Balanced Diet Basics You Should Be Using
Balanced diets consist of various nutrient-dense and healthy foods that support the body’s optimal health and functioning.
You can create a balanced diet by incorporating a number of different food groups into every meal, including protein, carbohydrates, fruits or vegetables, and healthy fats.
Two important practices to incorporate with a balanced diet are mindful eating and portion control. This involves being more present during meals and paying closer attention to the amount of food you consume to avoid overeating.
A balanced diet is crucial for maintaining optimal health and well-being while providing the body with essential nutrients.
Eating a variety of nutrient-packed foods can help you feel your best while supporting important bodily functions.
Learning what a balanced diet looks like and the different components you should include to support your body will help you give your body the nourishment it needs.
What is a Balanced Diet?
A balanced diet is essential for providing the body with the proper nutrients to function and maintain its overall health.
It involves eating various foods in the right quantities to meet the body’s nutritional needs.
Two important components of a balanced diet are macronutrients (macros) and micronutrients (micros).
Macronutrients are needed in larger amounts and include carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Micronutrients, on the other hand, are required in smaller quantities and include vitamins and minerals.
Both macros and micros support various bodily functions, like a strong immune system and healthy bones.
To achieve a healthy diet, you should aim to fill your plate with a number of different food groups to ensure you get the nutrients you need.
For example, each meal should contain a serving of protein, fruits or vegetables, healthy fats, and carbohydrates.
Another crucial aspect of a balanced diet is portion control. It involves being mindful of the amount of food you eat while listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
Portion control also entails eating until you feel satisfied and not overly full. This helps to prevent overeating and ensures that you consume a balanced amount of nutrients.
Although portion control is important, moderation is also part of a balanced diet.
Eating all foods in moderation — even those that are considered less healthy — often helps to balance macro and micronutrients without negatively impacting dietary goals.
Key Point: Can You Lose Weight on a Balanced Diet?
A balanced diet emphasizes portion control and moderation, two components that are important for weight loss.
If you're following a balanced diet, there's a good chance that you'll be eating a variety of foods that support your weight loss goals.
You’ll likely also avoid things like fried foods, processed meats, and refined sugars that are generally considered unhealthy.
However, it’s important to note that a balanced diet is most effective when paired with a calorie deficit and increased physical exercise for weight management.
Eating healthier without making any other lifestyle changes may not always give you the results you want.
Nutrient-dense foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial compounds that the body needs for proper functioning.
By incorporating these foods into your diet, you can ensure proper nutrition for supporting good health. The best way to do this is to focus on building balanced meals that include a variety of foods.
For example, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with lean proteins, and one quarter with whole grains. Add a small serving of healthy fats to complete the meal.
Try to eat fresh fruits, raw vegetables with hummus, or a handful of nuts instead of processed snacks.
By choosing nutrient-dense foods from various sources, you can easily improve your diet and support optimal health.
Examples of nutrient-dense foods
Fruits and vegetables are excellent examples of nutrient-dense foods because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Berries, leafy greens such as spinach or kale, citrus, and colorful vegetables like carrots are great choices.
Whole grains are another important food group containing fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Opt for brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, and oats to increase your nutrient intake.
Lean proteins provide essential amino acids the body needs for muscle growth and repair. Options like skinless chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, beans, and lentils are great nutrient-dense choices.
Healthy fats like those found in avocados and nuts are also good sources of nutrients. They contain essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins the body needs for maintaining optimal health. Even though certain fats are good, they should be consumed in moderation as they are high in calories.
Carbohydrates for Energy
Carbohydrates play a vital role as the body’s main source of energy. They are broken down into glucose (sugar), which cells use as fuel to maintain bodily functions.
There are two types of carbohydrates:
Complex carbohydrates contain more nutrients and take longer to digest, providing a steady release of energy. They can be found in foods like whole grains, legumes, and vegetables.
Simple carbohydrates are quickly digested and lead to a spike in blood sugar levels that cause short bursts of energy. They are found in sugars and refined grains.
When incorporating carbohydrates into your diet, be mindful of processed foods like white bread and regular pasta that may contain added sugars.
Choosing complex carbohydrates is more beneficial for sustained energy and overall health.
This is because complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber — the nutrient that slows down digestion and provides prolonged energy release.
These carbohydrates also help maintain a healthy weight by regulating blood sugar levels and supporting digestive health.
Carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals that also offer additional health benefits.
These nutrients are essential for promoting regular bowel movements and supporting heart health while being lower in calories.
Protein for Growth and Repair
Protein is an essential nutrient that supports the growth, repair, and maintenance of bodily tissues. It’s also important for building muscles and supporting the organs, skin, and bones.
Nutrients like protein are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of the body.
When consuming protein-rich foods, the body breaks them down into amino acids, which are then used to build and repair tissues.
This is especially important during stages of development — such as childhood and adolescence — and for recovery after injury or intense exercise.
There are several sources of proteins you can include in your diet. These include:
Lean meats like chicken, turkey, and beef
Fish like salmon, tuna, and trout — with the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids
Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese — these also provide calcium
Legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas
Prepared foods like tofu, tempeh, and edamame
It’s important to note that the amount of protein you need will vary depending on your age, sex, weight, and activity level.
It’s recommended to consult with a doctor or registered dietitian who can help you determine your optimal protein intake. Head over to LifeMD for expert guidance from a licensed professional.
Healthy Fats for Vital Functions
Healthy fats are important for supporting vital bodily functions and promoting overall well-being. These fats help the body produce hormones, absorb nutrients, and maintain brain health.
The nutrients contained in healthy fats also reduce the risk of heart disease and prevent inflammation.
Foods like nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, and fatty fish all contain healthy fats.
Most nuts and seeds contain polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids that support heart health.
When it comes to choosing fats, opt for unsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats.
Unsaturated fats are healthier and shown to improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are crucial for supporting immune functioning and helping with energy production. The body usually only needs small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Citrus fruits and vegetables like bell peppers are high in vitamin C, which helps to strengthen the immune system.
You can also get nutrients like vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight or from dairy products and fatty fish. This vitamin is essential for promoting bone health.
B vitamins that play a role in energy production can be found in foods like leafy greens, whole grains, and lean meats.
Minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron, support various bodily functions, including:
- Maintaining strong bones
- Transporting oxygen
- Maintaining a healthy heart
Foods that are rich in minerals include:
- Dairy products
- Leafy greens
- Fortified plant-based milk
- Lean meats
- Certain cereals
- Sweet potatoes
By including nutrient-rich foods in your meals, you can meet your vitamin and mineral needs and support your body’s overall well-being.
If you're concerned about specific nutrient deficiencies, consult a healthcare professional to ensure you're getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals.
Hydration and Fluid Intake
Water is involved in a number of bodily processes — such as regulating core temperature and transporting nutrients – so proper hydration is essential for optimal functioning.
An easy way to check if you’re drinking enough water is to observe the color of your urine. If it’s pale yellow, you’re likely well-hydrated. Darker yellows may indicate that you need to drink more water.
You can also use mobile apps to keep track of your water intake and ensure that it meets your daily needs.
To stay hydrated throughout the day, keep a water bottle close by and take regular sips. Try not to wait until you feel thirsty because this can already be a sign of dehydration.
Other fluids can also contribute to your overall hydration levels. Herbal teas and low-fat milk are both great options that offer additional nutrients too.
Key Point: How Much Water Should You Drink?
It’s recommended to drink about 64 ounces (eight cups) of water per day. However, factors like activity level, climate, and overall health will have an impact on this amount.
Research suggests that you can use the following calculation to determine how much water you should drink:
Your weight x 0.5 = oz. of water per day
For example: 150 lbs x 0.5 = 75 oz (9.4 cups).
Portion Control and Mindful Eating
Portion control and mindful eating are important practices for maintaining a balanced diet. Let’s take a closer look at how you can incorporate them into your routine.
This practice involves paying closer attention to the amount of food you eat. It helps prevent overeating and ensures that you consume the right amount of nutrients for your body.
Portion control can also help with weight management because you’ll eat fewer calories.
One easy way to incorporate portion control is to use smaller plates and bowls to visually trick your brain.
This method makes your portions look bigger and can help you feel satisfied with less food.
You should also note the recommended serving sizes on food labels and measure the appropriate portion for your meal.
Mindful eating involves being fully present while you’re eating and paying attention to the sensory experience of consuming food.
It means savoring each bite, chewing slowly, and listening to your body to determine when you’ve eaten enough.
You can incorporate mindful eating by creating a calm and distraction-free environment where you have your meals.
This typically involves putting away electronic devices and avoiding multitasking while eating to help you focus on your food.
Where Can I Learn More About a Balanced Diet?
If you want to learn how to create or maintain a healthy and balanced diet, LifeMD can help.
A medical professional can assist you by providing information about balanced diets and nutrition — all from the comfort of your own home. You may also be interested in enrolling in the LifeMD Weight Management Program.
Enrolling in the program means you’ll be working closely with licensed clinicians who will design a personalized plan to help you lose weight. Make an appointment today to learn how to get started.