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What does it actually mean to eat a balanced diet?

What does it actually mean to eat a balanced diet?

Hallie Criste

Nutrition & Recipes

Aug 28, 2019

If you’re looking for information on a basic, healthy diet without the ‘fluff,’ fads or fasting… you’ve come to the right place! Rather than getting caught up with whatever ‘new finding’ is in the spotlight, I want to remind you that at a cellular level, your body requires basic nutrients. So rather than think about a diet specific for weight loss, let’s think about a diet specific for your basic needs. Not because you should disregard your goals but because once you’ve lined up the basics of good health, both weight loss and muscle gain become more achievable in less time.

So… what does a balanced diet look like?
My simplified, modern day ‘food pyramid’ would contain the following categories:
50% vegetables (others may refer to this category as carbohydrates)
25% protein
25% fats

Essentially, this consists of the three macronutrients, i.e. nutrients that should be consumed in large quantities. Did you notice there’s no grains or dairy in there? That’s because from a Nutritionist’s perspective, I don’t see a need for them. I’m not necessarily anti-grain or anti-dairy (there’s definitely room for a cheese platter now and then!), but I do think that these two types of food groups have negative impacts that counteract the good. Grains get sprayed with a lot of nasty chemicals and dairy is quite inflammatory and can increase mucous production. Plus, all the starch you need from grains and calcium you need from dairy can be easily supplied with vegetables.

Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into each of the categories recommended.

Vegetables/Carbohydrates
A great way to incorporate the necessary vegetable intake is to eat those that are in season. The foods that grow best in certain seasons are usually abundant in the nutrients we need. For example, winter fruits and vegetables are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Beta Carotene; all of which are known to boost your immunity and improve your resilience against coughs and colds. Pretty crazy, right? I know, nature is awesome.

Another good rule of thumb to get the best out of plants is to include leafy greens and raw salad vegetables for lunch, then roasted root vegetables for dinner. This way, you can ensure you’re getting a good variation in colours and nutrients.

Protein
Protein is so important for your muscles and hormone production. You need protein to help with structure – it gives shape to cells, tissues and organs and is used as a transporter for essential chemicals within the body.

Good sources of animal protein include eggs (FYI eggs are not dairy – a LOT of people ask me this), poultry, red meats or organ meats (liver). Good sources of plant protein include hemp, soy (tofu, miso, tempeh, edamame), lentils and beans.

Fats
The last food group! The word ‘fat’ tends to have a bit of stigma around it but believe me when I see you NEED healthy fats in your diet. They are incredibly important for brain health and cognition. They also serve as an aid in dealing with stress and creating sex hormones. Ideal sources include avocados, coconut oil, eggs, nuts, seeds and cold-pressed oils such as flaxseed oil.

The Fourth Macronutrient
Now we’ve discussed carbohydrates, proteins and fats but there’s one last, crucial macronutrient that makes up the majority of your body and that is: water. You should be getting 2-3 litres daily and even more if you’re training and sweating. Water HAS to be replaced. It’s common for people to report constant fatigue but often times they are just overly dehydrated. Cracked lips, constipation, tiredness and fatigue are all possible symptoms of dehydration so make sure you are constantly drinking up that H20.

This content courtesy of Dee Zibara. Dee Zibara is a qualified Nutritionist who began her journey in the wellness industry first studying Psychology, Personal Training and then Nutritional Medicine. She loves working in performance Nutrition and Hormonal Health and is very passionate about bringing the basic principles back as a top priority. She believes balance creates an amazing quality of life and fosters more happiness within people. In her spare time, you can find her reading biochemistry books, chasing her energiser-bunny toddler and enjoying the sand and the sea. For more information, visit her website here.