Whenever you start a weight loss or fitness program, you will hear about balanced diets. What is a balanced diet? A balanced diet is the optimal intake of food and drink to provide energy and nutrition for the growth, development, and maintenance of body cells, tissues, and organs. In general, a balanced diet entails eating a mixture of different foods from the basic food groups of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Having a balanced diet in addition to regular exercise, drinking water, and adequate sleep, is very important for maintaining health. By learning more about what your body needs to function optimally, you will not only be healthier, but you will also have more energy and feel better about yourself. Learning about nutrition and what kinds of food you need to eat daily will help you become aware of what you eat so that you can create meals that you enjoy and offer you all the benefits of good nutrition.
Consuming different foods that are rich in nutrients and low in trans fats, cholesterol, added sugar, salt, and alcohol, will keep you healthy. Eating enough fruits and vegetables daily along with a minimum of six glasses of water or 64 ounces, is recommended. Try to get fresh and local produce whenever possible to minimize chemicals that have been sprayed on food. You want to eat fruits and vegetables as close to their natural state as possible. Depending upon your caloric needs, the amount of fruits and vegetables you should eat daily will vary. For example, a person who is on a 2,000 caloric diet should eat about 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables daily.
Next, you may be wondering what kinds of fruits and vegetables should you eat. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily from dark green to orange, starchy vegetables, and legumes. Different vegetables offer different benefits. Hence, it is recommended that you consume a variety of different vegetables and fruits to ensure that you receive all the nutrients that your body needs for healthy functioning. Eat at least five portions daily. Antioxidants and other nutrients present in fruits and vegetables protect the body from disease while strengthening the immune system. Bright and deeply colored fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, sweet potato, kale, and butternut squash are best for vitamins and minerals. Apples offer fiber, while oranges are rich in vitamin C, and berries fight off cancer.
In terms of whole grains, consume about 3 or more ounces daily, with the remainder of your grains coming from whole grain or enriched products. Whole grains minimize heart disease and can help with maintaining weight. Regarding calcium, most adults and children receive their calcium from milk. Drink milk. Calcium is necessary for healthy bone development and maintenance. Vitamin D is often added to milk to help the intestine absorb calcium. Choose non-fat or low-fat dairy products without rBST or bovine growth hormone. There are many choices available that will benefit a healthy dietary plan and for people who do not consume milk products such as lactose-intolerant and vegan individuals, there are non-dairy alternatives that contain calcium as well including dried beans and legumes. Recommended calcium amounts are 1000 mg daily and up to 1200 mg daily if you are over 50. Include a calcium and vitamin D supplement daily if necessary.
Looking at fats in your daily caloric intake, eat less than 10 percent of your calories from fats. Try to have less than 300 mg of cholesterol daily. Healthy sources of dietary fat include lean, low-fat and fat-free options for meat, poultry, and dry beans, as well as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Aim to have 20 to 35 percent of fat come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Trans fasts increase LDL cholesterol in the body, raising the possibility of coronary heart disease. Avoid trans fats or hydrogenated fats as much as possible, limiting them to 10% of your daily caloric intake. Omega-3 group of fatty acids reduces cardiovascular disease, while significantly improving your mood. These powerful fats called EPA and DHA are found in cold water fatty fish and fish oils as well as sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, and walnuts.
Carbohydrates provide the body with the fuel it needs to do physical activities. Bad carbohydrates are processed carbohydrates such as white flour and refined sugar that dramatically increase blood sugar, resulting in weight gain. Good carbohydrates take longer to digest and help you to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels more stable. Whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of these carbohydrates, known for preventing cancer and heart disease. Dietary fiber is necessary for healthy digestion and maintaining a healthy colon. Healthy diets should have at least 20 grams of fiber daily. Fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are the best sources of carbohydrates. Avoid foods with added sugars and sweeteners. In one year, just drinking one 12-ounce can of soda that has 160 calories every day, can make you gain 16 pounds! Finally, in terms of protein, choose lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, nuts, tofu, beans, peas, and seeds. Protein is necessary to maintain cells, tissues, and organs. When cooking food, bake or broil rather than fry foods.
It is important also to consider the salt and potassium intake in the food you consume. Aim for 1 teaspoon of salt or 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Choose foods with low sodium. In regards to potassium, eat fruits and vegetables that contain potassium, which is important for the healthy functioning of your body.
You will want to choose foods that improve your health and avoid those that will put you at greater risk for developing diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Eat enough calories but not too much. What you want to do is maintain a balance between your caloric intake (calories you consume) and caloric expenditure (calories you burn.) How many calories you should eat depends upon your age, height, weight, sex, and level of physical activity. When you pay attention to what you are eating, you are more likely to eat healthy. For example, when you realize that the burger you are about to buy has three or four times the calories that another meal such as fish with salad would offer you, you are more likely to choose the healthier alternative. It is important to keep your portions moderate. This is more important with high-caloric foods. With the large meals offered in restaurants today, choose a starter instead of an entrée. You might be pleasantly surprised at how you can fill up quickly without eating too much.
When you start out, you might find this task a bit daunting. Be gentle with yourself and pay attention. Start simple with keeping a journal of what you eat. Pay attention when you go to the grocery store at the ingredients on the label and keep in mind that you want to choose foods that have less fats and sugars, while offering you nutrients and proteins. Learn how to eat smart. Take time to also enjoy your food and eat slower. You will end up eating less. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel full. You can still have sweets and fried foods but always in moderation. When you pay attention to what you eat and you realize how many calories goes into a particular meal, you are more likely to choose carefully what you eat and recognize how much effort it will take you to burn off those same calories.
The best weight loss plans incorporate a healthy and balanced diet along with regular exercise. This helps you learn good nutrition and fitness habits that will last you a lifetime. Eating healthy and working out regularly will help you tone your body and lose weight so that you can enjoy a fit and attractive physique. You will also find that your skin will clear up and your hair and nails will improve.
Eat regular meals. By eating most of your caloric intake earlier in the day, you have enough time to work calories off. You will also have more energy. Try eating smaller quantities more often instead of three regular meals. You may find that you have less of a tendency to eat snacks or binge. Snacks you can have include fruits, protein shakes, energy bars, and nuts.