Photo by Vanessa Loring

A balanced diet consists of protein, carbs, fat, and vegetables. How much you eat of these dictates how healthy you are. Food alone isn’t the magic bullet – a body also needs to move or exercise. What foods you put in your body and what type of exercise you get will round out the whole picture. Balancing calories and using energy is the key to a healthy diet. One of the safest ways to control food intake and ensure healthy food intake is to learn to read food labels. to sustain a balanced diet is never easy but definitely doable.

If you eat or drink more than your body needs, you’ll gain weight. If you eat and drink less – you will lose weight – but is it sustainable weight loss, or will it come right back when you resume eating? Many of the fad diets today suggest a very low intake of calories. Ingesting less than 1400 calories a day may lead to health problems. Men should have around 2,500 calories a day, and women should have around 2,000. All of these are mere suggestions – I try to stick to 1,400 and feel full. So, how do you begin to unravel the diet to achieve and sustain a balanced diet?

1. Carbohydrates are not your enemy.

Many diets call for low carbs, eliminating rice, potatoes, pasta, and cereals. Your body needs fiber to be healthy. Choose whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or potatoes with their skins on. Choose carbs that will help you feel full for a longer period of time. Include at least 1 starch with each meal. A baked potato contains half the calories of fat and provides fuel for the body. Be mindful of what types of fats you add to starchy foods because they will send the calorie count through the roof. Try to avoid oil on chips, butter on bread, or pasta sauces, which are cream-based.

2. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables.

You can get 5 portions of a variety of fruits and veggies daily. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or juiced. 

Apples, oranges, and bananas are high in potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. They are also high in natural sugars, which provide fuel for the body. 

Avoid drinking more than a single serving of fruit juice, vegetable juice or a smoothie daily. They contain sugar and can damage your teeth and add unwanted pounds.

3. Eat more fish.

Fish is a wonderful source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. 

Diets to control cholesterol suggest eating fish twice weekly. Salmon, trout, herring, and sardines are all good sources of protein and vitamins. 

Tuna, cod, and haddock contain less oil but are also good sources of healthy fats. You can eat fresh, frozen, or canned but be mindful of the salt intake in canned fish.

4. Cut down on saturated fat and sugar.

While a diet needs some fat, it is important to be mindful of what type of fat is being ingested. There are 2 types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. Too much-saturated fat can increase cholesterol and increase the risk of developing heart disease. Foods high in saturated fats include fatty cuts of meats (think steak), sausages, butter, hard cheese, cream, cakes, biscuits, lard, and pies. Try also to eat more foods that contain unsaturated fats, such as vegetable or olive oils, spreads, oily fish, and avocados.

Choose lean cuts of meat and cut off visible fat. Fats are very high in energy but should be eaten in smaller amounts.

Sugar increases your risk of tooth problems and obesity. Sugary foods and drinks are high in calories and, if consumed too often, can contribute to weight gain. This is especially true if they are eaten between meals. Sugars found in fruit and milk contain healthy fats. Eliminate “free sugars” such as sugary drinks, cereal, cakes, pastries, sweets, chocolate, and alcoholic drinks.

5. Eat less salt.

Salt can raise blood pressure. Add salt while cooking, and avoid adding more at the table. Did you know that about ¾ of the sale in your diet is already in food when it is purchased? Salt is a natural preservative and is added as part of the packaging process to most packaged foods we buy off the grocery shelf.

6. Get active and strive to be a healthy weight.

Regular exercise along with a healthy diet will reduce the risk of getting serious health conditions. Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Most adults can lose weight by eating fewer calories. But it is important to include exercise in any diet.

7. Control your thirst.

We need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated. Water is the hydration drink of choice. However, lower-fat milk, low-sugar drinks, tea, and coffee are also healthy choices. Avoid sugary drinks. Even unsweetened fruit juices are higher in calories. It is important to remain hydrated when exercising in hot weather.

8. Don’t skip breakfast.

Some people skip breakfast, thinking it is how they lose weight quicker. A healthy breakfast provides the fuel your body needs to function throughout the day. A good breakfast will eliminate brain fog and help you perform at a higher level. A breakfast high in fiber, low in fat, sugar, and salt can form the beginning of a balanced diet. Fruits and whole grain cereals are a healthy breakfast.

My book, Generations of Good Food, has lots of healthy recipes. The key and goal to sustaining balanced diet is all things in moderation. Add a healthy dose of daily exercise to your food intake and start to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

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