Having a balanced diet provides your body the adequate nutrition it needs to function correctly. Without a balanced diet and good nutrition, our bodies will be more prone to diseases, infection, fatigue and poor performance. Good nutrition in children is especially important as poor diets in children can cause a number of growth and developmental problems, poor academic performance and increased risk of obesity in adulthood.
Obesity is especially concerning as it is estimated that over 50% of the Malaysian adult population is either overweight or obese.
But besides just having a balanced diet, we also need to factor in caloric count. Having too much or too little caloric intake per day can really affect our overall health and wellness. After all, calories are essential to generate energy so that our bodies can move, think, breath and function correctly. While having too much caloric intake may cause excessive fat storage that increases our risk to a number of non-communicable diseases such as, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.
On average, we need to consume about 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day to maintain our weight. Adults will need more calories than Children or Adolescents while Men will generally need more calories than Women. Those who have labour intensive jobs or are more active will also require more calories than those who live sedentary lifestyles.
To get proper nutrition from your diet, we should consume the majority of our daily calories in whole and fresh foods such as, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, diary, and lean proteins.
Besides being a great source of nutrition, fruits can be healthy alternatives to snacks with empty calories such as cakes, cookies and sodas. However, as fruits are high in sugar, those who are practicing or watching their sugar intake should abstain from high sugar fruits. Instead, there are a number of low Gi/Sugar fruits that are great for everyone. They are: Strawberries, Kiwis, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Oranges, Peaches, Raspberries, Blackberries, Lemons and Limes.
Fresh veggies are the primary sources of essential vitamins and minerals in our diets. Dark leafy vegetables are considered the best as they generally contain the most nutrition and can be eaten at every meal. You should make sure you’re eating a variety of vegetables to ensure that you’re obtaining the optimal amount of nutrients that vegetables can provide. However, those who are watching their carbohydrate intake should abstain from too many root vegetables as they tend to be quite high in carbs.
Refined grains such as white flour or white rice are mostly considered as empty calories. This is because the hull of the grain or its outer shell where majority of the grain’s nutrition value lies, has been removed during processing. Instead, it is recommended that we eat more whole grains like brown rice, barley, quinoa, buckwheat and or wild rice. If you’re finding it hard to make the switch from white rice to brown rice, we recommend mixing in some brown rice first for you the get used to, and gradually increasing the amount of brown rice each day.
Dairy products are rich in calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients. Growing children are especially encouraged to have a diet rich in dairy as adequate calcium and vitamin d intake are essential in development and growth. But besides being rich in nutrients, dairy are also major sources of fat which can provide us with the adequate calories that our bodies need.
For vegetarians or vegans, plant-based milks made from flaxseed, almonds and or soy are typically fortified with calcium and other nutrients found in regular diary – making them excellent alternatives.
Meat and beans are primary sources of protein, which is essential for proper muscle and brain development. Lean, low-fat meats such as chicken, fish and lean cuts of pork and beef are considered the best options to include in your diet. Removing skin and trimming off visible fat on meat is the easiest way to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in meats.
For vegetarians, nuts and beans are great sources of protein and contain many other health benefits. The richest vegan sources of protein are: tofu, tempeh, soy, lentils, beans, peas, almonds and walnuts.