A balanced diet requires a variety of food choices from each of the six food groups. This provides you with the energy and nutrition needed for optimal growth and development of your body. A balanced diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts and is low in saturated fats. By following the food pyramid as a guide, you can eat a balanced diet.
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Focus your diet on grains, as this is the base of the food pyramid. Eat six to 11 servings of grains every day. Sources should be whole grains and include breads, cereals, rice, crackers and pasta. A serving is equivalent to one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of cereal, rice or pasta.
Consume two to three servings of protein every day. Meats and poultry should be low-fat or lean. Other sources of protein include fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds. A serving is equivalent to 1 oz. of meat, tuna or chicken.
Take in three to five servings of vegetables every day. Eating a variety of vegetables is optimal, with a focus on dark green and orange vegetables, such as spinach and carrots. A serving size is equal to 1/2 cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw vegetables.
Eat two to four servings of fruit every day. Choose fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit to satisfy these servings. However, fruit juice should be kept to a minimum because of added sugars. A serving size is equal to one small raw fruit or 1/2 cup fruit juice.
Include two to four servings of dairy every day. The best choice for your dairy products is fat-free or low-fat. Sources include milk, cheese and yogurt. A serving size is equivalent to 1 cup of milk. If you do not or cannot consume dairy products, choose lactose-free products.
Use fats sparingly, as this is the tip of the pyramid. Most fat sources should come from fish and vegetable oils or nuts. Solid fats, such as butter, margarine, shortening and lard, should be limited. A serving size is equal to 1 tsp. margarine or mayonnaise.