What Is a Balanced Diet?
- A variety of foods
- Foods from all the major food groups: grains, fruits vegetables, protein, and dairy
- Appropriate amounts of these foods
Why Should I Eat a Balanced Diet?
How to Eat a Balanced Diet
- Enjoy food, but eat less.
- Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables or fruits.
- Half of the grains you consume should be whole grains.
- When consuming dairy, choose fat-free or low-fat (1%) options.
- Keep sodium levels in your diet low. Choose foods low in sodium.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
A Closer Look at the Food Groups
- Half of your daily grains should be whole grains
- Whole grains include: 100% whole wheat products, whole rye, brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, barley, bulgur, and popcorn
- Eat a variety of different vegetables every day
- Dark green vegetables such as like broccoli, spinach, bok choy, or romaine lettuce
- Orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash
- Dry beans and peas such as chickpeas, black beans, lentils, split peas, kidney beans, or tofu
- Eat a variety of fruit
- Choose fresh fruit over fruit juices
- Choose fruit varieties without added sugar
- Dairy products include milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Milk alternatives include calcium-rich or calcium-fortified foods and beverages, like green leafy vegetables or orange juice
- Choose lean meats and poultry
- Eat more fish and vegetarian sources of protein to limit your intake of saturated fats
- Eat a variety of protein each day. Consider eating beans, peas, nuts, or seeds
Other Foods and Beverages
- Limit or avoid solid and processed oils and fats, such as stick margarine, lard, hydrogenated oil, and shortening.
- Limit foods high in added sugar or processed fats.
- Be aware that specialty coffees can contain high amounts of sugar and fat.
- Use substitutions. Snack on almonds instead of a candy bar.
Suggestions on Eating a Balanced Diet
- Fill your dinner plate with half veggies, a quarter whole grains, and a quarter lean protein.
- Choose whole grains over refined, processed grains whenever possible.
- Strive to eat a rainbow of different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
- Drink more water and limit low-nutrient or high calorie beverages such as soda, diet soda, juices, whole milk.
- Use herbs and spices in place of salt during cooking.
- Avoid eating trans fats and limit intake of animal fat.
- Choose foods prepared by steaming, grilling, broiling, baking, or poaching; limit fried foods.
- Do not get stuck in a rut, eat a variety of different foods from each group.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth with a mini-portion of what you are craving.
- Cook at home more often and eat out less. When eating out, ask for extra veggies, skip the sauces, and share large portions.
- Consider talking to a registered dietitian about creating a personalized eating plan.
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion http://www.cnpp.usda.gov
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org
Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca
Health Canada Food and Nutrition http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. Accessed September 9, 2015.
Food Groups. United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov. Accessed September 9, 2015.
- Reviewer: Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
- Review Date: 09/2015 -
- Update Date: 08/18/2014 -