Tips to Balanced Diet for Healthy Living

What is a Balanced Diet?

 A balanced diet is a combination of basic food groups that contains a variety of cereals, legumes, dairy products, meat, egg, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Along with nutrient-dense foods such as carbohydrates, proteins, visible and invisible fats, a balanced diet is also packed with vitamins and minerals.

 Food Groups

 Cereals and Millets (Energy giving foods)

 Cereals (rice, wheat) and millets (Sorghum, finger millet, pearl millet) are rich in healthful components like energy, protein, dietary fibre, B vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron.

  • Replace refined wheat flour with whole grains like whole wheat flour and millets etc.
  • Dietary fibre or roughage is a kind of carbohydrate that cannot be easily broken or digested by our body. Good sources of dietary fibre are whole grain cereals, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
  • Incorporating fibre rich foods in our daily diets aids in weight loss, stabilizes blood sugar, balances appetite and satiety by making one feel full for longer and keep our digestive system healthy.

 Pulses and Legumes (Body Building Foods)

 Pulses and legumes are plant-based source of protein, provide energy, B complex vitamins, fibre and phytonutrients.

  • Proteins are body building foods, an essential nutrient for our body that takes care of wear and tear of muscles.
  • Consume pulses (the seeds of plants in the legume family), such as soybean, kidney beans, Bengal gram and chickpeas, at least three times a week.

 Note: Try to incorporate sprouted and fermented pulses and cereals in your daily diet. Sprouting increases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. Fermented foods (sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, tempeh etc.) are easily digestible.

  Fruits and Vegetables (Protective foods)

 Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C and carotenoids, low in calories and carbohydrate (sugar and starches).

  • Antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables are protective substances that prevents free radical formation in our body and provide protection against certain diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis, asthma and diabetes etc.
  • Consume 4-5 servings of seasonal fruits and vegetables per day to maintain healthy body.
  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables like fenugreek, mustard, and amaranth as they are good source of iron.
  • Eat bright orange-yellow colored fruits like oranges, lemons, mangoes, papaya and vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, orange and yellow bell peppers as they are good for eyes, fights harmful free radicals in the body and boosts immune system.
  • Include fruits, vegetables, or both with every meal. For example, include fruit with breakfast and as a snack, and vegetables with lunch and dinner.
  1. Milk and Milk products (Body building foods)

 Milk and Milk products are a good source of calcium, protein, fat, vitamin A and vitamin B (B12 and B2).

  • Calcium is essential for strong bones and Vitamin A promotes healthy vision. Vitamin B12 is important for better cognition function.
  • Choose low fat milk and milk products like cottage cheese, yogurt etc. over whole fat milk.
  • Include 2-3 portions (1 portion=100ml) of milk and milk products in your daily diet.

 Nuts ans Oilseeds

Nuts and Oilseeds are dense source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals and helps in lowering the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

  • Nuts are high in vitamin E, folic acid, fibre, potassium and unsaturated fat- a great choice to help you eat healthy.

Consume nuts and oilseeds in moderation for optimal health benefits.

 Fats and Oils

 Prefer unsaturated fats (fish and nuts and, vegetable oils like mustard oil, olive oil etc.,) over saturated fats (cheese, butter, fatty meat) and trans fats (found in processed foods like pizza, burgers, cookies and fries).

  • Avoid using of re-heated fats and oils while cooking.

Read: A quick guide to healthy fats in a nutshell

Meat, Fish, Chicken and Egg

 Animal food sources like lean meat, fish, chicken and egg are good source of protein along with iron (heme), vitamin A, vitamin B and fat.

  • Animal proteins are of high quality as they provide all the essential amino acids in right proportions which are easily absorbed in the body.
  • Limit/avoid the intake of organ meats such as kidney, liver and meat. Eat fish (100-200g/week) and 3 eggs/week.

Salt

 Limit intake of salt to less than 5g in your diet (5g=1 teaspoon) per day.

  • Avoid table salt and salt sprinklers over fruit and salads.
  • Consume iodized or double fortified salt, which is essential for optimizing people’s mental function in general.

Sugar

 Added sugar or free sugars should be avoided in foods because it is readily digested and absorbed in the body and spikes blood sugar levels. Whereas, natural sugar in fruits has fiber that facilitates slow absorption.

  • Cut down on processed foods and drinks rich in sugar because sugar present in processed foods provides empty calories.
  • WHO recommends to reduce the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy in both adults and children.

Water Intake

Water is an essential for our body and intake of water is important for hydration of our body for physical and mental performance.

  • Drink about 8 glasses (2 litre) of water regularly throughout the day.
  • Choose healthy beverages such as coconut water, herbal teas, buttermilk, lemon water and fruit infused water over carbonated beverages.
  • Limit/ Avoid alcohol intake
  •  A normal healthy person needs to drink about 8 glasses (2 litres) of water daily.
  • Choose healthy beverages such as coconut water, herbal teas, buttermilk, lemon water and fruit infused water over carbonated beverages.
  • Limit/ avoid alcohol intake

 Physical Activity

150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week is recommended to maintain a healthy weight.

  • Regular physical activity helps in building strong muscles, bones and joints.
  • Exercise helps lower high blood pressure, improves blood circulation, risk of pre-diabetes or diabetes medications. It also makes you feel happier and healthier.

Dietary Tips:

  •  Drink plenty of water and consume beverages in moderation.
  • Eat variety of foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and proteins to ensure a balanced diet.
  • Eat small meals at frequent intervals daily.
  • Avoid overeating to prevent overweight and obesity.
  • Regular physical activity helps maintain ideal body weight.
  • Restrict salt consumption to minimum.
  • Ensure consumption of clean foods and safe handling of food.
  • Adopt right pre-cooking processes and other appropriate cooking methods.
  • It’s good to stay away from fried and processed foods as they are high in trans-fat.
  • Ensure moderate intake of edible oils and animal foods and reduce intake of butter and trans fats.
  • It is recommended to get sunlight (richest source of vitamin D) exposure from 11 am-2 pm for a minimum 30 minutes daily.
  • After the age of 30 years, get yourself checked for blood sugar, blood pressure and lipid profile at least biannually.

References:

  1. Dietary guidelines for Indians by NIN-ICMR

         http://ninindia.org/DietaryGuidelinesforNINwebsite.pdf

       2. Physical activity and Adults by WHO

           https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_adults/en/

       3.  Nutrition by WHO:

            https://www.who.int/topics/nutrition/en/

 

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