What is a balanced diet?


Food groups1A balanced diet is one which provides all the nutrients in required amounts and proper proportions. It can easily be achieved through a blend of the four basic food groups. The quantities of foods needed to meet the nutrient requirements vary with age, gender, physiological status and physical activity. A balanced diet should provide around 50-60% of total calories from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates, about 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from both visible and invisible fat.

In addition, a balanced diet should provide other non-nutrients such as dietary fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals which bestow positive health benefits. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, riboflavin and selenium protect the human body from free radical damage. Other phytochemicals such as polyphenols, flavones, etc., also afford protection against oxidant damage. Spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, cumin and cloves are rich in antioxidants. Balanced Diet for Adults – Sedentary/Moderate/Heavy Activity is given in annexure 2 and figures 3 & 4. Also, sample menu plans for sedentary adult man and woman are given in annexure 2a and 2b respectively.

What are food groups?

Foods are conventionally grouped as:

  1. Cereals, millets and pulses
  2. Vegetables and fruits
  3. Milk and milk products, egg, meat and fish
  4. Oils & fats and nuts & oilseeds

However, foods may also be classified according to their functions .

ENERGY RICH FOODS Carbohydrates & fats
Whole grain cereals, millets Protein, fibre, minerals, calcium,iron & B-complex vitamins
Vegetable oils, ghee, butter Fat soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids
Nuts and oilseeds Proteins, vitamins, minerals
Sugars Nil
Pulses, nuts and oilseeds B-complex vitamins, invisible fat, fibre
Milk and Milk products Calcium, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12
Meat, fish, poultry B-complex vitamins, iron, iodine, fat
PROTECTIVE FOODS Vitamins and Minerals
Green leafy vegetables Antioxidants, fibre and other carotenoids
Other vegetables and fruits Fibre, sugar and antioxidants
Eggs, milk and milk products and flesh foods Protein and fat

What are nutrient requirements and recommended dietary allowances (RDA)?

Requirements are the quantities of nutrients that healthy individuals must obtain from food to meet their physiological needs. The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) are estimates of nutrients to be consumed daily to ensure the requirements of all individuals in a given population. The recommended level depends upon the bioavailability of nutrients from a given diet. The term bioavailability indicates what is absorbed and utilized by the body. In addition, RDA includes a margin of safety, to cover variation between individuals, dietary traditions and practices. The RDAs are suggested for physiological groups such as infants, pre-schoolers, children, adolescents, pregnant women, lactating mothers, and adult men and women, taking into account their physical activity. In fact, RDAs are suggested averages/day. However, in practice, fluctuations in intake may occur depending on the food availability and demands of the body. But, the average requirements need to be satisfied over a period of time.

Our diet must provide adequate calories, proteins and micronutrients to achieve maximum growth potential. Therefore, it is important to have appropriate diet during different stages of one’s life . There may be situations where adequate amounts of nutrients may not be available through diet alone. In such high risk situations where specific nutrients are lacking, foods fortified with the limiting

Nutrients become necessary. A good example of such fortified foods is the salt fortified with iron and iodine.

Importance of Diet during Different Stages of Life

Diet during Different Stages of Life

Senior Citizens: For being physically active and healthy require nutrient dense low fat foods.

Pregnancy: For maintaining health, productivity and prevention of diet-related diseases and to support pregnancy/lactation require nutritionally adequate diet with extra food for child bearing/rearing.

Adolescent: For growth spurt, maturation and bone development require body building and protective foods.

Child Age: For growth, development and to fight infections require Energy, body building and protective food.

Infant: For growth and appropriate milestones require Breast milk, energy rich foods.

Balanced diet for adult man (sedentary)

Diet for Adult Man

Balanced diet for adult woman (sedentary)

Diet for Adult women


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