BALANCE: What is a ‘balanced diet’?

BALANCE – definition: a state of equilibrium; harmony in the parts of a whole

When considering the concept of a ‘balanced diet’ what do you think about? I like the idea that a balanced diet may help the body to achieve a state of equilibrium or bring harmony.

Many of us are familiar with general healthy eating recommendations (see examples in links below) and I think it is important to keep these in mind when deciding on the foods we need to keep us healthy. Broadly, a balanced diet will contain lots of fruits and vegetables (for vitamins, minerals and fibre); carbohydrates (for fibre and energy); smaller amounts of protein foods (for muscle development and growth) and dairy foods (for healthy teeth and bones); some healthy fats; and minimal amounts of fatty and sugary foods that provide no benefit to our bodies (just calories). These recommendations are a simple way to outline the correct proportions of different foods needed for a healthy diet.

‘Everything in moderation’ should NOT be applied to our diets because it is too subjective. We must consciously decide to eat  more nutrient-rich foods and fewer nutrient-poor foods (like cake or ice-cream) to be healthy.

If developing a ‘balanced diet’ seems like a rather large task, consider taking a few small steps to improve the balance. Start by choosing an extra nutrient-rich food everyday, or even at every meal. Personally, I like to add dried apricots (containing iron) to my muesli, use wholemeal or wholegrain bread (for fibre) in sandwiches, and have a small yoghurt (containing calcium) as my afternoon snack.

Confusion about the ‘best diet’ arises because of the vast number of variations on the general healthy eating  recommendations. Some people choose to eliminate food groups (eg: a dairy-free diet) or eat more of a particular food group (eg: a protein-rich diet). Such changes should not be undertaken lightly because of the possibility of unintended consequences – for example, a dairy-free diet may supply insufficient calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Significant dietary changes should be discussed with a health professional, such as a doctor or a dietitian, who can advise about alternate sources of important nutrients.

The Eatwell plate (UK)

The healthy eating plate (US)

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

Livewell for Life (sustainable diet)

Finding balance in our lives can be rewarding. Developing a balanced diet is an on-going process with many and varied benefits over time. Let me know what you do to ‘improve the balance’ everyday.

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4 responses

  1. Agreed. Balance isn’t everything in moderation. And health eating is an individual experience. What suits one person is no good for another. I used to eat lots of whole grains and other healthy things then found out I have Coeliac Disease and I was harming myself by eating any gluten containing grains.

    • Thanks for your comment. Following your diagnosis I hope that you were offered the support of a specialist Dietitian (available from the NHS) to ensure that you were still able to get all of the nutrients you needed (as you well know by now). As I mentioned, getting input from healthcare professionals is essential if the diet is to be restricted in any way, either due to illness or by choice.

  2. Love this series! I’m trying to cut back on my nutrient-poor snacks between meals, and instead grab a bottle of water and a piece of fruit. At meals, I’ve been trying to add more vegetables. Looking forward to tomorrow’s post!

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