Is Your Diet Really Balanced?

Balanced diet | Image by Evan Lorne

Just about everyone would agree that a balanced diet is paramount to maintaining mental and physical well-being. But knowing what exactly constitutes a balanced diet and following it might be less obvious for most Americans.

So, what exactly is a balanced diet? While different health organizations may offer varying definitions, they unanimously agree that a balanced diet is one that provides the nutrients necessary for growth, development, and immune system support.

One key to achieving this is variation.

“A balanced diet is one that includes a variety of foods from all food groups,” explained Kate Zeratsky, according to USA Today. Zeratsky is a registered dietitian nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Similarly, Uma Naidoo, who heads nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, recommends eating the rainbow in order to get a wide array of vitamins and minerals through colorful vegetables and fruits, according to USA Today.

Of course, it is also important to learn what the appropriate portions are for certain foods, such as eggs.

As The Dallas Express reported, eggs are low in calories and contain plenty of protein and nutrients that aid in bone and immune system health. But they are also loaded with cholesterol, especially the yellow-hued yolk, which some suggest might increase the risk of adverse cardiovascular conditions if over-consumed.

For this reason, the American Heart Association recommends that consumers limit their consumption to just one whole egg or two egg whites per day.

Alongside being mindful of recommended portions, a balanced diet should also help you maintain enough energy to regularly engage in physical activity.

Planet Fitness recommends a pre-workout meal that mixes protein with healthy fats and whole-grain carbs to keep your blood sugar steady during a gym session. It is also vital to make sure you are well-hydrated by drinking a minimum of four to six cups of water a day.

For those of us who aren’t gym nuts, even just 10 to 20 minutes of physical activity each day can improve overall well-being and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers, as The Dallas Express reported.

Perhaps the easiest way to achieve a balanced diet is to simply avoid eating ultra-processed foods, as Alice Lichtenstein told USA Today. Lichtenstein heads the Cardiovascular Nutrition Team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

A balanced diet would focus on “products made with whole grains rather than refined grains, beans and nuts, low-fat and fat-free in place of full-fat dairy items, and mostly plant sources of proteins,” Lichtenstein explained, according to USA Today.

As The Dallas Express reported, roughly 57% of calories consumed by Americans are derived from ultra-processed foods, including flavored yogurts, mass-produced bread, frozen pizza, candy, fast food, and margarine.

Considering that the U.S. is in the midst of an obesity epidemic affecting both adults and children, limiting these kinds of foods is essential.

Perhaps the most important way to maintain a balanced diet is to be honest with yourself about your eating habits.

Not only do people typically overestimate how healthy their diets are, but they might also be pushed into unsustainable eating patterns by fad diets.

“When one makes radical changes in their diet, they may reap impressive benefits in the short term, but data indicate that people don’t stick with the changes in the long term,” Lichtenstein told USA Today. “This puts them back to square one once they tire of the new ‘wonder’ diet.”

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