Whenever there is a discussion concerning your diet, the most common advice given is to consume less fat, and eat less. But, this advice doesn’t do a good job of convincing me. Almost all of us may be confused over the contradicting dietary opinions we receive, but there’s one thing that’s absolutely certain; food deprivation is not the answer to a healthy being, having a balanced diet is. It is important to consume the right sort of foods, in the correct amounts, to support a healthy lifestyle.
What is a balanced diet?
A balanced diet is a diet that aims to provide your body with all the necessary nutrients it needs. It comprises various macronutrients like proteins, carbohydrates and fats, along with micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Each of these compounds have a different role to play in maintaining various bodily functions.
These vital nutrients are supplied to the body through five major food groups — fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products, cereals and pulses, and oils and fats. The basic rule for a balanced meal may seem simple at first, but that is not the whole story. A good diet should encompass the correct kind of food, in the correct amount, and should be consumed at proper timings.
In India alone, over half of the population is afflicted with anemia, or iron deficiency. Women are the majority, as they go through several hormonal changes, from menstruation, to pregnancy and menopause. Hence, women need to maintain a steady and regular dose of vitamins, calcium, iron, biotin, and folic acid.
There is also a need to drink adequate amounts of water. Not drinking water can lead to dehydration, and can cause acidity and water retention. Six to eight glasses of water are needed to be consumed to keep your body hydrated.
For keeping your body healthy and free from afflictions, you need to consume at least three square meals a day, along with indulging in healthy snacking for curbing cravings. Breakfast should ideally be the heaviest, and most nutrient-rich meal of the day, as it is the first meal we consume.
But, owing to our busy schedules, most of us even barely manage to have a cup of coffee, and some bread. When you start your day with a lighter meal, you end up having a much heavier lunch and dinner, much more than what is required. Dinner should ideally be the lightest, but in an Indian household, it is an elaborate and indulgent family feast. Here’s a curated take-down for the perfect meal plan —
Breakfast: An ideal meal in the morning should include three main things. These things include dietary fibers, carbohydrates, like bread (preferably wholegrain), oatmeal, like white oats, or wheat flakes, good proteins like eggs (preferably the whites), sprouts, milk and yoghurt, and assorted nuts like figs, almonds, apricots, and walnuts. Using this plan, you’ll eat way less calories than you would have, and you also end up consuming more nutrients.
Lunch: For the mid-day meal, have a mixture of high-fibre whole grains like brown rice, starchy carbs jowar or barley, and foodstuffs with a good protein content, like pulses, chicken, paneer, eggs, or fish. Also include in some fibre-rich salads (use fresh vegetables) and some probiotics like buttermilk, curd, or yogurt to complete your meal.
Dinner: For the final meal of the day, choose heavy foods that will keep your appetite in check, and will help reduce midnight bingeing. Have loads of leafy green vegetables to stock up on vitamins.
Limit your carbohydrates, but make sure not to completely avoid them. Combine these foods with some healthy fat sources like nuts and fish. Your body can utilize these for overnight repair and regeneration. Having a glass of warm water before going to bed will help you sleep better.
Snacks: Snacking might have a bad reputation, but don’t give up on it just yet. Snacks provide you with a quick burst of energy during the day. Instead of junk food and processed snacks, opt for fresh fruits, baked goods, salads, and even nuts, and instead of binge-snacking, eat smaller and more frequent meals.
All this snacking does not mean that you’re allowed to eat more. Spread out your daily requirements throughout the day, and eat in moderation.