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OPINION: What is a balanced diet?

A balanced diet is comprised of those foods that contain many of our essential vitamins and minerals, fibre, as well as other disease-fighting components like antioxidants and phytochemicals.

It is important to consume the right types of carbohydrates, protein, vegetables and fruit on a regular basis. The majority of our food should come from fresh fruit and vegetables (at least half of your plate).

Try to consume your fruit and vegetables seasonally. The precise vitamins and minerals we need in higher doses during any particular season are usually available in the fruit and vegetables in season at that time. For example, many of our winter fruits and vegetables are yellow, orange and red in colour. These contain high amounts of vitamin A and C and are essential for boosting our immune system during the colder months.

Your protein component is essential and should take up about ¼ of your plate. Proteins are considered to be our muscles’ very own building blocks and help to rebuild and strengthen our muscles. The type of proteins that you choose should always be low in fat (e.g. extra lean mince/ fat-free or low fat cheeses/ fat-free milk/ fat-free yoghurt). Make sure to remove visible fat from meat and remove chicken skin. Plant protein alternatives are excellent options. They are higher in fibre and often contain essential nutrients lacking in meat proteins. Add some chickpeas, a three-bean salad or soy proteins to add a little variety to a meal.

Often we want to cut all carbohydrates out of our diet. This is incorrect – cut out the WRONG types of carbohydrates; like refined, sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, white flour products, sweets, chocolates, and so on. Rather go for high fibre, energy-sustaining carbohydrates like high-fibre breakfast cereals, whole-wheat/ low GI bread, brown/ basmati rice, sweet potato, and so on. Carbohydrates provide our bodies with energy as well as essential B vitamins that assist our nervous system.

At each main meal, your plate should comprise the following: ¼ protein; ¼ carbohydrates and ½ vegetables or salad, to ensure that you are getting all the right micro- and macro-nutrients your body needs.

Chantal Walsh is a consultant dietitian at wellness company Path2Wellness.

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