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Avoid Fads and Live Better Through Balanced Diet

Fad diets that promise quick weight loss may sound tempting, but a balanced diet gives your body the nutrients it needs in a healthy way.

By 1MD Nutrition Editorial Staff

7 minute read

Last Updated January 28, 2022

Avoid Fads and Live Better Through Balanced Diet

There is no denying that fad diets are tempting. They offer the quick fix that everyone is seeking. The trouble is that fad diets can be unhealthy once you dive below their appealing surface. The secret to long-term health is that there is no quick fix. In order to maintain optimal health and a healthy weight, your lifestyle needs to include physical activity and a balanced diet.

What Is a Balanced Diet? 

A balanced diet includes foods from several different food groups, so you get essential nutrients in every bite. Balanced nutrition ensures you consume carbohydrates, fibers, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, each in adequate proportions, to support overall health. 

A balanced diet also ensures your body gets the calories it needs to function effectively without going over the recommended daily calorie intake. By eating a balanced diet, you can avoid junk food or food without nutritional value, which can negatively impact your overall health.

Why a Balanced Diet Is Important

Every system within the body requires specific nutrients for optimal function, which is where a balanced diet comes in. As part of a healthy routine that includes regular exercise and healthy lifestyle choices, a balanced diet can support:

Heart and circulatory health
Digestion and metabolism
♦ Weight management
♦ Healthy energy levels
Immune system function
♦ Cognitive and mental health

Each of these systems requires energy to function, and a balanced diet provides this energy. There is some truth to the saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ Eating balanced nutrition delivers the building blocks your body needs to grow, function, and maintain balance for good health. 

What To Eat for a Balanced Diet

So what foods are included in a balanced diet? The nutrients your body needs can be found in these food groups.

Fibers

Fiber can be soluble (oats, beans, apples, carrots) or insoluble (whole grains, vegetables), and both types are essential for overall health. Dietary fiber helps to support healthy digestion, weight management, proper heart and circulatory function, and maintains energy for active living.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the most commonly restricted food when it comes to dieting. These foods are often misunderstood, but they are actually very important for health. Carbohydrates are fuel (energy) required by every system in the body to function. A healthful diet will include carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. 

Proteins

Proteins are the building blocks in your body and the main component of bones, muscles, and organs. There are two types of protein; animal-based proteins which come from meat and dairy products, and plant-based proteins, which come from beans, lentils, soy, and nuts. 

Vitamins 

Vitamins are important for maintaining physical and mental well-being. The key vitamins you need to consume through food include vitamin A (carrots, sweet potatoes), B vitamins (legumes, whole grains), vitamin C (citrus fruits), vitamin D (eggs, dairy, mushrooms), and vitamin E (nuts, seeds). 

Minerals

Several minerals are essential for overall health and maintaining function. The key minerals you need, and that you should get from food, are calcium (dairy, kale), magnesium (nuts), phosphorus (beans, lentils), potassium (bananas, avocados), and zinc (seafood, poultry, oatmeal). 

Fats and Oils

Much like carbohydrates, fats get a bad reputation and are often cut from diets. The truth about fats is that not all of them are bad, and there are healthy fats that your body needs to maintain optimal function and health.

♦ Fats to Love: Unsaturated fats are the ones you want to keep eating. Some examples of these are monounsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, and certain nuts. Unsaturated fats help support healthy cholesterol levels and heart function.

♦ Fats to Avoid: Saturated and trans fats are the bad guys you want to limit. Animal products are the primary source of saturated fats along with sunflower and canola oil, and trans fats are the fats you may want the most but shouldn’t have. The highest levels of trans fats are found in baked and processed foods, animal products, and margarine. 

Water

Many people forget that water is a nutrient. It is one of the most important nutrients, making up 60% of your body. You cannot live without it. Water not only helps support healthy circulation and keeps you hydrated, but it also acts as a solvent to dissolve nutrients into your bloodstream.

How To Build a Balanced Plate at Every Meal

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a balanced diet consists of foods from each food group. To meet these requirements, you should plan to build a healthy plate for each meal. A healthy plate looks like this:

♦ ½ the plate consists of fruits or vegetables
♦ ¼ of the plate is protein (fish, poultry, beans, legumes, nuts)
♦ ¼ of the plate is whole grains (whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, brown rice)

The USDA recommends accompanying each plate with a single serving of low-fat dairy or dairy alternative and using healthy fats in moderation. 

To help sustain balanced eating that supports long-term health and weight goals, these tips can help you stick to your balanced diet:

♦ Reduce the portion sizes of any unhealthy foods in your daily routine.
♦ Prepare meals at home instead of eating out.
♦ For any unhealthy ingredients in recipes, substitute them for healthier alternatives.
♦ Follow a routine that allows time for every meal, regular exercise, and stress management.

Dangers of Fad Diets 

Fad diets are popular because they promise a quick fix solution for health and weight management goals. However, the appeal is mostly vanity-based compared to following a balanced diet that appeals to long-term goals of healthy living. Fad diets may produce the results you are looking for, but for long-term health goals, there are several reasons a fad diet is not the healthiest choice.

Fad Diets Aren’t Balanced.

Some fad diets encourage you to avoid certain food groups or nutrients. The most commonly restricted food groups are carbohydrates, which your body needs for fuel and nutrients, and vegetables or fruits full of essential nutrients and antioxidants. Any restrictions like this remove essential foods leaving you without a balanced diet. 

Fad Diets Aren’t Sustainable.

Most fad diets require extreme actions and are so restrictive that they are challenging to maintain for a long period of time. Because of this, many people can not sustain these diets and end up returning to unhealthy eating habits. A sustainable diet allows for you to eat the foods you enjoy in moderation, discouraging you from developing unhealthy cravings. 

Fad Diets Affect Metabolism.

When you change your diet in any way, your metabolism is one of the most important systems affected. While many fad diets appear to support weight loss at first, this is primarily due to losing water weight. The extreme nature of fad diets over time slows your metabolism, causing your body to store fat for fuel. As a result, reaching long-term weight management goals is not a reality. 

How to Spot a Fad Diet

With all the diets out there, you may be wondering if there is a way to spot a fad diet. The answer is yes. By using the tips below, you can avoid a fad diet and instead choose to incorporate balance into your healthy eating and long-term health goals. A fad diet will include one or more of the following:

♦ Promise a quick fix and rapid weight loss
♦ The suggestion that food can change body chemistry
♦ Requirement to skip or replace meals
♦ Claim that you can eat anything you want and still lose weight
♦ Rigid rules and restrictions of specific foods or nutrients
♦ Claims based on only a single study or testimonials only
♦ Claim that no exercise is needed to reach weight goals

Conclusion

Quick fixes and fad diets are not the solutions for long-term health and healthy weight management. On the contrary, the big promises can actually cause big problems for your health and well-being. Not only do fad diets produce short-term results, but they can also present health risks. 

Long-term health requires a healthful routine with regular exercise, healthy lifestyle choices, and a balanced diet. Taking shortcuts can end up cutting your health short, so choose to live better through a balanced diet.