What is Considered a Well-Balanced Diet? (with pictures)

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus
Snacks, like cookies, can be part of a well-balanced diet when eaten only in small amounts.
Snacks, like cookies, can be part of a well-balanced diet when eaten only in small amounts.

Exactly what a well-balanced diet consists of is open to interpretation and will depend on each country as well as individual taste preferences, but in general, it's a healthy eating plan. Balanced diets are the opposite of fads or restricted plans. A restricted diet is usually low calorie and focuses on just a few foods; it may eliminate whole groups, such as grains or dairy. A fad diet is often extremely low in calories and may consist only of a single food, such as grapefruit or soup. In both cases, important nutrients are left out, whereas a well-balanced diet meets daily vitamin, mineral, calorie and protein requirements.

A fad diet, such as one in which only grapefruit is consumed, is not well-balanced.
A fad diet, such as one in which only grapefruit is consumed, is not well-balanced.

The main food categories that form what is usually considered a well-balanced diet are proteins, produce, grains and dairy. Healthy diets are often said to concentrate mostly on fresh fruits and vegetables. Whole grains are considered an essential part of a well-balanced food plan. Oats, wheat and other whole grains add good sources of fiber and nutrients to the body, whereas processed grains, such as those found in white bread, lack nutrition.

Salmon fillets are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Salmon fillets are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Healthy protein sources contain Omega-3 fatty acids rather than saturated fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fat sources found in foods such as salmon, walnuts and olive oil that are considered to be part of a balanced diet. Low-fat dairy products are included in many balanced diets, as they add some protein as well as important minerals such as calcium. Foods that are high in sugars or saturated fats such as chips, cookies and cakes should be eaten in small amounts only occasionally if they are to be part of well-balanced diets. High sodium, or salt levels, are found in many packaged and processed foods, and these should also be limited.

Flax seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Flax seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Well-balanced diets contain the necessary amount of calories, fats and nutrients that a person needs to function healthily while allowing him or her to maintain a proper body weight. While taking a multivitamin supplement is recommended by many physicians, eating a balanced diet is still necessary, as the body uses nutrients from real food more efficiently than those from supplements. Supplements, as approved by a doctor, are meant to nutritionally enhance a balanced approach to eating.

Vegetables are an essential part of a well-balanced diet.
Vegetables are an essential part of a well-balanced diet.

Within the definition of well-balanced diets there can be many different variations. For example, a vegetarian diet contains no meat, but can and should still be well-balanced by including other protein sources. A low-fat diet is still balanced in nutrients and types of food such as protein, dairy, produce and grains, but focuses on reducing unnecessary fats.

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Discussion Comments

MissDaphne

@MrsWinslow - It's not in fruits and veggies that you should be seeking variety. You shouldn't be relying too heavily on any one kind of food.

So for protein, for instance, try to get it from a lot of different sources, not just meat. Plant protein may be processed differently in the body and studies are showing a lot of advantages to getting protein from plants. So at my house, when we make tacos, for instance, we use half ground beef and half refried beans.

Another tip is to think of protein sources and carb sources as vehicles for your fruits and veggies rather than thinking of fruits and veggies as mere snacks and side dishes. When I make fried rice, it's so full of veggies that it's hard to even see the rice!

MrsWinslow

Another way to make sure that you are eating a healthy balanced diet is to eat the rainbow!

You may have noticed that fruits and veggies come in different colors, yes? Red ones, blue or purple ones, orange ones, green ones, and so on. Well, each of those colors has its own special nutritional value. (Orange, for instance, usually comes from beta carotene, one of the B vitamins.) Fruits and veggies that are more vivid in color are often more nutritious than paler ones. Apples and bananas are all well and good, but they don't have as many nutrients as, for instance, oranges and pineapples.

So when you are picking out fruits and veggies, make sure to get some from all the colors. If berries aren't in season, try frozen ones. They are yucky plain, but they're great for making smoothies with.

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    • Snacks, like cookies, can be part of a well-balanced diet when eaten only in small amounts.
      Snacks, like cookies, can be part of a well-balanced diet when eaten only in small amounts.
    • A fad diet, such as one in which only grapefruit is consumed, is not well-balanced.
      A fad diet, such as one in which only grapefruit is consumed, is not well-balanced.
    • Salmon fillets are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
      Salmon fillets are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Flax seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
      Flax seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Vegetables are an essential part of a well-balanced diet.
      Vegetables are an essential part of a well-balanced diet.
    • Low-fat dairy products are often included in a well-balanced diet.
      Low-fat dairy products are often included in a well-balanced diet.
    • A variety of foods should be eaten daily.
      A variety of foods should be eaten daily.
    • A well-balanced diet should include several servings of fiber-rich grains and fresh fruits daily.
      A well-balanced diet should include several servings of fiber-rich grains and fresh fruits daily.
    • The grapefruit diet is a popular example of a fad diet -- but one that lacks balance.
      The grapefruit diet is a popular example of a fad diet -- but one that lacks balance.
    • A vegetarian diet can be balanced by consuming protein from foods other than meat.
      A vegetarian diet can be balanced by consuming protein from foods other than meat.