We’re always hearing that to achieve a healthy diet, meals should be ‘balanced’, but what exactly does that actually mean? The basics of good nutrition are actually very simple. In a world where there is so much nutritional information, some good and some not so good, it’s easy to get lost in the complexity and lose site of the fundamentals. Hopefully this short outline will help.
So what makes a balanced meal?
If we follow these basic principles every time, we’re more likely to get the nutrients we need, in the amounts we need them, more of the time.
Firstly, to make up a basic balanced meal we should include at least 3 food groups:
- choose a starchy carbohydrate – preferably wholegrain or high fibre
- choose a protein source
- choose at least one portion of vegetables or fruit
Really, is that it? Well this certainly will provide a solid foundation towards building a healthy meal/diet.
The proportions of the different food groups can significantly affect the nutritional balance of a meal and ultimately, of your overall diet. As a very general rule, based on what we know about what people are eating, and what we should be eating, most people need to eat more fruits and vegetable, more high fibre and wholegrain starchy carbohydrates (yes more!) and less of the foods that we know are high in protein. Obviously it’s important to look at where you’re at right now, and make gradual adjustments. To compare the proportions of the different food groups that you’re eating now with the recommendations, check out the Eatwell Guide – it’s evidence based, so we can trust it. Why not see how your meals compare and decide what you can change to improve it.
Portions sizes matter
So you’ve made some changes and you’re happy that your meals are balanced. Is that it? Well nearly. The overall portion sizes matter too, as these will contribute to your energy intake and will determine whether you are able to keep your weight stable, lose weight or gain weight. I’d recommend that you look at this after you’ve got your basic meal structure and proportions sorted though. For a quick reference guide to portion sizes, see the British Dietetic Association food fact sheet on portion sizes.
Enjoy! This is last but definitely not least – it is possible to enjoy food and have a well balanced diet – the two are not mutually exclusive.
if you have any questions – do get in touch!