What is a balanced diet?

A balanced diet that is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.

It’s recommended our total daily calorie intake should comprise of:

  • Fat – 30-35%
  • Protein – 15%
  • Carbohydrates – 50-55%

Vitamins and minerals come from a range of foods within the three food groups mentioned.

Protein

Protein aids your body’s growth and repair. It’s essential if you exercise a lot because it helps with muscle development. Good sources of protein are:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs

What if you’re a vegetarian or vegan? Don’t despair, you can still find protein in the following foods and include them as part of a balanced diet:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Pulses

Carbohydrates

The perils of eating too many carbs have been well documented, but they are important to include as part of a balanced diet as carbohydrates provide our body with energy. There are two types of carbohydrates – sugars and starches:

  • Sugars are simple refined carbs found in white bread, chocolate and biscuits. These type of carbohydrates are less filling and have a higher calorie count.
  • Starches are unrefined complex carbs that the body takes longer to break down. As a result they fill you up for longer, provide more long-term energy, and contain more vitamins and minerals. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include wholewheat bread and pasta, potatoes and brown rice.

Fats

Fat gets bad press but certain types are essential for a balanced diet and healthy functioning of your body. Good fats are found in vegetable sources such as nuts and seeds.

Avoid unhealthy saturated fats – these are what you’ll find in higher fat dairy products, the visible fat on meat and processed meat products such as sausages, pies and pates.

Steer clear of unhealthy trans fats which are found in many processed products and takeaway foods.

Vitamins

The most important vitamins are vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, K and folic acid. A healthy balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables should provide you with most of these. If you think you’re not getting enough vitamins, try taking a daily multi-vitamin supplement.

Minerals

Essential minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, potassium, sodium and zinc. As well as fruit and vegetables, fish and dairy sources provide a lot of minerals. So if you’re a vegan you may have to keep a special eye on your mineral intake.

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