What actually is a "Well Balanced Diet?". Avid runner and registered dietitian, Melanie Sher, cuts through the myths and misconceptions …

What actually is a "Well Balanced Diet?". Avid runner and registered dietitian, Melanie Sher, cuts through the myths and misconceptions …

What actually is a “Healthy Balanced diet?”

What actually is a ‘Healthy Balanced Diet?”

One of most commonly spoken about topics these days is “Healthy eating.” There isn’t an internet page, blog or Instagram account that doesn’t speak about diet, and most people are now aware that the real route to improving your health and lifestyle is through the idea of consuming a Healthy, Balanced Diet. However, with all these ‘health’ claims made there is a great deal of confusing and contradictory information about diet circulating on the internet and social media. So, as a result, we now have a problem – being that most people don’t know what actually constitutes a Healthy Balanced Diet, making it slightly harder for people to actually follow one!

What does healthy eating mean?

Healthy eating means eating a variety of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, to feel good and to have energy. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins and minerals. There is no single food item or group that can provide your body with all the nutrients it needs, which is why we promote a balanced diet consisting of food items, in the right quantities, from all food groups.

Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health and stabilizing your mood. Don’t think of any foods as “off limits,” rather understand that you aim to eat in moderation, being 85-90% healthy and the rest your occasional treats.

By using these simple tips, you can cut through the confusion and learn how to create a tasty, varied and healthy diet plan that is as good for your mind as it is for your body.

#1 Simplify.                                                                                                         

Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories, think of your diet in terms of colour, variety and freshness. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opting for more fresh ingredients. Also, prepare more of your own meals more often. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating and better monitor exactly what goes into your food, as well as your portion size.


#2 Go for Whole Grains!                                                                                                                           

  Because whole grains are higher in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (natural plant compounds) than refined grains. Aim for roughly 6 portions of wholegrain carbohydrate portions per day. Examples of whole grains are wholewheat/rye/seeded/brown bread, oats, brown/wild rice, bulgar wheat, Provita and Ryevita.


#3 Load up on vegetables and fruits                                                                                                  

   Vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients and fibre, so enjoy a wide variety of them. Try to include at least one dark green leafy veggie and one orange veggie daily.  Remember to ‘Strive for five’ – which would be, on average 3 vegetables (minimum) and 2 fruits per day.


#4 Dairy to make your Day                                                                                                                                  

Milk and dairy products are packed with protein, calcium and B-vitamins. And they’re delicious! Enjoy 2 to 3 servings of dairy products every day for bone-boosting calcium, and vitamin D. Dairy products include milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as some soya products.


#5 Go Lean! (And we’re talking about Protein)                                                                                         

      Meat and meat alternatives are a good source of protein, iron, zinc and other nutrients. Aim for 2-3 portions of protein-rich foods daily, such as meat, chicken, fish and eggs. Make lean choices and prepare them with little or no added fat. Enjoy alternatives like legumes (beans, split peas, chickpeas and lentils) and tofu often.


#6 Choose the ‘Good’ Fats                                                                                                                          

     Fats and oils add a lot of flavour to food, and they help us absorb some nutrients. But diets higher in ‘bad’ fats are also linked to health risks such obesity and heart disease. Enjoy a small amount – about 3 to 5 portions – of healthier unsaturated fat each day. Limit saturated and trans fats. Healthier unsaturated fats come from foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds as well as oils such as olive, canola or flaxseed oil.


#7 Say NO to Sugar                                                                                                                                      

 Foods and beverages that are high in sugar should be limited, as they are high in calories but low in nutrients. Consuming a diet with a high sugar content will make it difficult to achieve your weight goals, and may lead to excessive weight gain and the development of certain diseases, as well as bad teeth. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the consumption of simple sugars should be less than 5% of our daily intake (referred to as ‘free sugars’).


#8 Drink lots of Water

Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, and keep our bodies balanced, yet many people go through life without drinking enough water or being dehydrated. This causes tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It is also common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you avoid overeating, as well as make healthier food choices.


Nutrition should be individualised! There is no One-size-fits-all approach for nutrition and 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. A Registered Dietitian can assist you in designing the correct balanced, healthy eating plan for YOU!


Meet the author, Melanie Sher

Registered dietitian, runner & fitness fanatic, optimist

Melanie Sher is a registered dietitian, as well as an avid runner. She is passionate about living a well-balanced and holistic life. For this reason she pursued a career that she can apply to her own life daily, as well as enable her to assist others in optimizing their own health. Melanie does not believe that dietetics principles alone can help a person to reach optimum and overall health. She strongly believes that incorporating healthy and balanced dietary guidelines, exercise and mindfulness into your life will enable you to understand what drives you to be healthy and well. She is passionate about promoting health and good nutrition through her profession in dietetics

Melanie understands that there is a great deal of confusing and contradictory information about diet circulating on the internet and social media, and thus she aims to be a thorough, well-informed and compassionate practitioner of her discipline. She aims to clarify the science of dietetics, for everyday lifestyle as well as for specific clinical conditions, and to provide simple and easy-to-follow nutrition information and guidelines.

Melanie is currently practicing as an associate dietitian at Nutritional Solutions, which is based at the Centre for Advanced Medicine, 12 Scott Street, Waverley, and at the Daisy Office Park, 135 Daisy Street, Sandton.



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