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What Does a Balanced Diet Look Like?

What Does a Balanced Diet Look Like?

These days, people are spoiled for choice when it comes to diets that can help them lose weight. But sometimes, things can get confusing really fast, especially for first-time dieters. This is why a good approach when it comes to dieting would be to use a balanced meal plate.

Using a balanced meal plate is great for people who want a no-nonsense diet. There is minimal calorie counting (depending on age group), and it is straightforward and easy to understand.

There are also no special requirements for this type of diet, so you do not need to buy any special types of foods.

What is a Balanced Meal Plate?

A balanced meal plate is simply the concept of having a “balanced diet.” A balanced meal covers all of the essential food groups and provides all of the necessary vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

Using a meal plate also makes things much simpler. Instead of trying to religiously count calories, or placing harsh restrictions on what you eat, meal plates focus more on portion control. It shows you exactly what types of food you need for each meal, and how much of each food you have.

It also helps prevent the common mistake that people have when it comes to serving size. Different types of foods have different serving sizes. For example, 1.5 slices of bread count as one serving. For fruit, however, serving size differs according to the type of fruit. A half-slice of banana, 1 cheek of mango, and 7 pieces of lansones all count as one serving each. For rice or pasta, half a cup is one serving. This discrepancy in terms of serving size confuses people, and this method makes it difficult to plan your meals.

You might notice that a meal plate seems similar to a food pyramid in that it shows what types of food you need to eat in proportion to one another. But in the case of meal plates, you can visualize it better and you can have an easier time measuring out the food you need to eat.

What Types of Foods Do You Need to Eat?

balanced meal plate

When using a meal plate, the food that you eat is divided into 4 primary food groups. These consist of the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Carbohydrates such as rice, grain, or bread
  • Healthy proteins

Here is a breakdown of each food group:

Fruits

Fruits are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and sugar. Eating fruits can help keep your body strong, and strengthens your immune system.

The sugar from fruits can also give you a much-needed energy boost, better than coffee or other caffeinated drinks in fact! This is due to the fact that eating fruits does not give you the “crash” most commonly associated with caffeine, or even other sugary drinks.

However, be sure to mix it up when it comes to the fruits you are eating. Some fruits such as lychees, mangoes, and apples have a pretty high sugar content and should be eaten in moderation. Instead, opt for eating citrus fruits, and fruits that are a bit more sour since these contain less sugar and more vitamin C.

Vegetables

Just like fruits, vegetables are pretty self-explanatory. Try to focus on having more fresh vegetables such as

  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic

Vegetables provide your body with fiber, as well as much-needed vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and magnesium that are essential to regulate your bodily functions.

Take note that while potatoes are technically vegetables, they do not count as part of your balanced meal plate. So do not fill up your plate with french fries or mashed potatoes!

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient that your body needs. Macronutrients are nutrients that your body needs to have in large amounts. Carbohydrates are important since they are another source of energy that helps fuel your body throughout the day. Not having enough carbohydrates can leave you feeling weak and low in energy.

However, too many carbohydrates can cause you to gain weight, and can make you feel bloated and can even lead to diabetes and cardiovascular problems. So be sure to eat carbohydrates in the right amounts.

Carbohydrates include foods such as pasta, potatoes, bread, and other cereals and whole grains. Ideally, you should prioritize eating whole grains over other types of grains. But if whole grains are very expensive, or hard to find, regular carbohydrates are just as fine.

Protein

Proteins are another type of macronutrients that your body needs. Proteins help repair the tissues in your body, and are needed for the production of enzymes and hormones. Your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood also need protein.

Ideally, your protein sources can come from vegetables, and lean meat from chicken, fish, pork, or beef.

How Do You Use a Meal Plate?

Using a balanced meal plate is pretty easy. You just need to remember the 4 food groups, and how much each food group should consist of in your meals.

50% Fruits & Veggies

First off, 50% of your meals should consist of vegetables and fruits. These can be any combination of vegetables and fruits, so long as it makes up half of your plate.

25% carbohydrates

Next up would be the carbohydrates. Carbs should only consist of about 25% or 1/4 of your plate. This is because while carbs are important, eating too much can cause your blood sugar to rise, and can cause you to gain weight.

25% Protein

The last 25% of your plate should be some form of protein. Ideally, it should be lean meat, but vegetables can also provide you with some protein.

You might notice that a healthy meal plate does not include fats. This is because generally speaking, you do not need to eat a lot of fatty foods, and fats should only be eaten in very small amounts.

Here is a visual example of what a balanced meal plate should be:

balanced meal plate

Key Takeaways

It is important to remember that a balanced meal plate is only supposed to act as a guide for your meals. If you have specific meal requirements or have health conditions that restrict the food you eat, it would be best to consult your doctor, or a registered nutritionist-dietitian to create a meal plan that’s suited for you.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Healthy Eating Plate | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/, Accessed July 8 2020

What exactly is a balanced meal? | Alimentarium, https://www.alimentarium.org/en/magazine/nutrition/what-exactly-balanced-meal, Accessed July 8 2020

The Eatwell Guide – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/, Accessed July 8 2020

Healthy Eating Plate | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/healthy-eating-plate, Accessed July 8 2020

Pinggang Pinoy: Healthy Food Plate for Filipino Adults | Department of Health website, https://www.doh.gov.ph/node/223, Accessed July 8 2020

Picture of the author
Medically reviewed by Chris Icamen
Written by Jan Alwyn Batara
Updated Jul 08, 2020
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