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What Does It Mean to Eat a Balanced Diet?

By Kelsey Casselbury ; Updated August 14, 2017

The term “balanced diet” is frequently thrown around without any real definition, making it tricky for someone with a dietary goal to know how to shop, prepare and cook healthful meals. A balanced diet not only refers to balancing the number of calories you eat per day to avoid weight gain, but also to choosing healthy options from each food group to supply you with the nutrients your body needs.

Balancing Food Groups

The key to a balanced diet is to include proper portions of each recommended food group per day. At each meal, USDA's ChooseMyPlate program recommends filling a quarter of your plate with protein, one-quarter with grains and half with fruits and vegetables. Finish it off with a side of dairy. ( Remember that not all foods are created equal. When cooking grains, ensure that at least half of your daily intake are whole grains, such as brown rice or oatmeal. Choose lean proteins, such as chicken breasts, seafood, and lean beef or pork. Select dairy foods that are calcium-rich and low- or fat-free.

Caloric Balance

Pay attention to the calories you consume to maintain a healthy weight. Your weight will remain stable if your calories are in balance, meaning you eat about the same number of calories that your body burns through physical activity. If you're in caloric excess, you're eating more calories than you burn, and you'll likely gain weight. When you're in caloric deficit, you're eating fewer calories than you burn, so you lose weight.

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