Everyone has different dietary needs. People who are more active usually need to consume more calories than people who don’t exercise or move around a lot. All healthy diets should have a few things in common, though. Overall, a healthy balanced diet should include these 7 factors.
1. Vegetables and Fruit
Vegetables and fruit form the backbone of a healthy diet. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average person needs to consume between 2 and 3 cups of vegetables daily. Twelve baby carrots count as 1 cup of vegetables, while 2 cups of lettuce counts as one. A person should eat between 1 and 2 cups of fruit every day. One large orange or medium-sized pear counts as 1 cup of fruit. Vegetables and fruits are necessary because they provide plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber while being low in calories.
2. Fiber and Whole Grains
A healthy diet provides you with plenty of fiber. The USDA recommends that adults eat between 6 and 8 oz. of grain each day and that children, depending on their age, eat up to 5 oz. At least half of a person’s daily grain portions should be whole grains. Eating plenty of whole-grain foods and fiber can help lower a person’s risk of heart disease as well as prevent constipation and help a person maintain a good weight, according to the USDA.
Everybody needs protein. Eating enough protein keeps the body functioning properly. Protein is required to keep muscles and hair strong, to keep the immune system strong and to keep the heart going. Too much protein isn’t necessarily a good thing and can cause harm to the body. Some sources of protein also add unhealthy saturated fats to the diet. Get the most from your protein by choosing low-fat sources, such as fish, beans or poultry.
4. Plenty of Calcium
Growing children and adolescents need calcium to make sure their bones are strong and healthy. Older people need calcium to help stave off osteoporosis. According to Help Guide, a healthy diet contains at least 1,000 mg of calcium. You can get plenty of calcium by eating reduced-fat dairy products. If you avoid dairy, get your calcium from vegetables such as broccoli or from dried beans.
5. Trim the Bad Fat
Some fats, such as polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat, are beneficial to the body. Other fats, such as saturated fat and trans fat, are nothing but bad news. Trans fat can increase your risk of heart disease. You often find trans fat in processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils. In order to eat a healthy diet, it’s best to leave processed foods on the shelf.
6. Skip the Salt
The body needs a small amount of sodium in order to function well, but too much sodium has no place in a healthy diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily. Getting too much sodium can raise your blood pressure and put you at risk for heart disease. A lot of sodium comes from processed foods, which is another good reason to avoid them. If you eat canned vegetables or broth, look for low-sodium varieties.
7. Eat Regular Meals
A healthy diet is a scheduled diet. If you skip meals, you risk throwing your diet off track by eating too much the next time you eat. Take time each morning to eat breakfast, and always set aside a time for lunch during the day, even if you have to eat sitting at your desk. If you get hungry between meals, allow yourself a small, healthy snack, such as a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or a few sliced raw vegetables.