What is a balanced diet?


The Oxford dictionary defines a balanced diet as a diet consisting of a variety of different types of food and providing adequate amounts of the nutrients necessary for good health. 

To eat a balanced diet, we need to eat from a variety of food groups so that we can get all the nutrients that our bodies need to function optimally.

The calories, or energy, that we consume should come from a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts & seeds, whole grains, legumes, proteins, and healthy fats. These combinations will provide an array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants which are the co-factors and building blocks for many cellular processes.

When our bodies are nutritionally depleted, we are more prone to illnesses and infections, fatigue, and poor mental and physical performance. 

Children who don’t eat a balanced diet can have developmental problems or stunted growth, they can get sick often and will struggle more with concentration which can affect them academically. Another risk with children is that they can develop unhealthy eating habits which they carry into adulthood making them more susceptible to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

A balanced diet doesn’t typically exclude too many foods, but there are some that should be consumed in moderation and some that we should eat more of. 

The following foods should be consumed in moderation:

  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Processed foods
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Unhealthy fats

A balanced plate should ideally comprise of moderate amounts of healthy fats and proteins, moderate amounts of slow-releasing carbohydrates, and generous amounts of non-starchy vegetables and salads.

If you visualize a plate, a quarter of the plate should consist of proteins and healthy fats. Another quarter can be made up of slow-releasing starchy carbohydrates. The other half can be made up of non-starchy vegetables and salads.

Carbohydrates are not all bad and not everyone should avoid them.

Many people, especially children and people who struggle with fatigue need to have a little more energy in the form of slow-releasing carbohydrates. The problem comes in when a person’s diet is carb-heavy which means the majority of what they are eating is made up of carbohydrates. Even healthy carbohydrates in excess can disrupt blood sugar metabolism and will contribute to weight gain.

People who like to do intermittent fasting can still eat a balanced diet within their eating window. 

People who follow vegetarian or vegan lifestyles need to make sure that they are getting enough of their required amino acids and nutrients through proper food combinations and there is a much higher need for them to supplement their diets with neutraceuticals.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 9 February 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am