What does it mean to have a balanced diet, and why is it important? A balanced diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Each group gives you the energy and proper functions for your body to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that are essential micronutrients we need for our bodies to function properly. One thing many people try to do is stay away from certain fruits because of their high sugar, and yes that may be true, however, many fruits are natural, meaning the sugar is not processed sugar. There are many ways to get your daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables through smoothies, salads, and even snacks, or on the side with a meal. Fruits and vegetables can be bought fresh or frozen and can be cooked in many different ways. One way to expand your choices is choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, which will also mean that they are cheaper.
Protein choices are also important in a balanced diet. Many well balanced meals include lean proteins such as chicken and fis. If you are a vegetarian like me, there are many great options like tofu, tempeh, black beans, pinto beans, and edamame. A vegetarian brand of protein products I personally love is Gardein; they have a variety of options including “chick’n tenders”, “teriyaki chick’n”, “meatballs”, and “bbq wings”.
Another important food group is grains. This is where you will get most of your carbohydrates, which is an important energy source for your body. I always find carbohydrates, also known as carbs, to be a hard topic because many people try to cut out carbs, thinking carbs are bad. However, not all carbs are bad. Complex carbs, which are less processed, and whole grains will have more benefits, like providing glucose for your brain, and will provide you the energy you need throughout the day. Good carbs to look for are sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain breads. Carbohydrates take longer to breakdown, which allows you to have energy longer and get the most nutrients.
The fifth group in a balanced diet is dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Dairy contains protein and calcium which helps build strong bones and contains many vitamins and minerals. There are also great alternatives for those who do not eat dairy such as almond milk and yogurt. One brand known for their dairy free products is Daiya. They offer yogurts, cheese, pizza, and even dessert treats.
I know I talked a lot about all the healthy options ,but remember that it is ok to indulge and honor your body when you are craving those delicious treats. Don’t deprive yourself a good treat. Think of it as a reward for those well balanced meals you have had recently!