In short, a balanced diet is a diet that contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals at for optimal metabolism or the body to process and use to perform, fight disease and maintain healthy systems.

The quantity and types of these should vary depending upon your level of exercise and activities and whether or not you are trying to lose, gain, or maintain a certain weight.

The same diet is not the same nor should it be for each person. You have seen and heard promotions for a number of diet programs out there from the Atkins Diet to the Mediterranean Diet and so on.

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If you look at many of the diets they focus on just food.

As a side point of emphasis you need to combine exercise and a balanced diet for the optimal health benefits.

Let’s take a quick review of the components of a balanced diet.

Carbohydrates provide energy and are very important.

These are your breads, grains, and sugars. Unfortunately, carbohydrates have been given a negative connotation for adding weight and increasing blood sugar. That is why you need to look at how many carbohydrates you are eating and when you are eating them.

For example, one whole bagel is equivalent to eating four pieces of bread. If eating a bagel you want to eat in the morning or earlier in the day instead of right before bedtime so your day’s activities will use or burn off the calories from the bagel.

Here then you need to make sure your day’s activities are intense enough to use the calories from the bagel.

Diets that restrict carbohydrates or very low amounts often result in significantly low energy which can affect and stress the heart and lungs because the body is not getting enough “fuel” from carbohydrates.

Proteins are responsible for muscle building, recovery and repair.

These are your dairies such as milk, yogurts, eggs and meats such as pork, poultry and beef. If your work or exercise is of high intensity or longer endurance proteins will help prepare the muscles for the work and will provide recovery and repair from intense work or exercise bouts.

However, just as we need to be aware of too many carbohydrates which can add weight gain so too we need to be aware of our protein intake.

If the amount of protein intake is more than the amount used by the body the remaining protein will be stores as fat.

I see this quite often with athletes taking protein supplements and protein shakes.

Many of which are designed for body builders with intense workouts versus a high school or college athlete training for a particular event or sport.

Fats also have been given a negative reputation.

Fats are needed as they help process fat soluble vitamins, help provide a level of protection for internal organs and is also an energy source. Of course, fat needs to be in proportion to activity levels and weight goals.

The desired fats are those that can be broken down easily by the body and used for the benefits mentioned above.

The good fats are your oils such as canola, peanut, and olive oils.

Bad fats are your high sugar cakes, sweets and desserts.

Vitamins and Minerals are found in fruits and vegetables.

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These are a primary source of antioxidants that can help fight disease and illness. Vitamins and minerals are the body regulators that help breakdown the proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

They then help to process and transport throughout the body so the body can use for energy, growth, development, hydration and fighting disease.

Water is also an unsung hero and much needed.

Of course water is needed for hydration but it helps all the processes of the body mentioned above. Aside from just hydrating to take away thirst water hydrates the cells, joints, discs, brain, bones, and organs of the body.

Fruits and vegetables are also sources of water from their juices.

So, how do I put together a balanced diet?

Many of the programs and advertisements out there just say to buy their products or packages but what actually is in those products and packages?

There is an Athlete’s Food Pyramid that I reference for my clients and athletes.

The pyramid provides a good foundation and starting point for developing a balanced diet and in particular promotes higher amounts of fruits and vegetable which is excellent given what we know of the importance of antioxidants in fighting cancers and other diseases and illnesses.

A balanced diet is about having all the nutrient, vitamin and mineral components needed for healthy living.

Carbohydrates and proteins may and can be adjusted depending upon the intensity and duration of your exercise and activities.

Consult with a professional with background in this area to more specifically address your needs.

Carbohydrates: 8-15 servings
(Can be anywhere from 30-60% of intake depending upon exercise type, intensity, duration)
Proteins: 2 -4 servings (poultry, eggs, etc.)
(Can be anywhere from 30-60% of intake depending upon exercise type, intensity, duration)
Calcium: 3+ servings (yogurt, cottage cheese, milk)
Fats: no more than 8 – 10% of total intake
Fats: oils, butters: moderation
Fats: sweets desserts: moderation
Fluids: 10-12, water, juices
Fruits: 3-5 servings
Vegetables: 4-6 servings

*** A medium size apple or half banana is one serving.

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