A balanced diet means that one is eating the 1) right quantities of food in 2) the right variety.
Adults need about 1800 (women) to 2000 (men) calories.These calories come from the three main macronutrients which the body needs in large amounts – proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The body also requires micronutrients – vitamins and minerals.In a balanced diet, 50 to 60% of your calorie requirement would come from carbohydrates, 20 to 30% from fats and 10 to 15% from protein.
Carbohydrates constitute our principal food and it is best if you stay with unrefined cereals and replace simple sugars with complex starch – this means choosing millets and unrefined grain over processed “maida”. Similarly, jaggery instead of white sugar is a simple way to get the right kind of sugar.
Proteins are available in many varieties of food, so keep in mind the other elements that come with them. For example, red meats are a good source of protein but they come along with high levels of saturated fats. So, choose protein sources like beans, pulses, eggs, lean chicken and fish. Dairy products are also good sources of protein because they supply Calcium too. Fish is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. Each gram of protein gives you 4 calories.
Oils and fats are important and but they should be consumed carefully as 1 gm of fat is equivalent to 9 calories. You also get a lot of invisible fat from food sources like meats, dairy, eggs and processed foods like biscuits, cakes and bread etc. The fats should be a 1:1:1 balance between unsaturated, polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats. The polyunsaturated fats should have both PUFA-3 and PUFA-6 varieties in a ratio of 1:5. So, in India, the best combination is groundnut or sesame oils with soya bean oils and a bit of butter or ghee.
Fruits and vegetables are essential for supplying vitamins and minerals. You should try to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday in as much variety as possible. Seasonal produce is the best!
All processed foods come with a lot of salt, sugar and oils added so it is important to minimise how much of these foods you eat. In a balanced diet, added salt and sugar should be minimal since they are not needed for the body.
Lastly, remember to keep the body hydrated, drink at least 1-2 glasses of water whenever you are thirsty but don’t keep sipping on water throughout the day.