Experts agree that the key to a healthy – balanced diet is variety and moderation. This means that by choosing foods from all food groups, without overdoing it and getting all the nutrients you need, you can reduce your risk of diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In addition, by adopting healthier habits you can increase your energy, sharpen your memory and improve your mood.
How to plan a balanced diet?
Here are sixteen tips you need to know to plan a balanced diet:
Protein, carbohydrates and fats are essential and help maintain and regulate normal body functions. The average person should get about 50% of their total daily calories from carbohydrate sources, with a few exceptions. A marathon runner, for example, should receive about 60-70% of its total energy from carbohydrates. For the daily intake of proteins it is recommended to correspond to 15-20% of the total energy and the daily intake of fats to be 30%.
Vitamins, minerals and trace elements, although necessary in small quantities, are essential for the proper functioning of the body. To be more likely to get all the micronutrients, you need to eat a variety of foods.
Fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are high in fiber. These foods are nutritious because they contain vitamins and minerals, cause satiety and are relatively low in calories. You need to supply 20-30 gr. fiber per day.
Make sure you include green, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables in your diet, such as broccoli, carrots, melons and citrus fruits. The antioxidants and other nutrients that contained in these foods can protect you against various forms of cancer and other diseases. Make sure you eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Limit animal fats, which are high in saturated fats and increase your cholesterol levels, with negative effects on your health. In addition, reduce trans fats, which are supplied by hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are used in most processed foods and fast food. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry and low-fat dairy. Also, increase your intake of unsaturated fats, that is beneficial to health. This will happen if you replace butter with olive oil and make sure you eat more fish and nuts, especially nuts.
Moderate your portions, especially on high-calorie foods. In recent years, the portions served, especially in restaurants, have increased rapidly. Prefer to share your portion with a friend if it is huge.
“The dish method”
A simple way to ensure a balanced diet is to use the “dish method” to share meals. Your goal should be:
- 50% vegetables
- 25% protein
- 25% whole grain cereals
- A fruit
That is, half of your plate should consist of vegetables (raw or cooked), 1/4 of your plate of starchy foods (potato, rice, spaghetti, bread, legumes) and 1/4 of the plate of protein foods (chicken, fish, meat, dairy products, eggs, legumes / soy).
60-75% of our body is made up of water. Water helps the body regulate its temperature, transport and absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. Do not wait to be thirsty to drink water, because thirst is a delayed indicator of dehydration. Fluid needs depend on the characteristics of each individual (gender, age, body composition, level of physical activity, state of health) and environmental conditions (temperature, humidity). The recommended fluid intake is 1-1 ½ liters per day, which are necessary for proper hydration. The best source of hydration, which provides no calories, is cheap and available, is water.
If you drink alcohol, be sure to keep it in moderation. The suggested portion is one drink for the woman and two for the man. A drink is defined as 120 ml of wine or 330 ml of beer or 45 ml of hard drinks and liqueurs. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to various health problems. So, pay attention to the quantity, because alcohol adds a lot of calories to your diet, without providing you with nutrients.
Small and frequent meals
Five to six meals a day is enough to maintain the feeling of satiety and to help your metabolism. Skipping meals can lead to excessive hunger, resulting in overeating. Try to eat a meal or snack every 3-4 hours and do not fast for many hours.
Some people think that skipping breakfast will make them lose weight. In fact, research has shown that a good breakfast helps control weight. A healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet and provides the vitamins and minerals we need for good health.
Limit your intake of foods rich in sugar, salt and processed cereals, such as white bread. Sugar is the number one additive in a huge variety of foods. Many foods that are high in sugar are also high in fat and high in calories. The use of salt should also be limited, due to the fluid retention it causes, the increase in blood pressure and the burden on the kidneys. Use fearless spices (pepper, cumin, oregano, basil, thyme, etc.) in your cooking, in order to give flavor to your food and at the same time to avoid in this way the excessive use of salt.
Do not expect to completely reorganize your eating habits in one day. Start correcting excesses or shortcomings with a few small changes. Set realistic goals and take small steps, such as adding a salad once a day from where you did not eat at all or replacing fried foods with grilled ones. As these small changes become a habit, you can continue to add more healthy changes to your diet.
There are no good or bad foods
Do not feel guilty if you like foods such as apple pie, chips, chocolates or ice cream. Just consume them in moderation.
Do not eat in front of your TV or computer
You will be led to unnecessary overeating. Eat with other people e.g. family, friends, colleagues, whenever possible.