Balanced Diets

 A balanced diet is the key to wellness and reduction in risk of diseases such as heart disease, cancers, osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, a balanced diet will help you to maintain a healthy weight and keep you feeling and looking your best. A balanced diet consists of adequate protein, carbohydrate and fat from natural food sources which supply multiple vitamins and minerals necessary for health.

1.   Calories:  The amount of calories a person needs from a balanced diet for energy and normal body function varies. It is based on age, gender and activity level. The more active you are through physical activity the more calories your body will need to function. As a general rule, adult women require 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day; adult men need 2,200 to 2,800 calories per day. If you are trying to lose weight a healthy way to achieve this is to reduce your total caloric intake by 500 calories per day for a weight loss of one pound per week. However, it is important not to consume less than 1,200 calories per day in order to supply the body with the nutrients it needs.

2.  Protein: Protein is necessary for the development of muscle tissue, as well as hormones and enzymes. A balanced diet should contain 10 to 20 percent protein. Protein can be found in animal and plant sources. Beef, pork, poultry and dairy products can be healthy options for meat eaters. In addition, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains are also sources of protein. If plant sources serve as the primary supply of protein, make sure get all the essential amino acids. Whole grains such as quinoa are a good source. Another option is combining foods, such as rice and beans, to create a more complete protein.

3.  Carbohydrate: Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. While many eating plans have encouraged a reduction in the amount of carbohydrates you consume, they are an important nutrient source and should not be eliminated completely. Carbohydrates should make up 45 to 65 percent of a balanced diet. To gain the most nutrients from carbohydrates, choose whole food sources. Fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains such as wheat, oats, buckwheat, quinoa and barley are all nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrate.

4.  Fat: Recommendations regarding the amount and types of fat appropriate for a balanced, healthy diet have changed. Recent research indicates that all fats can fit into a healthy diet. Fat is essential for the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins and the synthesis of hormones. Fat intake should be 20 to 35 percent of total calories, with saturated fatty acids making up about 10 percent of that. Some sources for healthy fat include nuts, olive oil and avocado. The one type of fat that should be paid special attention is trans fat. These fats can be found in packaged, industrial processed foods. They are associated with having a negative influence on blood cholesterol, raising LDL and lowering HDL, and therefore should be limited.

Creating a Balanced Diet

   Eating regularly is essential to provide the body with energy and to keep the metabolism functioning efficiently. Whether you design an eating plan with three meals a day and two small snacks, or six mini-meals per day, the key is to keep the body fueled. Envision your plate before preparing a meal. Focus on one quarter of the plate being protein, one quarter carbohydrate and the rest fruits and vegetables. When it comes to snacks, combine a protein source with a carbohydrate source. Examples are an apple with nut butter or cheese with grapes. Control your portions by eating until you are slightly full. When it comes to drinks, reduce or eliminate those beverages that add unnecessary calories, sugar or artificial sweeteners to your diet. Make your first choice water.