The Diet Chart You Always Need

Imhealthist | Sunday 20th of September 2015 11:25:20 AM

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For most of us, the word ‘Diet’ immediately brings images of leafy and lean food aimed at weight loss. Actually it is not true. Strictly speaking, the word ‘Diet’ means the total quantity of food one consumes over a period of time, say, a day or a week. A good or healthy or balanced diet means taking right quantity and quality of food across different classes of groups and importantly, at right time. Simply put, a balanced diet defines what, why, how and when to eat.

What To Eat for a Balanced Diet:

                        Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health has classified the food we eat into several groups:

  • Vegetables & Fruits
  • Healthy Fats & Oils: Olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower & other vegetable oils.
  • Whole grains : Whole wheat, brown rice, oats, millet, barley
  • Nuts, seeds, beans
  • Fish, egg, lean meats
  • Dairy products or vitamin D  / calcium supplements
  • Refined grains, red meat, potatoes and sugar
A balanced combination of food essentially means more servings of items at the top to sparing use of the food at bottom and this should be amply complimented by daily exercises or physical activities.

Why To Eat a Balanced Diet:

Vegetables & fruits are rich in fibers, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and do wonder to control the body weight. Fruits as dessert will provide the natural sugar and reduce the craving for unhealthy options. Whole grains are rich in antioxidants and keep many chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart diseases at bay. In general, vegetable, fruits, and whole grains are termed as good carbs, as they take more time to get digested and help to keep the blood sugar under check. Unhealthy carbs are nothing but refined products, (white flour, and refined sugar) that are stripped off of the value products – fiber, brans and nutrients. They get easily digested and shoot blood sugar levels.

            Both poly and mono unsaturated fats, considered as good and healthy fats, are obtained either from oils (canola, peanut, olive) or nuts (hazel, almonds). These are required to keep heart, skin, nails, and brain in good condition. Saturated fats found in red meat, and rich dairy products and trans fats found in cookies, candies, and processed food should be avoided. Recommended levels of proteins and calcium that are required for body building and strong bones are 1gm per kg of body weight and 1000 milli grams per day respectively. However, it should be noted that kidney patients should follow the ‘less protein’ dietary regime prescribed by the dieticians.

            Sugar and salt when taken above the recommended levels are bound to increase the linkage chances of diabetes and high blood pressure respectively. An adult daily requires around 1 gram of salt, but the quantity that is consumed is manifold – due to the processed foods, that are loaded with sodium. Also the ‘added sugar’ component in readymade cereals, aerated soft drinks and packed juices is usually high and should be avoided.

How To Eat:

Ideally, a food plate when divided into four quarters, should consist of 

  • Colorful vegetable and fruits in two quarters (Potatoes should not considered under this category)
  • Whole grains in the third quarter
  • Proteins in the fourth quarter

Energy requirement varies with each individual to suit age, work nature, and health conditions. For instance, a typical energy requirement of a moderately active mid aged man is 2500 calories and a highly active teenaged woman is 2400 calories. Hence, a proper diet along with the serving size is designed by dieticians based on the above factors.

When To Eat:

            It not only matters what we eat, but also when we eat. Ideally, the meal that caters to the total energy requirement should be divided among six small portions with sufficient gap between them. Dinner should be taken early and the time gap between it and the breakfast should be around 14 hours. Regular time gaps between each meal helps the body to keep the blood sugar level in control and to burn the fat instead of preserving it.

            A healthy diet is key to maintain our body in good health. Anyone in a weight loss program should not make an abrupt and sudden switch over to a balanced diet, as it never works. It should be a gradual process. What ultimately matters is that calorie intake should not be greater than the calorie burnt and it is achievable with determination.