A well-balanced diet provides enough energy and nutrition for optimal growth and development. To maintain a well-balanced diet, we must eat from the following food groups:

Milk group (dairy products)- cheese, milk or buttermilk, yogurt

Meat and beans group- legumes (including beans, lentils, peas, and split peas), meat (beef, pork, poultry with skin removed, game meats, fish, shellfish), nuts and seeds (including almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts), tofu, tempeh, and other soy-protein products

Fruit group- apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, berries, dates, grapes, grapefruit, mangos, melons, oranges, peaches, pineapples, raisins and other unsweetened dried fruits, tangerines, 100% fruit juice

Vegetable group-broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, collard and other greens, cucumbers, green beans, kale, lettuces, potatoes, radishes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, 100% vegetable juice

Grain group (breads and cereals)- enriched, whole-grain breads, rolls, English muffins, bagels, cereals (hot and cold), and pasta, grits, rice

Oil- light or low-fat salad dressing, low-fat mayonnaise, vegetable oil

An unbalanced diet can cause problems with maintenance of:

  • Body tissues
  • Brain and nervous system function
  • The immune system
  • Growth and development
  • Bone and muscle systems.

Recommendations

The term “balanced” simply means that a diet meets your nutritional needs while not providing too much of any nutrients. To achieve a balanced diet, you must eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups. You will need to know:

  • How many calories you should consume every day
  • What size portions you should eat; too much of a healthy food may no longer be healthy
  • Which are the healthy choices from each food group

General Guidelines

  • Do not skip breakfast
  • Eat at least three meals each day
  • Eat foods from each of the food groups at every meal

The most important step to eating a balanced diet is to educate yourself about what your body needs, and to read the nutrition label and ingredients of all the food you eat.

New dietary guidelines from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) recommend fewer calories and smarter food choices. Some of the key recommendations:

Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals-and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

For more information on a balanced diet and specific guidelines, use the following links: