A balanced diet is to consume food from the 5 major food groups. This is aligned with the current Australian guide to a balanced diet. It is recommended that a person should consume vegetables, grains, proteins (such as lean meats, nuts and beans), dairy, and fruits.

Discover the key to a healthier lifestyle in this article because it outlines what you need to know about balanced diets and how to integrate the five major food groups into your daily meals.

Why Is a Healthy Diet Important?

A healthy diet is a balanced diet that provides essential nutrients for the human body to function normally. A person without a balanced diet tends to be less immune to infection than a person who consumes a balanced diet regularly.

A balanced diet is also imperative for growing children as an unbalanced diet can affect their development and health. A child who is frequently sick will not only affect their academic performance. Their social-emotional development will also be affected due to nutritional deficiencies. According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), what children eat can affect their “mood, behaviour and learning”.

Unhealthy eating habits such as overindulging in food that is high in fat and sugar over time can lead to obesity in a person. Regular consumption of an unbalanced diet resulting in overweight and obesity increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and musculoskeletal conditions (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017).

What Does a Balanced Diet Look Like?

There are 7 things you need in a balanced diet. They are carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and water. Each of these factors is essential for humans to be functional. Learn how each factor affects the human function below:

  • Carbohydrates: Serves as a source of energy
  • Protein: Helps repair muscles and bones, also a source of energy
  • Fat: Serves as energy storage and helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
  • Fibre: Regulates bowel function
  • Vitamins and minerals: Helps with biochemical functions and metabolism regulation
  • Water: Maintains hydration, lubricates joints, and helps get rid of wastes via urination and bowel movements
Food Groups Guide
Chart adapted from the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

A balanced diet should include the 5 food groups. They are grains, vegetables, protein, dairy, and fruits. Below are some examples of each of the food groups:

Food GroupExamples
Grainsrice, oats, quinoa, cereals, multigrain breads, couscous
Vegetables and legumes/beanskale, cabbage, carrots, capsicums, bok choy, potatoes, pumpkins, lentils, chickpeas, asparagus, beetroot, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower
Proteinlean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds
Dairy and alternativesmilk, yoghurt, cheese (includes plant-based dairy like soy milk)
Fruitsapples, pears, berries, grapes, pineapples, watermelon

To include these food groups in your daily food intake is important but it is also essential to know the ratio of each food group so you know how much to consume in each meal. Read on to learn more about the eating guidelines recommended by the Australian Department of Health and Aging.

Should You Refer to the Food Pyramid? (There is a newer alternative)

While the food pyramid has been around since 1974 and has been updated many times, the most current guideline is to refer to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating infographic. The pyramid is now replaced with an easier-to-vision representation of a plate that shows the portion of each food group that should be on a person’s plate.

According to the guide, one-third of the plate should consist of grains, followed by another one-third of vegetables. Fruits, dairy and proteins take up the remaining third of the plate. Fruits are to be consumed in moderation compared to vegetables. You should also drink plenty of water and enjoy discretionary food like potato chips and soft drinks only sometimes and in small amounts. Unsaturated fats like canola oil and margarine are recommended for use in small amounts due to their energy-dense nature.

How Much Food Should You Eat in a Day?

How much food you need differs from person to person depending on their needs and goals. A more active person needs more servings of food compared to a more sedentary person. A physically larger person also needs more food to function compared to a physically smaller person.

For someone who wants to lose weight, following a balanced diet by making sure they get proper nutrition can help. They can also adjust the ratios of the food groups such as increasing protein and vegetable intake while reducing the portion for grains.

Having a balanced diet paired with regular exercise is a way to achieve sustainable weight loss. Using an exercise bike is one simple way to get started in the comfort of your own home.

How Many Calories Should You Eat?

To maintain weight, the average woman needs to consume around 2000 calories per day, while the average man needs to consume around 2500 calories per day.

Use this calorie calculator to determine how many calories you need to reach your goal.

Simple Calorie Calculator

Simple Calorie Calculator

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