Why Eat a Balanced Diet?
When it comes to maintaining great wellness, especially during cold and flu season and throughout the colder months of the year, maintaining a well-balanced diet is key. You may not realize that food truly is your first line of defense against sickness, imbalance and disease – but it absolutely is. And eating a healthy, whole foods diet over sugary and processed foods is also the best way to maintain a healthy weight and feel your best in mind, body, and spirit.
In this article, we’ll go over exactly what a balanced diet is, and how you can start making your diet more nutritious and well-rounded – so that you get the perfect amount of the major macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat), along with necessary vitamins and minerals. And, we’ll also tell you what key foods to avoid, especially during times with lots of temptations around – and what you can eat instead to satisfy your hunger and your sweet tooth in a healthy way.
What is a Balanced Diet, Anyway?
When it comes to eating well and balanced it’s not just about the right foods, but also about consuming correct portion sizes along with a variety of different healthy whole foods – so that you get all of the various macro and micronutrients your body needs for survival and proper functioning.
Remember that every type of food contains different amounts of fats, protein, and carbs, which are needed in proper balance to give you the energy, mental focus and concentration you need. In addition, each food contains a certain about of vitamins and minerals, which is why it’s so important to eat many different types of fruits, veggies, and more.
If you don’t like the taste of a lot of different foods – especially vegetables – a great way to get them into your diet is in healthy smoothies, with meal replacement shake powders like 310 Organic Shakes.
These shakes come in delicious flavors like Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Mint, and Salted Caramel. You can add in numerous fruits and veggies and still get the great “dessert-like taste” of the shake powder. You can also add in a green juice powder like 310 Berry Juice, with over 70+ superfoods, digestive enzymes, probiotics and more for optimal energy levels and great digestion. In addition, if you’re concerned that you aren’t getting enough vital vitamins and minerals, you can also supplement your diet with a daily high-quality multivitamin.
What Makes Up A Balanced Diet?
Now that’s talk about the different categories necessary to make sure you eat a balanced diet every day as the goal. You need to make sure you get enough of the three main macronutrients, outlined below…
- Complex Carbohydrates
- Healthy Fats
- Quality Protein
In the next section, we’ll break down exactly what foods are included in each category. But, the most important thing to remember is that by eating a variety of whole foods, you’re also supplying your body with the necessary fiber it needs for proper digestion and a healthy heart, along with all of the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to help you stay well.
Food Breakdown: Major Macronutrients
1) Complex Carbohydrates
Starting with fruit, this natural delicacy can help quench your sweet tooth in an incredibly healthy way. Although fruits are high in sugar, the fiber in them helps slow down the digestion so it doesn’t cause a quick spike and drop in blood sugar like regular table sugar does. Plus, fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, and immune-supporting antioxidants, making them essential to a healthy diet.
If you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, some of the best low sugar fruits include berries (strawberries, blackberries), watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, peaches, lemons, limes, and avocado.
Ideas for how to get fruit into your daily diet:
- Toss your favorite healthy fruits into meal replacement shake smoothies
- Add fresh berries to the top of yogurt, oatmeal, cottage cheese, and more
- Keep a convenient fruit like apple, pear, peach, or banana on your work desk to have as a fast snack, paired with some nuts or nut butter
Just like fruits, vegetables are a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But unlike fruits, vegetables contain very little sugar, so they’re actually an even better option, especially if you’re trying to watch your sugar intake or lose weight. For this reason, you should try to fit even more vegetables than fruits into your day.
Some of the best vegetables are leafy greens, due to their rich antioxidant content and low carbs. These include spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard. In addition, more low-carb veggies include bell peppers, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, cucumber, celery, and zucchini.
Ideas for how to get veggies into your daily diet:
- Toss your favorite chopped raw veggies like spinach, kale, cucumber, and cauliflower into meal replacement shake smoothies
- Chop and steam your favorite veggies to add to the top of pasta dishes
- Make veggies part of your snacks… try celery with peanut butter, tomatoes with cheese, or cucumber with your favorite healthy dressing
Next, whole grains are extremely important in the diet to provide needed fiber, along with vitamins and minerals, and help keep you full and satisfied. Whole grain foods are rich in nutrients, in contrast to processed carbs where the fiber, vitamins, and minerals are mostly stripped out during the manufacturing process.
Some great options for healthy whole grains that can be used in many different meals include brown rice, oats, and quinoa. In addition, when buying breads, crackers, and pastas (which should only be consumed in moderation), look for whole grain options vs. highly processed.
Ideas for how to get whole grains into your daily diet:
- Make oatmeal for breakfast mixed with low-calorie peanut butter powder and a healthy milk
- Try a brown rice or quinoa and veggie dish for dinner as a nice alternative to meat dishes
- Switch from white to whole grain pasta for your next pasta night
2) Healthy Fats
You probably already know that there’s a big difference between “good” and “bad” fats, but it’s important to reiterate that here. Nutritious oils not only help provide satiety to your body, but they’re also rich in unsaturated fatty acids that support heart health along with essential omega-3 and omega-6s. Healthy oils can even contain antioxidants and provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
Some oils we particularly recommend include olive oil (extra virgin), avocado oil, coconut oil, and 310 MCT Oil (which is a special, fast-absorbing oil that comes from coconut oil). In particular, MCT Oil is growing more popular for its ease of use, energy benefits for the body and mind, and help getting into ketosis if you follow a keto diet.
Ideas for how to get nutritious oils into your daily diet:
- Cook with olive, avocado, or coconut oil instead of butter or vegetable oil
- Add MCT Oil into your smoothies, coffee, or cold sauces
- Bake with coconut oil instead of butter or vegetable oil
Avocado and Olives
Next, avocados and olives, although technically fruits, are also excellent sources of healthy fats – especially monounsaturated fats, which support heart health. These healthy fats can help balance and maintain good cholesterol levels, while also supplying antioxidants, fiber, and additional vitamins and minerals.
Ideas for how to get avocado/olives oils into your daily diet:
- Add assorted olives to the top of your salads or have with cheese as a snack
- Add chopped avocado to the top of your omelet or into soups or chilis
- Include avocado in your meal replacement shake smoothies
Nuts/Seeds and their Butters
Nuts, seeds, and their butters are not only great sources of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, they also offer an option for plant-based protein sources if you’re trying to cut down on animal proteins. In addition, they contain many important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Plus, nuts and seeds are incredibly versatile and come in many different yummy varieties. Some great, nutritious nuts include walnut, almond, pecan, cashew, and macadamia. Some deliciously-healthy seeds include chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin, and sunflower. You can also find nuts and seeds in delicious spreads such as peanut, almond, cashew and even sunflower butter.
Ideas for how to get nuts/seeds into your daily diet:
- Add crunch to your salads by tossing on hemp seeds or sliced almonds
- Add depth to winter soups by adding in sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Toss chia or flax seeds, or the nut butter of your choice into your meal replacement shake smoothies for greater satiety
3) Quality Protein
Chicken, turkey, and lean beef
Just as important as complex carbs and healthy fats is getting quality protein sources throughout your day. Starting with quality meats, some great options include chicken, turkey, and lean beef, which are rich sources of protein, vitamins, and amino acids needed for energy, strength, muscle growth, and overall health. In addition, lean meats will have fewer calories than their fattier counterparts.
When buying meat, aim to buy organic and grass-fed as often as possible to help reduce your exposure to hormones and chemicals that may be used on the animals or in their feed – and also for potentially the most nutritious options.
Ideas for how to get lean meats into your daily diet:
- Try turkey burgers instead of regular beef burgers on your next burger night
- Cook a whole chicken then shred the meat to add into salads, soups, and more throughout the week
- Make a chili with lean ground beef and add all your favorite veggies you’re trying to use up in your fridge
Seafood is another great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and many types also are rich in healthy fats including omega-3s. Due to this, seafood is considered to be extremely healthy and it’s recommended to eat it twice weekly as part of a healthy diet and potential disease management.
Some great fish to eat include salmon, tuna, cod, whitefish, halibut, tilapia and swordfish. Some great shellfish include shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels, lobster, and crabs.
Ideas for how to get seafood into your daily diet:
- Toss grilled shrimp onto your next salad instead of chicken or beef
- Aim to make fish your main dinner protein twice a week, with a healthy side
- Incorporate canned tuna or salmon into your lunch routine
Eggs & Full-Fat Unsweetened Dairy
Eggs are another great source of protein, and are also nutrient-rich, containing various vitamins and minerals along with healthy fats like omega-3s. Eggs have been demonized in the past for containing cholesterol, but this actually may help bolster good cholesterol in the body, supporting heart health. As with anything, eggs should be consumed in moderation, but it is important to consume both the yolk and the whites to get all their amazing benefits. We also recommend looking for grass-fed, pasture-raised and organic whenever possible.
In addition, unsweetened sources of full-fat dairy such as cheese and yogurt are also great ways to get quality protein, calcium, and other nutrients into your daily diet. And if you don’t eat dairy, you can find delicious replacements such as coconut yogurt or vegan cheeses.
Ideas for how to get eggs & dairy into your daily diet:
- Add unsweetened Greek yogurt or cottage cheese into your smoothies
- Have eggs for breakfast multiple times throughout the week, cooked in different ways
- Snack on cheese slices, yogurt, or cooked hard boiled eggs
What Not To Eat
Now that you know what to eat, you need to know what you shouldn’t eat in order to maintain a clean and healthy diet. Of course, processed sugar should be avoided in all its many forms, to help keep your calorie count down, and also avoid sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar that can negatively affect your health and weight loss goals in excess.
A particularly dangerous form of sugar is called high-fructose corn syrup, which you’ll find in many different packaged drinks, desserts, and more – and can cause problems in particular for the liver, which is the only organ that can metabolize it.
Next, foods that are highly-processed are often stripped of their natural vitamins, minerals, and essential healthy components. This creates foods that are lacking in nutrients, which take up space in your diet that could be filled with highly-nutritious foods instead. Many processed foods are also high in calories and “bad fats” that can clog arteries and negatively affect heart health.
Just like highly-processed foods, refined grains are also stripped of their essential healthy components and remain void of vital nutrients and fiber. Dietary fiber is an important part of healthy digestion and a healthy diet, but you miss out on it with refined grains. In addition, since refined grains are lacking the fiber, they can create a sugar spike similar to when you eat other sugary foods – which means you won’t be satisfied as long, and you may end up eating more calories.
Next, if you’re tempted to try to fulfill your sweet tooth with foods containing artificial sweeteners, instead of those containing real sugar, don’t. This may seem like a shortcut to weight loss but really it may negatively affect your weight loss goals in the end. Since fake or artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than regular table sugar, they can actually cause an increase in hunger which may lead to you consuming more calories. In addition, the long-term potential negative health effects of consuming artificial sweeteners is still being researched.
Just as refined bread is a type of processed grain, there are various types of meats that are processed so that they can be preserved longer. These include sausages, hot dogs, salami, bacon, and beef jerky. Though these meats may taste good to some because they are salty, with a lot of flavor, they are not the best option for your health, especially if you eat them more than just occasionally.
These meats all have a high salt content, and are high in saturated fats, the kind of fat that can negatively affect your heart health in large amounts. In addition, these meats are often high in cholesterol and can increase overall cholesterol levels in the body. Diets that include lots of processed meats may lead to a greater instance of disease.
Creating YOUR Balanced Diet Plan
Wondering how to put the above dietary advice to work for you? The USDA’s MyPlate Plan offers a guideline for correct amounts of each food group, proper portion sizes, and how you can fit a variety of healthy whole foods into your day. You can also click on each food type to get more meal and snack ideas for each group.
While this plan is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, if you’re trying to lose weight, you may wish to refine your daily calorie count. You can use our Free 310 Calculator Tool to determine how many calories you should eat each day to lose or maintain your weight.
Remember that a healthy, whole foods diet is your first line of defense for amazing health, and can help you stay well and fight colds all winter long. Check out our variety of organic meal replacement shakes to help you get quality nutrients on a busy schedule, while sticking to your calorie goals – and a variety of dietary supplements to help boost immunity and support your healthiest diet and lifestyle.
For more articles on health and weight loss as you embark upon your own personal wellness journey, along with delicious, nutritionist-approved recipes, visit the 310 Nutrition Blog.