The importance of finding a balance in your diet
The number of diet plans out there is vast and they cover a range of principles depending on your goals and lifestyle choices. Vegetarian, Vegan, Keto, Paleo, intermittent fasting… no wonder it’s confusing.
What can make it even more confusing, is that often these diets will focus on one of the three main macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat). And the thing is, they do work. Many studies have indicated that low-carb diets can aid weight loss and that diets high in protein do help with muscle building.1
Success does not always equal balance
But while your muscle-building or weight-loss goals might be helped by these diets, it’s sometimes at the expense of other health factors. Sure, you might lose weight by cutting out carbohydrates, but studies have also shown, for example, that very low carb diets can be difficult to follow and can cause digestive upset in some people.2
Is the trade-off really worth it?
Meet your goals AND stay healthy
A balanced diet is about being able to achieve your goals, whether they be weight loss, muscle building or something different, but in a healthy way that ensures you still get all the necessary nutrients you need for a healthy lifestyle. While limiting certain macronutrients can have the intended results, you need all three of them for a balanced diet, as well as a wide range of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals.
The perfect balanced diet – for you
The perfect balanced diet comes down to suitability, sustainability and effectiveness – all while ensuring you get the right balance of nutrients that your body needs. It might be that the best diet for someone else is not the best diet for you. If one of you needs to lose weight and the other needs to gain weight, for example, then you are going to need different ratios of certain types of food.
How to eat a balanced diet
Without balanced nutrition, your body will be more prone to disease, infection and fatigue, and will not perform optimally. But by following a balanced diet you will be giving yourself the nutrients your body needs to work effectively.
A healthy, balanced diet will consist of all three of the macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats – as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and will contain a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein-rich foods:
Fruits are nutritious and can satisfy a sugar craving. Focus on berries, lemons and limes, cantaloupe and watermelon for a lower sugar option.
Vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli are particularly nutrient-packed, but for the best health benefits try to eat a variety of different coloured vegetables.
Grains that focus on the whole grain provide additional vitamins, minerals and fibre and can be great for adding flavour and texture to a dish. Brown rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread are all good examples.
Dairy products, like milk and cheese, provide nutrients our body needs, such as protein, calcium and vitamin D. Those on a vegan diet can substitute these with dairy-free milks (soy, oat, coconut, almond) which are often fortified with calcium and other nutrients.
Protein-rich foods include meat, eggs, fish, beans and legumes. For those on a vegan diet, tofu and beans are great examples of plant-based protein sources.
What to avoid
A balanced diet is as much about what you don’t eat as what you do eat. Highly processed foods, added sugars and salts, refined grains, alcohol and trans fats don’t have any health benefits and can add empty calories to our diets. The key is in the processed bit, fruits are high in sugars for example, but they are natural sugars that provide fibre and other nutrients, meaning they are less likely to cause a sugar spike and will boost the body’s supply of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Meeting your own personal diet goals, while staying healthy at the same time, should always be the overriding goal. That way you can be sure that your body is getting all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs, while enjoying tasty foods and feeling good about yourself too – both on the inside and the outside.