• Fitness

Eating a balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet
The key to good health is a balanced diet...but it can sometimes be hard to stick to! A guide to the food groups, vitamins and minerals that constitute a balanced diet.
The key to good health is a balanced diet...but it can sometimes be hard to stick to!
Day to day
To get a balanced diet, you need to eat the following every day:
-5 portions of fruit and vegetables (about 400 to 600g) in any form (fresh, cooked, juiced, puréed)
-3 portions of dairy produce (cheese, milk, yoghurts)
-1-2 pieces of fish, meat or eggs
-1-2 tablespoons or knobs of fat (oil, butter)
-3 portions of bread
According to the above, the ideal meal consists of 1 raw vegetable and/or 1 cooked vegetable, 1 source of protein (meat, fish or egg), 1 portion of bread, 1 portion of dairy, and 1 fresh or cooked piece of fruit.
To make sure you get the right vitamins and minerals, it’s important to vary the foods you eat and to limit your intake of processed foods, which are low in nutritional value but high in fat and hidden sugar.
In more detail
Each type of food has a nutritional value made up of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat) which deliver energy, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), fibre and water. You need all three for good nutrition.
1g = 3 Kcal
The body's building blocks. Helps organs and muscles to function and develop
1g per kilo of body weight every day (e.g. 60g if you weigh 60kg). 15% of energy intake
Meat, fish, eggs, dairy produce (animal protein), cereals, nuts and seeds (vegetable protein)
1g = 4 Kcal
Provides the fuel that muscles and organs (including the brain) need to function
Around 55% of energy intake, preferably as starch
Cereals, nuts and seeds, starchy foods, dairy produce (except cheese), fruits, confectionery
1g = 3 Kcal
Makes up cells' energy reserves and protects the vital organs
Around 30% of energy intake, preferebly in the form of unsaturated fat
Butter, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, oils, margarine, oil-producing fruits and lots of manufactured foods

VitaminRolesDaily requirementsSources
metabolism of carbohydrate, function of the nervous and muscular system
1.1 mg
Whole grains, meat, fish, pulses
metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrate
1.5 mg
Dairy produce
energy production, growth, hormones
11 mg
Meat, fish, grains and cereals
upkeep of mucous membranes, skin and hair
5 mg
Meat, fish, eggs
metabolism of amino acids and proteins
3.5 mg
Meat, fish, eggs
growth, metabolism of protein, carbohydrate and fat
50 mg
Liver, egg yolk
growth, nervous system, bone marrow, red blood cells
300 µg
Leafy vegetables
red blood cells, growth
2.4 µg
Animal products
tissue repair, immune system, fighting free radicals
110 mg
Fresh fruits and vegetables
vision, growth, detoxification, skin
600 µg
Dairy produce, eggs, coloured vegetables
5 µg
Oily fish, egg yolk, liver
protection against harmful substances
12 µg
Oils, margarine, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
blood coagulation
45 µg
Spinach, cauliflower, parsley

Minerals RolesDaily requirements Sources
builds and maintains bones and teeth
900 mg
Dairy produce, nuts, seeds and dried fruit
makes haemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the blood
16 mg
Meat, eggs, pulses, chocolate
strengthens teeth and bones
2 mg
Seafood, vegetables and dried fruit
thyroid function
150 µg
Sea salt, seafood
maintains the body's water balance
50 mg
Fruit and vegetables
maintains the body's water balance
1 to 1.5 g
muscular contraction, mood improvement
360 mg
Dried fruit, chocolate, mineral water, whole grains and cereals
bone formation, functioning of nerve cells
750 mg
Dairy produce, fish, meat
Also known as roughage, fibre is made up of non-digestible plant components. It’s found in both the walls of vegetable cells (cellulose, pectin) and inside vegetable cells (gum, mucilage). Fibre slows down the emptying of the stomach after a meal, giving you a full feeling. It slows down carbohydrate absorption in the stomach, regulates the passage of food through the intestines and helps prevent constipation. It also reduces cholesterol and the risk of colon cancer.
You need 25 to 30g per day and you can get it from fresh and dried fruit, vegetables, grains and cereals (especially wholegrain).
Most of our bodies are made of water. It transports nutrients and waste and stabilises body temperature. Because it is evacuated every day through urine, sweating, breathing and faeces, it has to be replaced by drinking plenty (1.5 litres of water per day) and eating foods that contain lots of water.
Published by editorial staff Health and Fitness
29 Jan 2008
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