A balanced diet is one which contains different
types of foods such as cereals, pulses and vegetables in such quantities and
proportion that the nutritional requirements are adequately met and a small
provision is made for extra nutrients to withstand short duration of leanness.
A balanced diet should provide 60-70 percent of
calories from carbohydrate, 10-20 percent from protein and 20-25 percent from
Calorie allowance can be + 50, while for
all other nutrients minimum RDA must be met.
Energy from cereals should not be more than 75
Include two cereals in one meal eg:- rice and
To improve protein quality the ratio of cereal
protein to pulse protein should be 4:1.
Two to three serving of pulses should be taken a
Include atleast one medium size fruit. The fruit
can be given raw without much cooking.
Five servings of fruits and vegetables should be
included in a day
The diet should include minimum 100ml milk per
Foods rich in fibre should be included.
One third of the nutritional requirements, at
least calorie and protein should be met by lunch or dinner.
Essentials of meal
A major objective of planning meals is to achieve nutritional adequacy
along with consideration of other factors such as food cost and economy, food
habits, food preferences, acceptability of prepared foods and other factors.
The planned diet should meet the nutritional
needs of the individual and the family as a whole. No single food can meet all
the nutritional requirements. Therefore, to achieve a balance of nutrients a
combination of different foods need to be included in the diet. The diet can be
planned by including foods from the five food groups.
Although all nutrients are important, the
requirement for certain nutrients are proportionately higher in certain age
groups. e.g:- Iron in adolescent girl and pregnant woman. Therefore identifying
rich sources of various nutrients within the same food group is required. e.g:-
whole cereals and rice flakes are rich in iron among cereals, milk and fish
have high calcium content among animal foods.
2. Food cost and
The expenditure on food is an important part of a family's budget and it
is influenced by
2. number of children
3. age group
4. activity and
special needs of pregnancy, lactation and
The proportionate expenditure on food depends upon the income levels
i.e. it increases with decrease in total income. Moreover in case of low income
level, a higher proportion is spent on buying staples rather than protective
foods like milk, vegetables and fruits. Therefore the aim should be to achieve
maximum nutritional benefit at minimum cost. For example, pulse can be used as
a source of protein instead of animal foods; less expensive cuts of meat can be
used; families can have a small kitchen garden and grow vegetables and fruits
to cut down their expenses on this food group and thus exercise economy in meal
For achieving economy in meal planning, the following considerations are
Knowledge of proportion of edible portion of
different food stuffs as they vary widely. It may be high as 100 percent in
foods like milk or low as 35-40 percent in leafy vegetables. This helps to
decide the quantity of food to be purchased.
Buying foods from fair price shops and retail
Bulk purchase of nonperishables.
Using seasonal foods as they are not only
economical but also nutritious.
Minimising nutrient losses during preparation
Making proper use of left overs and the commonly
discarded foods eg: green leaves of vegetables like raddish leaves.
3. Acceptability of
Acceptability of meals is as important as meeting nutritional needs or
planning within the budget. To make meals acceptable the following
considerations are important.
a. Likes and dislikes
The likes and dislikes of all the family members should be kept in mind.
The meal should have variety in colour, texture, taste and flavour for
better acceptability. Variety can be achieved by selecting foods from each food
including a variety of vegetables to add colour
avoid repeating the same food in different meals as well in the same
meal in a different form.
use different methods of cooking such as baking, boiling, frying to
bring variety in texture.
use alternative garnishes and accompaniments.
c. Food habits and
Religious and socio cultural beliefs influence the choice of food.
Certain foods are prohibited by certain religions. Also, the socio cultural
factors either promote or prohibit the intake of particular foods in different
families and communities.
d. Food availability
and seasonal variation
As far as possible, seasonal and locally available foods should be used.
Vegetables and fruits in season are not only cheap but have the highest
nutrient content and best flavour.
e. Food fads
Wrong notions and beliefs regarding consumption
of food is prevalent in different communities many of which are baseless and
may deprive an important nutrient source. For example, fad like milk and fish
should not be included in the same meal. These food fads need to be
f. Portion sizes
While planning and preparing a meal, it must be
ensured that the quantity prepared be easily consumed by the person of the
given age, sex and activity. At the same time the quantity must meet the
nutritional needs. These quantities are referred to as 'one serving portion' or
balanced diets are given as multiples of these portion sizes. Below list gives
the standard portion sizes for the various food groups.
sizes of foods and their nutrient content
groups g/portion Energy (k.cal) Protein(g) Carbohydrate(g) Fat(g)
Cereals and Millets 30 100 3.0 20 0.8
Pulses 30 100 6.0 15 0.7
Egg 50 85 7.0 - 7.0
Meat / chicken/fish 50 100 9.0 - 7.0
Milk (ml)* 100 70 3.0 5 3.0
Roots and Tubers 100 80 1.3 18 -
vegetables 100 45 3.6 - 0.4
Other vegetables 100 30 1.7 - 0.2
Fruits 100 40 - 10 -
Sugar 5 20 - 5 -
Fats and Oils
(Visible) 5 45 - - 5.0
Source : Dietary
guidelines for Indians - a manual, NIN, ICMR, 1999.
Steps in meal planning
following steps may be adopted in planning meals.
1. Recommended Dietary Allowances
To plan a
balanced diet the first step is to know the recommended dietary allowances for
different age groups.
2. Food list
The next step is to prepare a food list ie., a
list of quantities of various food groups to be included in the diet so that it
is balanced and can meet the RDA. This can be done by selecting foods from all
the five food groups.
deciding the quantities of the selected foods as
multiples of portion sizes.
Planning the menu
The foods that are listed are converted
into recipes and distributed in various meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A sample menu for an adult man doing sedentary work is given in Table 1.5. In
the given table breakfast items include idli - 4 nos. / dosa - 3 nos. / upma -
1-1/2 cup / bread - 4 slices/ porridge - 2 cups / corn flakes with milk - 2
cups. Snack items include poha (riceflakes upma) - 1 cup / toast - 2 slices /
samosa-2 / sandwiches-2 / biscuits - 5.