What actually is a “Healthy Balanced Diet”?

healthy balanced diet

Most people know that the real route to improving your health and lifestyle is the idea of consuming a Healthy Balanced Diet. Nutritionists talk about it regularly, and I for one am often quoted in the press recommending people take this approach to improving their health, rather than some faddy or ‘miracle’ new diet.

The problem is, however, that many people don’t know what actually constitutes a Healthy Balanced Diet, making is slightly harder for people to actually follow it!

Nutrition for individuals

First of all, it’s important to point out that there is no one-size-fits all approach to nutrition or health. Food is all about individuality, as different people have different likes and dislikes, different vices and they may also respond to foods in different ways. Individual factors that make one person put on weight, could essentially help another person to lose weight. Food isn’t black and white.

Additionally, healthy eating messages are made on a population basis, not for individuals. So the key with improving your diet or your health, is to listen to the overall messages and simply make them work for you.

What is a Healthy Balanced Diet?

The overriding concept of healthy eating hasn’t changed that much in the last 30 or so years. But that’s obviously not what the media headlines and the extremists will have you believe. See my blog here on Why healthy eating advice is so confusing.

Of course there have been tweaks here and there to the guidelines, which are generally based on updated research, but the advice has more or less stayed consistent. However, in early 2016 the Government updated their Healthy Eating Guidelines – not dramatically, but again, just a few tweaks to the recommendations.

A healthy balanced diet

The New Eatwell Guide from the Department of Health

A Healthy Balanced Diet

The old Government Guidelines – the Eatwell Plate

The new healthy eating guidelines:

  • Refer to a healthy eating ‘guide’ – The Eatwell Guide – not a plate, as was previously used
  • Put an emphasis on plant sources of protein such as beans and pulses
  • Discusses sustainability, to some extent
  • Removes foods such as fizzy drinks, sugary foods and fatty foods like crisps from the overall ‘balance’
  • Focuses more on ‘wholegrain carbohydrates’
  • And discusses hydration more specifically

See the full guide on the NHS website.

To summarise what a healthy balanced diet means in the context of food, it should look somewhat like the below…

  • Roughly around 6 portions of wholegrain carbohydrates. (N.B I’m in the middle of a blog talking about carbohydrate portion sizes, if six sounds like a lot…blog spoiler alert…it’s actually quite small – see the picture of a recommended carbohydrate portions below!)
  • More than 5 portions of vegetables and fruits. See my blog on what counts towards your 5 A Day
  • 2-3 portions of protein rich foods. Opting for plant-based proteins like nuts, lentils, beans first alongside 2x fish portions a week (one oily fish) and smaller amounts of quality meat
  • 2-3 portions of dairy or dairy alternative foods a day
What a portion of carbohydrates should look like - healthy balanced diet

Carb portions: What a portion of carbohydrates should look like

A Healthy Eating Meal Plan

So what does this look like on your plate? I’ve written some very general examples of healthy eating meal plans that could help you to achieve the ‘balanced diet’ that everyone is always talking about:

Breakfast:

  1. Oats with milk and some chopped banana
  2. Peanut butter on wholemeal toast and a 150mls glass of orange juice
  3. Weetabix x 2 with milk of choice or plain yoghurt and a handful of dried fruits
  4. Mashed avocado on 1 slice wholemeal toast and a plain yoghurt with some berries
  5. Wholegrain, low sugar cereal with choice of milk and flaxseeds with dried or fresh fruit

Snack:

  1. Cheese and apple chunks
  2. Crackers and cheese
  3. Natural yoghurt with choice of fruit
  4. Breadsticks and hummus dip
  5. 1 slice of wholemeal cheese & tomato on toast

Lunch:

  1. Wholemeal pitta bread stuffed with chicken/fish/beans and salad
  2. Vegetable soup and a bread roll
  3. Large salad with choice of veggies (pepper, avocado, spring greens, onion) and hummus with croutons
  4. Jacket potato with low sugar beans and a sprinking of cheese
  5. Wholemeal pasta salad with tomato and vegetable sauce and some cheese

Snack:

  1. Vegetable sticks with your choice of dip
  2. ½ a wholemeal pitta with avocado
  3. Oat energy balls
  4. Chopped almonds on steamed broccoli
  5. Crackers with marmite

Dinner:

  1. Meat or mixed bean chilli (with tomato sauce too) with your choice of quinoa/wholemeal rice or wholemeal spaghetti.
  2. Spanish omelette with potatoes, onion, red pepper and a side salad and a sprinkling of cheese
  3. Grilled fish with green beans, potatoes and spinach
  4. Roasted vegetables with wholegrain couscous or buckwheat and a harissa dressing
  5. Vegetable stirfry with chicken or nuts

Fluids – try to stick to water mainly. But teas and coffee can count towards your fluid intake and towards your dairy intake too.

Healthy Balanced Diet

A well balanced breakfast with oats, milk, fruits and seeds

Please remember these are just examples, and individuality is what it’s all about – make it your own! For more balanced food ideas do see my Healthy Dinner Ideas blog and my Healthy Snack Ideas blog post.

Feel free to send in any more ideas for balanced meals and I hope you find this post useful!

One response to “What actually is a “Healthy Balanced Diet”?”

  1. Karolina Jachimowicz says:

    Great ideas! Thank you 🙂

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