Many diets claim to offer efficient, fast or easy ways to lose weight, cleanse your system or provide good nutrition. Some diets require you to start by eating only certain foods, such as fruits or lean poultry. Others restrict what you can eat, such as reducing or limiting carbohydrates (Hah!). Credible nutrition experts, organizations and agencies all recommend eating a balanced diet that includes foods from all of the food groups. In addition to eating a mix of carbs, proteins and fats, you should eat different foods within those groupings to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need for good health.
Vary foods within food groups to create a well-balanced diet
If you can, discuss your nutritional needs with a dietician or your doctor. Depending on your gender, age, amount of physical activity you do and other health issues, you may require more of certain nutrients. If you don’t have access to a professional, read our articles on healthy eating basics and therapeutic eating. Learn the amount of calories you should eat each day, as well.
Research which foods have the specific nutrients you need to include in your meal planning. For example, if you need more iron, red meat and spinach are good choices. If you need to address high cholesterol, fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are high in cholesterol-fighting omega 3 fatty acids.
Change foods in each food group for daily meals. For example, get carbohydrates from pasta one meal, whole grain breads the next, potatoes another meal, rice in another and so on. Vary your protein sources among beef, fish, poultry, game, eggs, dairy products, nuts and beans.
Vary dairy servings using cheese, yogurt, milk, sour cream, butter and ice cream. Be aware of how much saturated fat and cholesterol these products contain and consider low-fat versions.
Vary fruits by their nutritional content. For example, oranges are good sources of vitamin C, while bananas are high in potassium.
Eat either a fruit or vegetable with dietary fiber each meal. Fiber is the part of plants your body can’t absorb and digest, such as the skins or kernels of plants. This roughage helps promote better digestion, bowel movements and reduces cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Remember, you don’t need to balance each meal – just make sure that by the end of the day, you’ve eaten the right balance of foods to meet your nutritional goals.