Nutritionists encourage us to eat a well-balanced diet. But how many of us know what exactly entails a balanced diet? According to nutritionist Jamiru Mpiima of Family Nutritionist Uganda, people usually misunderstand what a balanced diet is and what it should contain.
“It is sometimes referred to as a coloured plate. This means your plate of food should have more than three colours of food,” he says.
He explains that for a meal to be balanced, it should have at least five food groups, each taken differently, depending on the requirement for the body.
These comprise starch from grains such as cereals, cassava, sweet potatoes and plantains. It can also contain proteins as a source of body building. The proteins can come from plant and animal sources. Animal proteins can be got from fish, eggs and milk, while plant proteins include soy beans and ground nuts.
Therefore, a balanced diet should include both animal and plant proteins.
Fruits such as pineapples, paw paws, oranges and green vegetables should also be included in one’s meal. Fatty oils are also recommended, although they should always be taken in moderation.
Mpiima notes that a balanced diet is important because one type of food cannot have all nutrients needed for the proper functioning of the body. “Whereas fish and eggs have particular nutrients, they may not be able to cater for fibres found in vegetables and minerals,” he explains.
Without a balanced diet, a person risks being either over or under malnourished. “You can see a person having matooke and beans every day and when they check with the doctor, they are told that they are malnourished.
This is not the best way to keep healthy,” he notes. He adds that eating a balanced meal everyday also helps to reduce the chance of developing constipation and contributes to better brain growth in children.