THE BALANCED DIET
A balanced diet will contain a wide variety of foods and thus provide a wide variety of
nutrients. Obviously, what is a balanced diet for an endurance athlete in training will not
be a balanced diet for an elderly, sedentary person. Different foods provide different
nutrients and these nutrients are used for different functions:
The Food Pyramid - Summarised
Over the years, nutritionists have divided foods into various food groups. The groups vary depending on the nutritionist who developed them, but generally they look something like this:
1. Bread, cereal, rice and pasta
2. Fruit and vegetables
3. Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, nuts
4. Milk, yoghurt and cheese
5. Fats, oils and sweets
Basically, in order to eat a healthy, balanced diet the idea is to eat more of the foods in
Group 1, with gradually decreasing amounts of Group 2, 3, 4 and 5 (as if the foods were
stacked inside a pyramid).
THE FOOD PYRAMID IS A GUIDELINE ONLY! NO NUTRITIONAL ADVICE SHOULD
BE TAKEN AS CONCRETE – IT VARIES WITH THE INDIVIDUAL.
Various groups of people will eat differently and have slightly different needs (athletes will need more protein for example)
The Basics for Healthy Eating
• Balance food intake with regular exercise
• Eat a wide variety of foods from the different food groups
• Eat only a small amount of fatty foods, particularly those high in saturated fat and
• Eat plenty of whole grain products, fruit and vegetables, legumes and foods rich in
complex carbohydrates and fibre
• Choose food and drink which is low in sugar in preference to highly sugared
• Choose and cook food to have a low salt content
• Drink alcohol only in moderation
• Maintain adequate protein intake, with an emphasis on plant rather than animal
• Choose foods to provide you with enough iron and calcium to meet your RDI
• Practice good food preparation and food safety
• Be cautious with the consumption of food additives and dietary supplements
CARBOHYDRATES, PROTEINS AND FATS
Energy can be derived from three sources: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. As a cheap source of energy, they are widely consumed, and form the basis of the diet of much of the human population.
• Complex carbohydrates – take longer to be broken down by the human body, and
are found in foods such bread, pasta and cereals, wild rice and legumes.