Good health is one of life’s greatest treasures. So, how do we get healthy and stay healthy? Exploring our daily habits often reveals how we can improve. The foods we eat matter to our overall health and well-being, so building good habits around our diet helps make health possible.
Most people have heard the term “balanced diet.” But what does it mean? The foods we eat have a lot to do with external factors, such as religion, culture, environment, location, accessibility, money, and taste. Not only that, but each of us reacts differently to the food we consume; and it isn’t unusual for people to be sensitive or allergic to one or more foods. Put simply, this means that your version of a “balanced diet” won’t be exactly like mine.
What makes a meal balanced?
A balanced meal consists of varying ratios of each food group. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate program is a move away from the long-recommended food pyramid. Instead of building a base and moving upward with fewer servings, MyPlate divides servings into four unequal plate portions—still based on the five food groups—of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy. According to this new and simpler recommendation, fruits and vegetables should take up half the plate, leaning heavier on the veggie portion, while the other half bumps up the grains portion (preferably whole grains) and adds varied proteins from all sources. Add to that a side of low-fat dairy, and you have yourself a balanced meal!
And I do this how?
For most people, implementing these portions at every meal sounds overwhelming and can zap the fun right out of eating. But remember, although we should aim for these ratios at every meal, we have an entire day to balance our diet. For example, most of us don’t eat steamed vegetables for breakfast. So, lunch and dinner can be veggie-dense with less carbs to make up for that sausage and egg biscuit we grabbed at the drive-thru this morning. Your ratios won’t always look perfect, and a big part of enjoying a balanced meal is just that. Our bodies are more likely to be relaxed and our digestion more effective if we like the food we eat. MyPlate offers a website overflowing with tips, tools, and resources to help you get started. They’ve even developed an easy-to-use app to assist you in defining and reaching your goals.
But I don’t have the time (or desire or energy or …)
Still struggling to wrap your mind around meal planning? No worries—you have options that don’t involve going to the grocery or a lot of cooking time. Cooking can be fun and super easy with healthy meal kits like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Green Chef meal kits focus on health, taste, and eating and living green. Most meal kit plans are based on a balanced diet by design, offer plenty of choices, and take the hassle out of DIY meal-planning. Plus, you’ll learn new recipes and enjoy trying new dishes. Or, if you want to spice things up but don’t like the cost of meal kits, try a healthy-recipe swap with friends or family.
What we choose to eat (and not eat) every day profoundly impacts our health and well-being. By working toward a balanced diet, we help our bodies get more of the nutrients necessary for mental and physical vitality. Because when we eat healthier foods, we begin to feel healthier, and that improves our lifestyles.