What Is a Balanced Diet?
A balanced diet is one that includes a variety of foods from all of the major food groups, in appropriate amounts. These food groups are: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meats and beans, and oils.
Why Should I Eat a Balanced Diet?
Eating a balanced diet will meet your vitamin, mineral, and other nutrient requirements. It will also promote your overall health and well-being, helping you to look and feel your best. When combined with regular physical activity, a balanced diet can help prevent conditions such as
How to Eat a Balanced Diet
This figure shows the current United States food guide, MyPyramid. Each of the food groups is represented as a different colored vertical stripe. Grains are represented by the color orange, vegetables by green, fruits by red, oils by yellow, dairy by blue, and meats and beans by purple. The width of each stripe at the bottom of the pyramid corresponds to the proportion of your food intake that should come from that group.
The total amount of food you need to consume from each group is determined by factors such as your age, sex, and activity level. MyPyramid is meant to be used as an interactive guide (available at http://www.mypyramid.gov ). The interactive tools available on this site allow you to create a personalized eating plan and track and analyze your diet.
MyPyramid also shows a figure walking up steps. This represents daily exercise, which goes hand-in-hand with a balanced diet.
A Closer Look at the Food Groups
There are two main types of
When it comes to fruit, fresh, dried, frozen, or canned (without added sugar) are all excellent choices. Fruit juice is also good, but often packs in a lot of calories and doesn’t contain all the added fiber of foods eaten in their whole form. Like vegetables, fruits are an important source of vitamins and antioxidants.
The milk group includes dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Dairy products are an excellent source of
Meats and Beans
Oils should not be confused with “solid fats,” such as butter, stick margarine, lard, and shortening. These fats are high in saturated fat, trans fat, and/or cholesterol, and should be limited or avoided.
Other Foods and Beverages
Foods and beverages high in
Balanced Diet Eating Guide
|Food Category||Daily Amount*||Key Suggestions|
|Grains||6 ounces (1 ounce = 1 slice bread, ¼ bagel, ½ cup cooked pasta or rice, 3 cups popcorn)|
|Vegetables||2.5 cups (1 cup = 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables, 2 cups raw leafy vegetables)|
|Fruits||2 cups (1 cup = 1 cup fresh fruit, 1 cup fruit juice, ½ cup dried fruit)|
|Milk||3 cups (1 cup = 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1½ ounces natural cheese)|
|Meats and Beans||5.5 ounces (1 ounce = 1 ounce meat, fish, or poultry; ¼ cup cooked, dry beans; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon peanut butter; ½ ounce nuts)|
|Fats and Sweets||<265 calories|
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Recommended amount varies depending on age, sex, and activity level. The MyPyramid website provides individualized amounts based on these factors. For an individualized plan (especially if you are trying to lose weight or manage a chronic condition), see a registered dietitian.
Suggestions on Eating a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet will help you meet all your nutrient needs and stay healthy. Here are some final suggestions on how to eat a balanced diet:
- Choose whole grains over refined, processed grains whenever possible.
- Strive to eat a rainbow of different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
- Fill your dinner plate with half veggies, a quarter whole grains, and a quarter lean protein.
- Avoid eating trans fats and limit intake of animal fat.
- Choose foods prepared by steaming, grilling, broiling, baking, or poaching; limit fried foods.
- Don’t get stuck in a rut, eat a variety of different foods from each group.
- Drink more water and limit low-nutrient or high calorie beverages (eg, soda, diet soda, juices, whole milk).
- Satisfy your sweet tooth with a “mini-portion” of what you are craving.
- Use herbs and spices in place of salt during cooking.
- Cook at home more often and eat out less. When eating out, ask for extra veggies, skip the sauces, and share large portions.
- Consider talking to a registered dietitian about creating a personalized eating plan.
American Dietetic Association
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
Canada’s Food Guide
Dietitians of Canada
Dietary guidelines for Americans. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/ . Accessed December 20, 2009.
Steps to a healthier you. United States Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.mypyramid.gov/ . Accessed December 20, 2009.
Last reviewed December 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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