Balanced Diet: What Is It, Food Groups, And Diet Chart

Balance your nutrients for a healthier, vibrant, and more energetic lifestyle.

Medically reviewed by Hannah Whittaker, RD, PGDip
Written by Moksha Gandhi, BPharm, Certified Health & Wellness Coach
Edited by Ravi Teja Tadimalla, BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health
Fact-checked by Himanshi Mahajan, BSc (Life Sciences), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach  • 

Our diet plays a pivotal role in maintaining our physical well-being. It influences our energy levels and even impacts our overall quality of life. A well-balanced diet provides our body with all the essential nutrients that it requires to stay healthy and facilitate growth and repair.

Consuming a variety of fresh produce, dairy, and poultry, and avoiding processed foods is the cornerstone of a health-conscious lifestyle. It helps reduce the risk of diseases and metabolic syndromes. But how do you maintain a balanced diet? Which are the foods to include in your diet? This article discusses the essential components of a well-rounded and nutritious diet and explores the various food groups that contribute to your holistic well-being. Keep reading to discover how to cultivate a diet that nurtures your body.

protip_icon At A Glance: Balanced Diet
  • Principle: Consuming a variety of foods that provide adequate nutrients to support bodily functions and maintain good health.
  • Purpose: To keep the body disease-free, maintain good health, and reduce the risk of obesity.
  • Who It Is For: To anyone who wants to follow a healthy eating pattern.
  • Duration: Long-term
  • Who Should Avoid: Individuals who are on any other doctor-prescribed, restrictive diets.
  • Cons: May not be easy to plan.

What Is A Balanced Diet?

Foods for a balanced diet
Image: Shutterstock

A balanced diet consists of a variety of foods from all food groups in specific amounts to meet the body’s caloric, protein, mineral, vitamin, and other nutrient requirements. It is aimed at eating the right amounts of macronutrientsi  XEssential nutrients that make up the bulk of your diet and provide your body with energy in the form of calories. to provide energy and maintain bodily functions without overdoing it.

According to the dietary guidelines (2015-2020) by the USDA, a healthy eating pattern includes (1):

  • Vegetables from all of the subgroups, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes, and starchy vegetables
  • Whole fruits
  • All grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy
  • Protein-rich foods
  • Oils

It also recommends avoiding or limiting the consumption of saturated fatsi  XA type of dietary fat found in various animal and plant-based sources. Consuming too much of it can contribute to heart issues. and trans fatsi  XUnsaturated fats found in processed and fried foods. Consuming too much of them may cause heart disease and other health issues. , added sugars, and sodium. As per the guidelines, limiting the following items may help achieve a healthy eating pattern:

  • Added sugars: Keep them less than 10% of your total daily calories
  • Saturated fats: May constitute less than 10% of your total daily calories.
  • Sodium: Keep sodium (salt) intake less than 2,300 mg per day.
  • Alcohol: Consume alcohol only in moderation, up to one drink daily for women (14 ml) and up to two drinks daily for men (28 ml).

Frequency Of Following A Healthy And Balanced Diet In The US

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1085382/healthy-eating-in-the-us/
Good nutrition is the key to good health. Let’s look at the benefits of eating a balanced diet in the next section.

Why Is A Balanced Diet So Important?

A woman eating healthy greens
Image: Shutterstock

A balanced diet supplies nutrients to your body and prevents diseases, infections, and fatigue. It also helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseasesi  XA class of diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels, including the arteries, veins, and capillaries. . Fruits, whole grains, and vegetables contain many bioactive compounds that reduce the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. Moreover, they also provide dietary fiber that boosts satiety and improves gastrointestinal health, which may help reduce cholesterol levels and boost glycemic control, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, and obesity (2), (1).

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US in 2020. There was a 4.8% increase from 2019. Around 6,90,882 deaths occurred due to heart disease, 5,98,932 due to cancers, 1,59,050 due to stroke, and 1,01,106 due to diabetes (3). These are conditions that can be prevented to an extent with the help of a well-balanced diet. Therefore, it is important to follow a balanced diet to lead a healthy life.

A balanced diet contains foods from all the five major food groups. Read on to learn more about them.

What Are The Five Main Food Groups?

Five food groups kept on a plate
Image: Shutterstock

It is essential to have a well-rounded diet by including a variety of foods from different groups. The five major food groups are (1):

1. Vegetables And Fruits

They include foods from all five vegetable subgroups – dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes, and starchy vegetables. Also, include only whole fruits and 100% fruit juices.

Recommended Intake: 2½ cups of vegetables per day.

Key Nutrients: Dietary fiber, potassium, vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K, copper, magnesium, folate, iron, manganese, thiamin, niacin, and choline.

2. Fruits

Consume whole fruits and 100% fruit juices (does not include commercially available packaged fruit juices).

Recommended Intake: 2 cups of fruits or 150 ml of fruit juice per day. One cup of 100% fruit juice is equivalent to a cup of fruits and half a cup of dried fruit counts as one cup of fruit.

Key Nutrients: Dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.

3. Grains

Include whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and grain products like rice, oatmeal, and popcorn.

Recommended Intake: 6 ounce-equivalents per day.

Key Nutrients: Dietary fiber, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, thiamin, niacin, selenium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and vitamin A.

protip_icon Did you know?
1 slice of bread is equivalent to 1 oz of grains, and 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice is equal to 1 oz of uncooked rice.

4. Dairy

Go for fat-free and low-fat (1%) dairy such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.

Recommended Intake: 2 cups of dairy per day for children between 2-3 years, 2½ cups of dairy per day for children between 4 and 8 years, and 3 cups of dairy per day for adolescents ages 9 to 18 years and adults.

Key Nutrients: Calcium, riboflavin, protein, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, B12, and D, zinc, choline, magnesium, selenium and iodine

5. Proteins

Best sources of protein include seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products, legumes, and dairy.

Recommended Intake: 5½ oz of protein-rich foods per day.

Key Nutrients: Protein, riboflavin, selenium, niacin, vitamins B6, B12, D, and E, choline, phosphorus, zinc, and copper.

Despite not being one of the food groups, oils also play an important role in a healthy diet. They are a major source of essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Commonly consumed oils include olive, peanut, safflower, canola, corn, soybean, and sunflower oils. You may consume about 5 teaspoons of oil per day (for a 2000-calorie diet).

Most of the unprocessed foods belong to these food groups. So, let us see which foods you can include and avoid to achieve a balanced diet.

Foods To Eat For A Balanced Diet

A balanced diet includes the following foods:

  1. Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, romaine, kale, collard, tomatoes, red peppers, kidney beans, white beans, black beans, chickpeas, white potatoes, corn, green peas, green lima beans, plantains, cassava, iceberg lettuce, onions, cucumbers, cabbage, celery, zucchini, mushrooms, and green peppers.
  2. Fruits: Oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, melons, berries, and raisins.
  3. Grains: Whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cereals and crackers, oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice.
  4. Dairy: All types of milk, fortified soy beverages, yogurt, dairy desserts, and cheeses.
  5. Proteins: Salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, beef, chicken, turkey, mutton, beans, peas, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, tofu, and tempeh.

Foods To Avoid On A Balanced Diet

Certain foods are energy-rich but nutrient-poor. They are often called ‘discretionary choices’ that you should avoid or limit in your diet. These foods include:

  • Ultra-Processed meats: Salami, hot dogs, bacon, and bologna
  • Ultra- Processed foods: Cookies, baked goods, biscuits, candy, hot chips, French fries, convenience meals, and pretzels
  • Refined grains: Pasta, white rice, chips, crackers, and white bread
  • Refined sugars: Table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, agave, and corn syrup, sauces such as ketchup
  • Sweetened drinks: Alcohol, soft drinks, fruit and energy drinks, and sports drinks

Though you do not have to strictly restrict the consumption of these foods, it is best to limit as much as possible. You may also reduce the intake of salt and added sugars to improve your diet quality and maintain a healthy weight. Scroll down to understand how a healthy and balanced eating pattern may support weight loss.

The Role Of Balanced Diet In Weight Loss

A balanced diet with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and intake of healthy fats and protein can be a healthy strategy for weight loss and maintenance (4). A study on US men and women spanned over four years evaluated their dietary patterns. Researchers observed that consumption of potato chips, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and other processed foods was associated with long-term weight gain. On the other hand, consuming more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and yogurt and leading an active lifestyle resulted in weight loss (5).

Therefore, people interested in losing weight should follow a balanced diet and active lifestyle. You may add moderate exercises to the daily routine to help burn calories and lose weight.

The diet plan given below will help you get started. Keep reading to learn about a complete and well-balanced diet for a healthy lifestyle.

Balanced Diet Chart

As per the American dietary guidelines, if you consume 2000 calories a day, include food items from all food groups in the following ratio to ensure your meal is well-balanced (6):

  • 2 cups of whole fruits
  • 2 ½ cups of vegetables
  • 6 oz of whole grains
  • 5 ½ oz of protein
  • 3 cups of dairy

Limit your sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day, saturated fat to 22 g a day, and added sugars to 50 g a day for a balanced diet.

Here is a sample meal plan for a well-balanced diet:

MealWhat To Eat
Breakfast½ regular bagel with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 medium-sized banana, and a cup of coffee
Lunch1 Tuna salad sandwich (with 100% whole wheat bread), a cup of low-fat milk, 4 baby carrots, and ¼ cup of raisins
Snacks8 oz of fat-free yogurt with sliced strawberries or apples
DinnerA cup of spaghetti with 3 medium-sized meatballs with ¼ cup of diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, and a cup of garden salad
protip_icon Quick tip
Trim the fatty parts from meats before you cook them. For example, take the skin off the chicken or trim the white fat off red meats. Go for lean cuts of meats such as sirloin and round-tip roast.

Remember to consult a registered dietitian before changing your diet. This will ensure your meals are within the recommended calorie limits and you get adequate nutrients. Now let us look at a few recipes that may be of interest to you. Scroll down.

Healthy Recipes For A Balanced Diet

1. Avocado Toast With Egg

Avocado toast with egg
Image: Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • 1 slice of toasted whole-grain bread
  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • Kosher salt and black pepper as per taste

How To Prepare

  1. Mash the avocado in a small bowl.
  2. Season it with salt and pepper. Keep it aside.
  3. Heat a small nonstick skillet over a low flame.
  4. Spray it with oil once it is hot.
  5. Gently crack the egg into the skillet.
  6. Cover and cook until the egg sets and the yolk is to your liking.
  7. Spread the mashed avocado over the toast.
  8. Top it with the egg and sprinkle salt and pepper.

2. Tuna Spinach Salad

Tuna spinach salad
Image: Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • 5 oz of canned, water-packed tuna
  • ¼ cup of diced avocado
  • ¼ cup of halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of poppy seed dressing
  • 1 tablespoon of diced red onion
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds

How To Prepare

  1. Combine tuna, avocado, tomatoes, poppy seed dressing, onion, and oil in a medium bowl.
  2. Mash them together with a fork and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add lemon juice and mix them well.
  4. Place spinach leaves and carrots in a bowl.
  5. Serve the tuna-avocado mixture over the spinach leaves.
  6. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on top and enjoy!

Maintaining good health is essential for leading a healthy and fulfilling life and diet is an important aspect of your well-being. Consuming a diverse selection of foods from all the main food groups ensures your body is getting enough nourishment for maintaining organ function, repairing itself, building muscles and immunity. A balanced diet also helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular conditions, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers and helps maintain a healthy weight. Therefore, start making thoughtful food choices to align your dietary habits with your health goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some good sources of carbohydrates for a balanced diet?

Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats, fruits such as bananas and berries, and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and legumes are good sources of carbohydrates for a balanced diet.

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to eat a balanced diet?

Common mistakes in pursuing a balanced diet include overemphasizing one food group, neglecting portion sizes, relying on processed foods, skipping meals, not staying adequately hydrated, poor meal planning, disregarding hunger and fullness cues, and lack of food variety. It is important to embrace diversity, practice portion control, prioritize whole foods, eat at regular intervals, and remain mindful of your body’s signals.

Should I take supplements for a balanced diet?

No. You need not take supplements for a balanced diet. It is generally best to obtain essential nutrients from whole foods. However, you may take supplements if you have a medical condition that requires supplementation. The doctor may also suggest you take vitamin D supplements, depending on your health requirements. Therefore, consult a healthcare provider to determine if supplements are necessary for your individual dietary needs.

How much water should I drink for a balanced diet?

Adequate water intake is crucial for a balanced diet and overall health. While specific water needs vary based on factors like age, activity level, and climate, a general guideline is to aim for about 3,000 ml for men and 2,200 ml for women (7).

Key Takeaways

  • A balanced diet involves incorporating foods from the five main food groups—vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and proteins.
  • It provides adequate nutrition to the body and helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular conditions, type 2 diabetes, etc.
  • Consuming more of these healthy foods and limiting sugary and processed items also help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of obesity.

Wondering where to start your healthy lifestyle? Don’t worry! Unlock the secrets of a balanced diet here! Watch the video to learn about the five essential food groups and how to decide what goes into your plate.

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Dietary guidelines for Americans (2015-2020): Eighth edition
    https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
  2. Defining a healthy diet: Evidence for the role of contemporary dietary patterns in health and disease
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7071223/
  3. The leading causes of death in the US for 2020
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8145781/
  4. Optimal diet strategies for weight loss and weight loss maintenance
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8017325/
  5. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151731/
  6. Back to basics: All about MyPlate food groups
    https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/09/26/back-basics-all-about-myplate-food-groups
  7. [How much water do we need to drink?]
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20356431/
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