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.
1. A balanced diet should provide 60-70 percent of calories from carbohydrate, 10-20 percent from protein and 20-25 percent from fat.
2. Calorie allowance can be + 50, while for all other nutrients minimum RDA must be met.
3. Energy from cereals should not be more than 75 percent.
4. Include two cereals in one meal eg:- rice and wheat.
5. To improve protein quality the ratio of cereal protein to pulse protein should be 4:1.
6. Two to three serving of pulses should be taken a day.
7. Include atleast one medium size fruit. The fruit can be given raw without much cooking.
8. Five servings of fruits and vegetables should be included in a day
9. The diet should include minimum 100ml milk per day.
10. Foods rich in fibre should be included.
11. One third of the nutritional requirements, at least calorie and protein should be met by lunch or dinner.
Essentials of meal planning
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.
1. Nutritional adequacy
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 economy
The expenditure on food is an important part of a family's budget and it is influenced by
1. family size
2. number of children
3. age group
4. activity and
5. special needs of pregnancy, lactation and diseased condition.
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 planning.
For achieving economy in meal planning, the following considerations are important.
1. 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.
2. Buying foods from fair price shops and retail outlets.
3. Bulk purchase of nonperishables.
4. Using seasonal foods as they are not only economical but also nutritious.
5. Minimising nutrient losses during preparation and cooking.
6. Making proper use of left overs and the commonly discarded foods eg: green leaves of vegetables like raddish leaves.
3. Acceptability of meals
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 group
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 beliefs
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 discouraged.
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 'portion sizes'.
The balanced diets are given as multiples of these portion sizes. Below list gives the standard portion sizes for the various food groups.
Portion sizes of foods and their nutrient content
Food 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
The 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.
3. 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.