What should I eat to get a balanced diet? 

It has been said that you are what you eat. One of the things that happen when people don’t eat well is that they can fall sick. 

Let’s look at it this way, you don’t eat right, you fall sick, and spend so much money that you did not have to. Don’t wait till you fall sick before eating well. You can start now. You should start eating food that has the basic nutrients your body needs. 

What are the daily nutritional requirement needed at different stages in life? 

Every growth stage has its own unique nutritional requirements – which refers to the amount of nutrients that people at every stage of life need to be healthy especially psychologically. 

Pregnancy stage and lactation stage: This stage forms the earliest period of life of a person. This stage is quite unique and there is a general assumption that a pregnant woman can have cravings that could make her eat for two. These cravings could make her ignore the nutrients essential for her to consume; not just for her, but also for her child. This is also the stage where breast milk supply increases.  

It is important for the pregnant mother to always have a balanced diet because her child is growing and breast milk is accumulating. Therefore, cravings have to be closely checked. How is this possible? The pregnant mother could make healthy eating interesting by introducing new and enjoyable meals. This would spice things up, and hopefully keep her interested.  

Iron, calcium, protein, healthy fat, dairy products, vegetables, oranges, meat, iodine, cereals, fish, carbohydrate, fatty acids, folic acids, and other essentials should be found in her diet. They will form the nutrients for breastfeeding and help her have a child that is healthy. 

Infanthood and childhood: This is usually between age 0-1. While it is true that at pregnancy, the nutrients consumed by the mother would go a long way in healthily forming the child, the little one has to keep up the good work by feeding on breast milk to stay healthful. The required nutrients are: Zinc, calcium, cobalamin, carbohydrate, potassium, cholesterol, saturated fat, Vitamin C, lactose, protein, iron, and other essentials that may be found suitable for the child.  

Adolescence: This is a term which is mostly attributed to teenage. Dealing with puberty is not the same experience for the female and the male. There are some nutrients required for them at different quantities. They cannot go wrong with carbohydrate, protein, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc. Note that zinc is said to be suitable for females alone at this stage.  


Adulthood: In the early stage between (ages 20-50), vitamin c, carrot vitamins, vegetables,, zinc, Apple, banana, fish, beef, nuts, tea, iron are requirements for a balanced diet.  

In the middle stage (ages 51-70), while vitamin B6 is essential, the consumption of vitamin D found in fish, eggs and milk should increase. 

In the later stage (age 70 and above), vitamin D which can be found in fish, eggs and milk would be needed more, while iron(for females) and energy should be taken in minimally. 

What then is a balanced diet? A balanced diet is a meal containing all the classes of food in the right proportion, which satisfies the nutritional needs of a person. In other words, it defines meals that have adequate proportion of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and other essential elements. It is also said that the right diet helps to reduce the risk of diseases. 

 

Necessary nutrients for a balanced diet and their sources 

There are about six essential nutrients that ought to be found in an individual’s meal. 

  • Vitamins 
  • Minerals 
  • Protein 
  • Fats 
  • Water 
  • Carbohydrate 

 

What are the sources of these nutrients? 

  • Vitamins: 

Under this are Fat Soluble Vitamins- A,D,E,K and Water Soluble Vitamins –  the B vitamins which are folate (B9), thiamine(B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin(B3), pantothenic acid(B5), biotin(B7), vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 – and vitamin c   

Fat Soluble Vitamins 

Vitamin A: Liver, cheese, butter, milk(whole milk), fruits like mangoes, leafy vegetables, shrimp, carrots, pumpkins, spinach. 

Vitamin D: Egg, Oily fish, cereals, fortified milk. 

Vitamin E: Seed oils (like black seed oil, castor oil, almond oil etc.), nuts,  vegetable oils, whole grains. . 

Vitamin K: leafy vegetables-  (broccoli, cabbage, spinach, mustard, lettuce),  meat, dairy products. 

Water soluble vitamins 

Vitamin B1:Whole grains, nuts, meat, cereals, soymilk, watermelon,  vegetables. 

Vitamin B2: Milk, yoghurt, eggs, rice, cheese, whole grains, liver, mushrooms, green vegetables. 

Vitamin B3: Liver, egg, turkey, milk, fish, beef, potatoes, spinach, tuna fish, chicken, brown rice.  

Vitamin B5: Chicken, whole grains, avocados, mushrooms, broccoli.  

Vitamin B6: White fish, milk products, milk, eggs, whole grains, soybeans, peanuts, vegetables, meat, bananas. 

Vitamin B7: Eggs, soybeans, whole grains, fish. 

Vitamin B9: Cereals, broccoli, spinach, legumes, orange juice.  

VitaminB12: Meat, fish, cheese, eggs, yeast extract, cereal, soymilk 

Vitamin C: Green vegetables, citrus fruits like orange, berries, pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, spinach.  

 

  • Minerals: These nutrients for balanced diet are found in the bone, teeth, and fluids – hormones, enzymes, blood, saliva. It has its source from milk, meat, fish, iodized salt, beans, yoghurt, sea food, leafy vegetables etc. 
  • Protein: This is essential for growth and the repair of cells in the body. It can be sourced from meat, fish, dairy, beans, tofu, poultry, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, grains, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese. 
  • Fats: There are three types of fats. 

Monounsaturated: This is sourced from cashews, walnut and walnut oil, canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, peanuts, peanut butter. It is said to be the healthiest kind of the three. 

Polyunsaturated fat: found in safflower oil, soybean oil, cotton seed oil, sesame seed oil, corn oil. 

Saturated fat: this one has the most cholesterol of the three. Can be found in coconut oil, palm oil, butter, cheese, cream, egg yolks, meat, and dairy products- beef, lamb, and pork. 

  • Water: Helps to keep you hydrated and is an important nutrient in a balanced diet. You can get water from different sources. From liquid foods and beverages- soup, milk, drinking water, juice, soda, coffee, and tea. There are also foods high in water content such as tomatoes, cucumber, watermelon, peaches, apples, lettuce, etc. 
  • Carbohydrate: They contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They can be classified into simple and complex carbohydrates. They have their sources from starch, grain, apple, sweet potatoes, rice, milk, bread, popcorn, sugar, potatoes, bananas, white bread, barley, soya, peas, beans, etc. Iron also helps to preserve the immune system and it has its source from spinach, liver, beans, chicken, turkey, fish, cashews, egg, dark chocolate, beef, lentils, broccoli, and pumpkin seed. 

 

How important is healthy eating to everyday life? 

There are several reasons why you should pay attention to your what you eat.  

  • It supplies the nutrients your body needs to function as it should. 
  • It builds immunity against diseases or illnesses. 
  • Your eating pattern has a direction, and this would help to keep your body weight in check. 
  • A balanced diet helps your sleep pattern. However, reduction in alcohol  intake and caffeine can help you get good sleep. 
  • The brains are subjected to work every single time of the day. A balanced diet would help to strengthen and empower your brain for more effective work. You can be sure to have an active and alert brain throughout the day 
  • Food rich in fibers would keep your heart healthy. 
  • Improved memory and comprehension. 
  • Effective weight loss (for those who see the need for it). With a balanced diet, you can never go wrong with effective weight loss. Stick to a healthy diet. You don’t have to starve to lose weight.  Starving yourself could turn out to be unhealthy. 
  • It earns you strong bones and teeth – with sufficient calcium and magnesium.  
  • Helps to keep obesity in check. 
  • Good example to children. They have the tendency to adopt eating culture of the older ones around them.  
  • Keeps you in a good mood and provides you with energy. 

 

A list of balanced diet foods you can incorporate in your daily life 

There is an assumption that you need to be wealthy to have a balanced diet. That is not true. You do not have to break a bank to have a meal with the essential nutrients. It is not capital-intensive. Take a look at the 7-day Nigerian meal plan; below. Here are some ideas on what to eat at a minimal price that will keep you healthy and give your body the nutrients it deserves. Note that you can always prepare another table, to taste, using this guideline.  

 

                                           Morning.                                                                 Afternoon.                                                                Night 

Day 1  Bread, sardine, tea, and water  Amala, ewedu, fish/beef and water  Jollof spaghetti and boiled eggs and water 
 

Day 2 

Pancakes and orange juice/beverage and water  Native/Palm oil rice with diced ponmon and dry fish and water  Boiled Yam with vegetables, fish and water 
Day 3  Cereal, milk and water  Beans, plantain and water  White rice, tomato sauce, egg and water 
Day 4  Bread, fried eggs, tea and water  Pounded Yam/ eba/ amala/wheat flour, preferred soup, beef and water  Irish/sweet potatoes, grilled fish, vegetable sauce and water 
Day 5  Toast bread and tea and water  Yam and beans and water  Rice, vegetables and fish and water 
Day 6  Akara, pap or oat with milk and water  Eba with okra soup, goat meat and water  Vegetables and boiled yam with fish and water 
Day 7  Potatoes and eggs with water  Jollof rice and fish/chicken and water  Plantain and vegetables with grilled fish and water 

 

You would observe that water appeared in all of the options. That’s because water, although tasteless, has so many nutritional benefits to offer the body. Your diet is a balanced one with water. You cannot go wrong with drinking water. 

So, what exactly do you need to do to eat a balanced diet? Nothing unnecessarily capital intensive. Keep it simple and in the right proportions. Then, you can enjoy your life free from illnesses and nutrient deficiency.  

 

Reference:  

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