What does it mean to eat a balanced diet?

We’ve all heard that a balanced diet is key to a healthy eating pattern, but what does “balance” really mean? This month is National Nutrition Month, which is the perfect time to focus on adding more variety to your lifestyle. Following the MyPlate guidelines is a great place to start. MyPlate gives us an example of what a balanced meal might look like based on a 9 inch plate. Each food group provides different essential nutrients that perform different roles in the body. Getting in all the food groups at most meals is important for basic bodily function and overall health.

Fruits and vegetables

  • Make up most of the plate because they are nutrient-dense, but relatively low in calories. High in fiber and antioxidants to support immune health and prevent chronic disease.
  • Different colors provide different nutrients. Get a variety of colors each day to cover all of your micronutrient bases.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to every meal: mix frozen vegetables into a soup or stir-fry, keep fresh vegetables handy for snacks or salads, and add purѐed leafy greens to smoothies or sauces.

Protein

  • Amino acids, found in protein, are the building blocks for muscle, bone, skin, and blood.
  • Choose lean protein more often, such as poultry, fish and seafood, lean meats, or plant-based protein from beans and lentils.
  • Remember portion size and preparation method. A serving of protein is about 3-4 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. Try to use cooking methods that do not add extra fat such as baking, broiling, or grilling.

Grains

  • Provide carbohydrate which is the body’s primary energy source. Includes breads, cereals, and pastas as well as starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn.
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains. Whole grains have higher levels of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains and can help keep you fuller longer.
  • When buying bread, make sure the very first ingredient is 100% whole grain or whole wheat flour. To get more whole grains, choose brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats or whole wheat varieties of pasta.

Dairy

  • Provide calcium and vitamin D, which are important for bone health. Vitamin D may also prevent against depression.
  • Choose 1% or fat-free milk for less calories and saturated fat.
  • To save on added sugars, buy plain yogurt, then add your own fruit or sweetener for flavor.
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