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Sometimes even just hearing the phrase ‘a balanced diet’ can make some people reach for a chocolate bar in an attempt to cheer themselves up. That’s because they’ve presumed ‘balanced’ means boring i.e. unwavering, same-y and no option for variety at any point.
Well, that’s where they couldn’t be more wrong.
A balanced diet involves loads of different foods, flavours and can definitely be fun. Just read on and you’ll see what I mean.
First though, what do we mean by ‘a balanced diet’?
In its simplest form it’s making sure we eat something from all the major food groups every day, and in the recommended quantities. This way our body gets all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy such as complex carbohydrates, proteins, essential fats, vitamins and minerals.
We don’t have to get all scientific and start measuring quantities out. The general rule of thumb is a fist sized portion of starchy carbohydrates at main meals such as sweet potato or brown rice alongside a palm sized portion of protein (lean meat, pulses) with vegetables as the main event on the plate. Seasonal, lower sugar fruit is an ideal way to consume something sweet that’s still nutritious and dairy or dairy alternatives help make up a balanced, accessible approach.
Beneficial fats are another important aspect of a balanced diet and a drizzle of oil, a spread of butter or some cheese shouldn’t be overlooked. Sugar or refined carbohydrates are generally where things can go awry, remember, just a little, not a lot.
Common mistakes attempting a balanced diet
So, how does this all look when you come to sit down to a meal? Well, if you’re a big pasta fan then it can be tempting to fill your bowl up with pasta and just include a little chicken or salmon with a couple of cucumber slices or a few baby spinach leaves on the side. But that’s not how it works. Ideally you’d want the biggest food portion on the plate to be vegetables with a reasonably large piece of protein and just a handful of pasta.
The ideal example of a balanced diet that you’ve no doubt sampled during a sunny holiday is the Mediterranean diet, long understood as offering protective health benefits - adding life to years not just years to life.
It’s an approach that focuses primarily on plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and some nuts, with fish or lean meats a smaller but important part of mealtimes. The Mediterranean diet also replaces butter or other spreadable fats with olive oil and uses a great deal of fresh herbs and spices rather than depending overly on salt.
Key rules to ensure your diet is always balanced
The beauty about having a balanced diet is that you can mix and match as you go with whatever combinations you like provided that, at the end of the day, you’ve included foods from every group.
Tips on sticking to the rules
Treats you can have as part of a balanced diet
A Perfectly Balanced Daily Meal Plan
On Wakening: Drink a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon to rehydrate, kick-start the digestion and add a dose of vitamin C prior to breakfast
There, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
For more recipes and tips on how to stay naturally energised, please visit Nairn's.