure and increase risks for heart disease and stroke.


Sugar is also so tasty - and highly addictive - while a little bit is okay, too much sugar has many side effects as well. Consuming too much sugar can cause tooth decay, obesity and even diabetes. Not to mention too much sugar can also increase risks for liver inflammation or scarring, elevated blood pressure, weight gain, or even some cancers.





Comfort Foods


I don't know about you, but I really enjoy 'the comfort foods'. I grew up eating biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy. We also fried a lot of foods. Oh yes...everything tastes better when it is fried! - but, that's just how Southerns cook. Even though they are comfort foods, and so very unhealthy to eat all the time, I still enjoy them in moderation.


Healthy eating is all about balance (hence the name balanced diet). You can enjoy your favorite foods, even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while and balancing them with healthier foods and more physical activity.


Some general tips for comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. You can eat that piece of cake on your birthday, or even have a scoop of ice cream. - Just make sure you don't do this everyday.

  • Eat smaller amounts. If you buy a candy bar, try to limit yourself to eat one square so you aren't consuming the entire bar.

  • Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if you like pasta, you can try a veggie spiralizer and use zucchini or another type of squash. You can even substitute cauliflower rice for regular rice. Just remember to not increase your portion size.





Tip #4 - The Six Core Food Elements


When you are starting to change your eating habits and gear towards consuming a balanced diet, remember that you can start with the right portion sizes so that you aren't overeating.


Here's the six core food groups and the correct portion sizes:


Proteins


Proteins should make up ¼ of your plate, or about 5.5 ounces each day. Try to choose lean red meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, and seeds.


Fruits


Fruits should make up ¼ of your plate, or about 2 cups a day. Choose dried, fresh, or frozen fruits. Try to avoid dried fruits because they tend to have more sugar. Also remember that if you consume fruit juice, just beware that they are extremely high in sugars and can make you gain weight if consumed too much.


I would recommend substituting fruit juice with flavored water, or sparking water. If you are really in the mood for some fruit juice, you might try making your own fruit smoothie with fresh or frozen fruit to get the most nutrients and more natural sugars.


Vegetables


Ah, the Vegetables. Vegetables should account for ¼ of your plate if you’re eating fruits as well. Otherwise, they should fill ½ of your plate and be equivalent to 2.5 to 3.5 cups each day. It's so important to be able to choose a variety of vegetables to get the most benefits.


There are also different ways to incorporate them into your diet. For example, you can add spinach into your fruit smoothies, or shred zucchini into muffins, pancakes or bread.


Make sure to include these in your daily diet:

  • Dark green vegetables

  • Red and orange vegetables

  • Legumes

  • Starchy vegetables

  • Other vegetables




Grains


Some people do well with limiting this category. For example, I found that I have to limit a lot of my grains and carbs or I will get very sluggish and tired. It's recommended that grains should take up ¼ of your plate and add up to about 6 ounces per day. But, if you are finding that your body can't handle grains and carbs very well, then you should listen to body and do what works for you.


Your grains should come from whole grains wherever possible including:

  • Buckwheat

  • Oats

  • Dark rye

  • Quinoa

  • Whole-grain cornmeal

  • Wild or brown rice

  • Whole wheat

  • Bulgur

  • Amaranth






Fats/Oils


It's important to incorporate healthy fats such as avocados or coconut oil into your diet. You can also include healthy unsaturated oils like extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil. Depending on your fitness and nutrition goals, you might want to aim to get around 27 grams of healthy fats a day. You can also consume healthy nuts, seeds and fish.


Dairy


I've seen a lot of mixed reviews about consuming dairy. It's recommended to consume 3 cups of dairy for strong teeth and bones. To get the most nutrients, you should try to consume dairy products that are low in fat or fat free. Cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese and milk are some good options.


If you are someone who can't handle dairy well, you might want to talk to your doctor to see if you are consuming the right amount of calcium to meet your needs. They might recommend a multi-vitamin, or a calcium supplement.




Here are some pro tips for having a balanced diet every day:

  • Limit the intake processed foods and cut down on extra sugar and salt

  • Try to avoid eating mindlessly or while watching tv.

  • Add fixed meal times

  • Choose whole grain bread

  • Increase your protein intake, but do not go overboard

  • Drink enough water

  • Bake, boil, steam, or roast instead of deep frying

  • Try at least one healthy recipe a day




Take Away


There are so many benefits of eating a balanced diet. Not only does a balanced diet lead to weight loss, it also can increase your energy, lift your mood and reduces the chance of illnesses and infections. It might take some trial and error to find what works for you and infuse your diet with nutritious and healthy options.




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