What Is A Balanced Diet and Why Do Calories Matter?
A balanced diet provides you with necessary nutrients for your body to function optimally. For this to occur, you would need to consume most of your daily calorie intake from fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins.
Counting Calories For A Balanced Diet
The number of calories a food item contains is indicative of the amount of energy stored within that food. The body uses energy to walk, talk, and think, among other functions. The average person needs about 2,200 calories every day. However, the recommended daily calorie intake for any one person would depend on their age, gender, and physical activity level. Generally, men need more calories than women. Individuals who are physically active need more calories than sedentary people.
The following calorie intake is recommended:
- Children ages 2-8 years: 1,000 to 1,400 calories
- Girls ages 9-13 years: 1,400 to 1,600 calories
- Boys ages 9-13 years: 1,600 to 2,000 calories
- Active women ages 14- 30 years: 2,400 calories
- Sedentary women ages 14-30 years: 1,800 to 2,000 calories
- Active men ages 14-30 years: 2,800 to 3,200 calories
- Sedentary men ages 14-30 years: 2,000 to 2,600 calories
- Active Men & Women over 30 years: 2,000 to 3,000 calories
- Sedentary Men & Women over 30 years: 1,600 to 2,400 calories
It’s important to note that the source of a person’s calorie intake is just as important as the amount of calories they consume. Limited quantities of empty calories should be consumed. Empty calories come from sugars and solid fats, like butter and shortening.
It’s important to have a balanced diet as proper nutrition is for the organs and tissues to work properly. If you don’t consume a balanced diet, you are more prone to disease, infection, fatigue, and poor performance.
Achieving A Balanced Diet
Fruits: Fruits are nutritious snacks. Try to consume fruits that are in season as they are fresher and provide the most nutrients to the body. Fruits are also high in natural sugars which make them a healthier choice than foods with added sugars.
Vegetables: Dark, leafy green vegetables can be consumed with every meal. They also contain the most nutrition. Consuming a variety of vegetables will ensure that you get the most nutrients.
Grains: Limit the consumption of refined white flour. Try switching from white bread and pasta to whole grain alternatives.
Proteins: Meats and beans are the main source of protein. The best options for consumption are lean, low-fat meats, such as chicken, fish, and certain cuts of pork and beef. Remove the skin and trim any excess visible fat. This helps to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in meats. Tofu, tempeh and other soy-based products are outstanding sources of protein and are healthy substitutes to meat.
Dairy: It’s best to consume small portions of full-fat cheeses and reduced-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. Flaxseed milk and almond milk are great alternatives to animal milk.
Oils: Oils should be consumed frugally. Always choose low-fat and low-sugar versions of oil-based products. Olive oil can be used to replace vegetable oils. Avoid deep frying foods as much as possible.
Now that you have a better understanding of a balanced diet and why it’s important, ask yourself honestly, are you able to achieve a balanced diet every day? How can you begin incorporating a balanced diet every day for you and your family?