The term “balanced diet” gets thrown around a lot, but do you actually know what a balanced diet is?
Does it mean you eat the same amount of food from each of the food groups? Not necessarily. A balanced diet, as I define it, is a diet that incorporates foods from all food groups and allows for guilt/shame-free enjoyment of our favorite treats. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what a balanced diet is — and what it is not.
A balanced diet provides all needed nutrients, vitamins, minerals and calories
Our bodies need many things to function correctly and efficiently. When calories, food groups or nutrients are limited, our bodies may not be able to function as efficiently as they would otherwise.
A balanced diet contains fruits and vegetables which provide vital vitamins, minerals and fiber to help all systems of our body work properly. The protein we consume from meats, dairy, nuts and beans helps our body build muscle, support immune function and help in other processes in the body.
Dairy products are also a great source of calcium and vitamin D. Dairy products like yogurt can provide needed probiotics, which are helpful for gut health. Whole grains also give our body fiber which helps with gut health and can be helpful with blood sugar regulation.
Our bodies need all of these food groups to function, however, it doesn’t need them all in equal amounts. Visit choosemyplate.org to see the appropriate amount of each of the individual food groups. There you can also find a personalized breakdown based on your weight, health and lifestyle.
A balanced diet does not ignore sound nutritional recommendations
As mentioned, our bodies need many different nutrients in order to work correctly. This means we can’t just ignore important nutritional information and still be eating a balanced diet. We need to be eating adequate calories and avoiding extreme fad diets.
A balanced diet does allow for enjoyment
Food is meant to be both nutritious and enjoyable. This means you should select foods from each food group that you enjoy eating. For example, I do not like celery so when selecting a vegetable, I choose instead another vegetable that I enjoy.
When striving for a balanced diet, we can still enjoy our favorite sweet treats. When desserts, candies and other treats are eaten occasionally, and not as a major food group, they can be an enjoyable, guilt-free part of a balanced diet.
A balanced diet can work with the principles of intuitive eating
Intuitive eating prompts a guilt- and shame-free approach to eating. One of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is gentle nutrition. The principle of gentle nutrition is similar to the principles of eating a balanced diet. Therefore these two ideas of a balanced diet and intuitive eating can go hand in hand to help you create a healthy stress-free diet.