Balanced Diet: A Step-by-step Guide to Healthy Eating
The importance of a balanced diet is common knowledge, but few of us know how to implement the principle in everyday life. A balanced diet includes the best foods for heart health that you should eat to meet your body’s daily nutrition needs. It impacts your energy levels, improves the quality of sleep, and strengthens immunity, as a result of which you fall sick less often.
Here’s a guided introduction to how you can get started with a balanced diet.
Step 1: How many calories do you need to stay healthy?
The human body needs a certain amount of calories and nutrients to sustain and perform optimally. Calories provide energy for basic body functions and also support the day-to-day activities that you perform. According to the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), India, the average calorie requirement of an adult woman would range between 30kcal-50kcal per kg of body weight. For men, it would range between 32kcal-53kcal per kg of body weight.
Your activity level would determine the range you pick. Sedentary individuals may go for the lower range, while highly active people should gun for the higher. However, requirements may change during special situations, such as a medical condition or during pregnancy and lactation period.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends consuming 45%-60% of these calories from carbohydrates, 10%-35% from proteins, and 20%-35% from fats. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are macronutrients, essential for providing energy and helping with the growth and repair of the body.
Also read: Macronutrients: What are they? Why do you need them?
Step 2: Foods to include in a balanced diet
When it comes to complex carbohydrates, whole grains are a great option and are one of the best foods for heart health. Pulses, legumes, poultry, meat, and dairy are predominantly rich in proteins. Nuts and oilseeds provide healthy fats, some protein, and minerals. Vegetables and fruits bring adequate dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals to the table. Thus, including all of them in your heart healthy diet may help meet your nutritional requirements.
Step 3: Foods to eat in moderation or exclude
A balanced diet should stay away from the following foods as much as possible.
- Highly processed and refined foods such as refined wheat flour, ready-to-eat packaged foods
- Processed meats such as sausages, ham, hot dogs
- Sugary drinks such as non-alcoholic and fizzy beverages, fruit juices, and their concentrates
- Added salt
- Fried snacks (foods with high amounts of trans and saturated fats)
Most processed foods are stripped of the essential nutrients that are present in whole foods. Additionally, these foods may either be high in unhealthy fats, sugars, salt or all of them. They may contribute to unnecessary calories without much nutritional benefits. So, avoiding them or consuming them in moderation is recommended for a balanced diet.
A balanced diet is all about eating different varieties of vegetables good for the heart and deriving nutrients and energy from them. Consuming these foods in adequate proportions can help you maintain optimum health. Doing adequate exercise regularly and eating nutritious heart healthy foods can prove helpful in raising your immunity and fitness ante considerably.
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2. ICMR – National Institute of Nutrition. Summary Of Recommendations. ICMR-NIN, 2020. https://www.nin.res.in/nutrition2020/RDA_short_report.pdf (accessed Mar 26, 2021).
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