Eating a balanced diet consists of consuming a variety of foods each day. The United States Department of Agriculture sets diet recommendations in the form of a pyramid. They recommend eating mostly vegetables, fruits and grains. You should also eat dairy foods, proteins and some fats. If you choose a combination of these foods in your diet, you will achieve a balanced diet.
Although everyone’s needs are a little different, we all need about the same proportion of certain kinds of foods each day. The USDA suggests six to 10 servings of grains per day, three to five servings of vegetables, two to four servings of fruits, two to three servings of protein and two to three servings of fats per day. According to Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," Americans get a huge portion of their calories from corn and corn sources. Up to 10 percent of the day’s calories may come from corn sweeteners alone. Because of this, in order to eat a healthy diet, most Americans do not have to worry about trying to find more grains to consume.
Vegetarians, pregnant women, children and older people need a slightly different diet. However, the basic guidelines do not change. Based on our size, age and nutritional needs, we each need to consume a slightly different amount of food. However, an easy general rule about portion size is that it should be about the size of the palm of your hand.
Balanced breakfast menus may consist of whole or sprouted grain toast topped with butter, peanut butter or cheese. The toast provides grain, the butter provides dairy and fat, the peanut butter provides protein and some fat, and the cheese provides protein and some fat. You may add a banana or other fruit such as grapefruit, orange or apple. A bowl of yogurt with nuts and seeds sprinkled on top provides dairy and protein. Adding vegetables to breakfast can be challenging.
It is not impossible, however. Vegetable juices are an easy place to start, and certainly count toward a balanced diet. An omelet with chopped bell peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes is a quick meal consisting of protein and vegetables. Serve with fried potatoes, yams or sweet potatoes fried in one tablespoon of coconut butter, grape seed oil or olive oil to give you a good portion of healthy fat with your vegetables. You could also shred zucchini or carrots into morning muffins to add vegetables to your morning.
Lunch and Evening Meals
Lunch and evening meals can consist of a variety of foods. Try to add more vegetables and fruits to achieve a healthy balance. Salads can make an entire meal. They can have a base of pasta or rice, but also contain chopped chicken or fish and a variety of vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and peppers. A tablespoon of salad dressing adds a serving of fat.
Soups, too, can be an entire balanced meal. Stock provides protein. Sauteing vegetables in a tablespoon of butter or olive oil provides one serving of fat. While cooking, add pasta, rice or bulgar wheat for a serving of grain. A traditional "meat and potatoes" dinner can be a healthy balanced choice as well. A small serving of meat, with a side serving of pasta, rice or potato, and a large green salad provides protein, grains and vegetables, with a little fat either in the cooking of the meat or on the salad as salad dressing.
Instead of eating three main meals each day, many people enjoy grazing, or eating small meals throughout the day. Children need to eat more often because of their size, for example. Think of snacks as a way to tip the scales toward a healthy diet. For some, this may mean snacks which are high in protein such as mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds and other seeds, cheese, yogurt or a hard-boiled egg. Others may need more fresh vegetables and fruits. Though the USDA food pyramid recommends three to five servings of vegetables, many other organizations suggest more. The American Cancer Society suggests five or more servings per day. Apples, bananas, carrots and bell peppers make easy snacks. Get creative and think of ways to tip your diet toward a healthier balance.