We’re often told to make sure we eat a balanced diet – for general health, heart health, well being etc, but are you confused about what a balanced diet actually is?
Here’s a little overview of what we mean when we talk about having a “balanced diet”.
There are some very simple rules to follow which include:
- eating plenty of fruit and veg a day (at least 5 portions),
- choosing whole grains starchy foods like brown rice, brown bread etc,
- ensuring you get some healthy proteins such as fish, white meats, beans, pulses or tofu,
- including milk and dairy products in your diet (unless you are lactose intolerant or vegan, in which case going for non dairy alternatives)
- opting for lower sugar and lower fat foods whenever possible.
But it’s a little more than just that – it’s also about how much you eat, and when you eat these foods.
Nutritional needs vary according on your sex, size, age and activity levels and there are lots of ways of calculating what your calorie intake should be but as a quick method – take your weight in kg and multiply it by 25. This will give you a rough idea of your basic caloric requirements are per day e.g. if you weigh 70kg then you need a minimum of 1,750 kcals to maintain your weight. This is just a rough and ready method but it’s quite a good one – if you want more detail then a quick google search will bring up lots of calorie calculators to try. Within this daily intake you should be aiming for a balance of the key nutrients – protein, fats and carbohydrates. Now again this will vary depending on your activity etc but a good general guide is approximately 20 – 30% fat, 15 – 25% protein and 45 – 55% carbohydrate.
You also need to make sure you’re getting enough fibre – aim for at least 30g a day, and finally try to keep your salt intake below 6g.
That’s great but how does it relate to actual portion sizes? A quick easy guide is to just look at your hands.
- The size of your palm determines how much protein you should have
- Your clenched fist determines how much veg you should have (women 1 fist, men 2)
- Your cupped hand determines the amount of carbohydrates like grains, starches, or fruits (1 cupped hand for women, 2 for men)
- The length of your thumb determines the amount of fat-dense foods – like oils, butter, nuts and seeds.
Finally it’s also about when you eat these foods. So try to kickstart your metabolism and keep yourself fuller for longer with a breakfast that’s full of protein – eggs are a great option – served any way you like with some wholegrain toast, or how about some avocado on toast, or a fully loaded protein smoothie?
For lunch go for some lean protein and starchy carbs – they will give you energy without that awful mid-afternoon crash. The key is to choose carbs that will take longer to digest and so avoid that sugar spike – things like high fibre whole grains (brown rice, quinoa etc) are a great choice. Go for a nice big salad, with your choice of protein and some brown rice to keep you full and alert all afternoon.
At dinner don’t be afraid to have more carbs, but combine them with foods rich in essential fats e.g. oily fish like salmon or mackerel, nuts, seeds or avocado. Fill half your plate with wide variety of vegetables or salad, add your choice of protein and some carbs (sweet potato, wholemeal pasta, brown rice etc).
Plan some healthy snacks in to your day too – eating little and often will help to manage your blood sugar levels and keep you on an even keel all day. Instead of reaching for the biscuit barrel at 11am – instead go for something like oatcakes with peanut butter, or a banana with almond butter, or hummus and crudités.
For your mid afternoon snack you can combat that carving for a sugar hit by going for a small handful of dried fruit and nuts – providing protein and fats to keep you full until dinner. Combining the two stabilises the release of the sugars in the dried fruit which will give you a more gradual and long lasting energy boost.
So there you go – that’s a brief guide to what a balanced diet actually means. If you have specific weight loss or fat loss goals then this may differ and if that’s the case drop us a line and see if we can help you out.
PS: See our article on heart health over here : DARLING MAGAZINE NORTH SURREY
This article is written by Dr Nancy Priston. Please remember, she isn’t a medical Dr, the information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this site.