wikiHow to Maintain a Balanced Diet

Three Parts:Planning for a Balanced DietPreparing Balanced MealsIndulging in Moderation

A balanced diet is a way of eating that allows you to consume all the nutrients your body needs from a wide range of foods.[1] Maintaining a balanced diet is important to your health – your body's tissues and organs require proper nutrition to work and function effectively. Without an adequate diet, you may be at a higher risk for a variety of chronic health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.[2] As our lives become busier, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet may be difficult.

Part 1
Planning for a Balanced Diet

  1. Image titled Meal Plan Step 2
    Write a meal plan. Writing out a weekly meal plan can help you make sure you're consuming a well-balanced diet.[3] Plan meals and snacks to have throughout the day so that you'll be eating each food group everyday.
    • Take an hour or two of your free time and write up your ideas for all meals and snacks.
    • Try tallying up all the food groups for each daily meal plan. Did you include dairy each day? How about enough fruits or vegetables?
    • If you're busy or on the go, plan for meals that are quick, require little cooking or recipes that you can freeze for easy-to-prepare meals.
    • Search online for sample meal plans and inspiration.
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    Go grocery shopping. Stocking your kitchen with healthy foods from each food group will help make preparing balanced meals and maintaining a balanced diet easy. After you write up your meal plan, make time to go grocery shopping to stock up on a variety of your favorite healthy items.
    • A well-stocked pantry can be a great tool for maintaining a balanced diet.[4] Stock up on shelf-stable foods for quick and easy balanced meals: canned beans, no-salt-added canned vegetables, canned tuna or chicken, 100% whole grains (like quinoa, 100% whole wheat pasta or brown rice) and nut butters.
    • Stock up on frozen items like: frozen vegetables (without sauces or seasonings), frozen fruit, frozen pre-cooked grains (like brown rice or quinoa), low-calorie frozen dinners (for busy nights) and frozen proteins (fish or chicken).
    • Keep a supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy (like low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese and lean proteins (chicken, fish, pork or lean beef).
  3. Image titled Maintain a Diet Journal for Life Step 8
    Start a food journal. Keeping a food journal can help you maintain a balanced diet in two ways. First, it can help you review your current diet and allow you see what areas your diet is lacking. And second, it's a great method to keep you on track long-term.[5]
    • Purchase a journal or download a journaling app on your smartphone. Track as many days as you can. Pay attention to the 5 food groups - are you consuming all of them each day?
    • We are often unaware if we are eating too much or too little of something. A food journal can bring this information to light.
    • When first starting, note where you think you can make improvements or better choices. For example, you're not a big vegetable fan and you typically skimp on this group, or you eat a lot of the same foods each week without much variety.
  4. Image titled Describe Medical Symptoms to Your Doctor Step 3
    Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian. Speaking to a doctor or registered dietitian can help you tailor your balanced diet to your personal health and medical history. They may be able to provide you with additional guidance or recommendations to improve or maintain your current health.
    • Speak with your primary care doctor. Your doctor is most likely aware of your health and medical conditions and may be able to give you general recommendations for certain foods or a diet pattern that can help you achieve not only a balanced diet, but one that may improve your overall health. They may also be able to refer you to a local dietitian for additional help.
    • A registered dietitian is a nutrition expert that may give you a ton of guidance on balanced diets and healthy eating. They will be able to educate you on the benefits of a balanced diet, show you where your diet is lacking and be able to give you a meal plan and tips to help you reach a more balanced diet.[6]
    • Visit the EatRight website and click on the orange "Find an Expert" button on the top right to search for a dietitian in your area.

Part 2
Preparing Balanced Meals

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    Eat foods from all five food groups. One of the cornerstones to eating a balanced diet is consuming foods from each of the five food groups: protein, vegetables, fruits, dairy and grains. Each food group offers different vital nutrients that your body needs. Aim to consume something from each group everyday.
    • Protein is essential to all cells and processes in your body – anything from building and repairing tissues to making enzymes, hormones and other chemicals.[7] Ideally, choose lean protein foods like: poultry, eggs, lean beef, seafood, nuts and beans.
    • Dairy foods also contain protein, but are known for being high in calcium, potassium and vitamin D.[8] Choose low-fat dairy products like yogurt, milk, cheese or kefir.
    • It can be beneficial to purchase a food scale to know exactly how many ounces of meat you are eating. You can also learn little tricks by looking online. For example, 3 oz of meat is about the size or a deck of playing cards.
    • Fruits and vegetables are two food groups that offer a host of nutrients like: vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. They are also low in calories which makes them an essential component to a balanced diet. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day.
    • The grain group can be split into two separate groups: whole grains (like brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal) and refined/processed grains (white bread, white rice or plain pasta). Aim to make at least half of all your grain choices 100% whole grain. These types of grains are high in fiber, protein and other essential nutrients.[9]
    • It can be difficult to have all five food groups present at each meal. Strive to consume foods from each group throughout the day. It's not necessary to consume all five at each meal.
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    Eat healthy fats. Some types of fat are known as "heart-healthy" or omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats. These have been shown to have some health benefits including: maintaining or improving blood lipid levels or supporting the brain development of infants.[10]
    • It's recommended to consume a serving of these healthy fats at least 2-3 times weekly.[11]
    • Foods that contain omega-3 fats include: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna, walnuts and flaxseeds.
    • Monounsaturated fats come from foods like olive oil, avocado, olives and hazelnuts.[12]
  3. Image titled Digest Food Faster Step 6
    Eat at least three meals daily. A balanced diet goes beyond just the foods in your meals. You also need to balance the amount of food you consume throughout the day. It's beneficial to consume regular, frequent meals throughout the day.
    • Eating three or more meals a day or including snacks makes it easier for you to consume all the recommended amounts of essential nutrients you need each day. Skipping meals puts you at risk for not being able to consume what you need.[13]
    • Regular, frequent meals and snacks provides a steady flow of energy to your brain. The fairly even blood sugar level helps your brain function well.[14]
    • Skipping meals on a regular basis is not recommended. You do not necessarily need to eat "breakfast, lunch and dinner" daily. However, eating every three to five hours is recommended.[15]
    • An example of one day of balanced eating may look like: scrambled eggs with vegetables and cheese for breakfast; whole wheat wrap with lean turkey and cheese and 1 cup baby carrots for lunch; a small apple and a cheese stick for an afternoon snack; and large spinach salad with raw vegetables and 4 oz grilled salmon for dinner.
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    Drink 64 oz of clear fluids daily. A minimum of eight glasses or 64 oz of clear, sugar-free liquids is essential to a balanced diet. Just because liquids don't necessarily fall into a food group, doesn't mean they don't play and essential part in your diet.
    • Choose liquid like water, iced tea, decaf coffee or no-calorie flavored waters.
    • Purchase a water bottle to help you monitor the volume of liquids you consume throughout the day.
  5. Image titled Lose Fast on 5 Bites Diet Step 3
    Measure your portion sizes. Consuming adequate portions of all foods is important to a balanced diet. It will make sure that you're eating enough of certain food groups and also not eating too much of others.
    • In general, portion sizes of fruits and vegetables can and should be larger compared to servings of items like grains. These low-calorie, nutrient packed foods should make up about 50% of your meals and snacks.[16]
    • Foods from the grain group like pasta, rice or bread should be monitored. It can be easy to overdo it from this group, which can throw off the balance of your diet. 1/2 cup of grains like rice or pasta is a serving and 1 oz of items like bread is also 1 serving.[17]
    • Dairy and protein based foods offer a lot of nutrition and should be consumed at most meals and snacks. Consuming 3-4 oz protein, 1 cup or 1 oz of dairy foods are appropriate portion sizes.[18]

Part 3
Indulging in Moderation

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    Limit your sugar and saturated fat intake. Foods that are high in sugar and high in fat are generally also high in calories. In addition, they're generally not very high in nutrients like vitamins and minerals.[19] Eating too many of these types of foods can make it difficult to maintain a balanced diet.
    • Maintaining a balanced diet does not mean avoiding favorite items like sweets or high fat indulgent foods like macaroni and cheese.
    • Choose these foods in moderation and enjoy them occasionally and in portion controlled servings.
    • Decide what moderation is for you. It may mean splitting dessert every Friday night or going out to your favorite burger place twice a month.
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    Limit alcohol and other liquid calories. Drinking liquid calories is a common way to throw off a balanced diet quickly. They're high in calories and sugar and can rapidly increase your total intake of sugar. Monitor how often and how much you're consuming items like: beer, wine, mixed drinks, sodas, sweetened tea or juice.
    • Although 100% fruit juice does have some nutritional benefit, juice still contains a relatively high amount of sugar and should be consumed in moderation. Drink four to six oz occasionally.[20]
    • Skip sodas and sugary drinks. If you still need the caffeine, consider coffee or tea with skim milk and limited sweetener.
    • Limit alcoholic beverages as well: one drink or less daily for women and two drinks or less daily for men.[21]
    • An occasional glass of wine or sweetened tea is OK. Again, it's important to enjoy these items in moderation.
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    Engage in physical activity. Exercise is an important part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Although it doesn't necessarily affect your diet, regular physical activity can help maintain your weight and health when you occasionally indulge in favorite foods.[22]
    • Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity each week.[23] Exercises like jogging, biking and swimming are good options.
    • Aim to participate in strength training at least two times a week.[24] Lifting weights or going to a Pilates class are good options.


  • Don't eat/snack in front of the TV – you won't realize how much you've eaten.
  • Do not avoid entire food groups unless you have a diagnosed food allergy or directed by your doctor.
  • Make sure not to self diagnose or avoid foods based on a fad. For example, unless you have celiac disease, whole grains containing gluten are okay.
  • Avoid diet programs that suggest avoiding entire food groups or large varieties of foods to induce weight loss or gain any other health benefits.
  • Being healthy doesn't necessarily equate to being skinny or thin.
  • Combine a balanced diet with physical activity. This may help increase the health benefits from your lifestyle.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Maintaining Diets