Balanced Diet Chart For Indians – When, How & What To Eat.
“Eat a balanced diet…”
… says the Doctor/Dietitian.
You are then given a “balanced diet chart” with our Indian menus.
You stick the chart on your refrigerator or in your bedroom.
Six months later, you do not even remember the said balanced diet chart!
Well, whatever your answer, this blog post today will free you from ever needing another “diet plan”
There are a lot of diets around and we hesitated to add to this already saturated market, but the need for this blog post becomes more and more apparent each year…
… when we find ourselves inundated with clients who haven’t managed to succeed with their latest dieting attempt.
Many of you have tried every diet out there and most of you still weigh more than you did when you embarked on your weight loss journey.
If you are this person, then this post is for you.
It’s also for our fellow Indians who have a tricky relationship with food. People who comfort eat and hate that they do it, and people who dread Diwali or other festivals because they can’t resist the non-stop nibbles.
It is for everyone who wants to stop thinking about food all day.
This plan is especially for people who want to lose weight and be healthy but don’t have the time or inclination to follow a complex diet dictated by a guru, but instead want a few basic guidelines to help them make better choices, with better habits.
Although this post is a kind of diet guide, it isn’t solely to help people to lose weight. This is for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of basic nutrition for everyday life.
Of course, there are limitations to this page (you can’t teach everything about nutrition on one page!).
There will always be more you can learn about food and nutrition, but this page provides an overview of the most relevant bits for most our Indian brothers and sisters.
The Importance of a Balanced Diet – An Indian Perspective
We would argue that the pertinent word in “healthy balanced diet” is balanced. If your diet isn’t balanced, it’s pretty hard for it to be healthy.
However, we have seen our clients who have managed to achieve a balanced diet from foods traditionally thought of as unhealthy, but really what we want is both.
So what is this elusive healthy “balanced diet chart”? And why is it of extreme importance here, in India?
Well, these days we’re constantly bombarded with headlines claiming breakthrough research into the latest health trends. The all-hailed “superfoods” that promise to provide the elixir of health – if you include them in your diet you will lose weight and live longer.
Some things we’ve been asked to comment about recently include the health “cheese” that contained no fat (and consequently a whole array of ingredients that are not quite food), the benefits of eating avocados, and a “cleanse” that involved eating nothing but juices.
How do you know what to believe?
By its very nature, science is always making new discoveries, and thank goodness – otherwise we’d all still be smoking in order to help our chesty cough.
But you need to have a degree in nutrition in order to decode the food related headlines!
There are always some caveats, though.
What is healthy depends an awful lot on your health perspective and priorities, and this is where you will often find contradictions in the advice.
Meaning, the importance of a balanced diet will be clear only when we know the GOAL of the dieter.
- If you are trying to gain weight, then full-fat dairy products are brilliant.
- If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, not so much.
- White bread is a better source of iron than wholemeal bread because the wholegrain part of the flour found in wholemeal bread interferes with iron absorption. So if you are anaemic, white bread is a better choice than wholemeal bread.
- If you are trying to lose weight and want to feel fuller for longer, then wholemeal is a better choice.
And that’s why it’s so important to think about the context of food and nutrients rather than just blanket labeling them good or bad.
And that is why you should understand the importance of a balanced diet and the constituents of a balanced diet.
Some foods are associated with a greater risk of ill health than others though, so what do you do about them? Red meat has been linked with an increased risk of colorectal, prostate and pancreatic cancer. but it’s also a great source of protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc etc.
You can definitely get by without red meat but (unless you are vegetarian or vegan) there is no need to exclude it all together.
By the same reasoning it is perfectly acceptable to eat ice cream as part of a healthy balanced diet. Although ice cream is a source of sugar and saturated fat, it is also a source of energy, protein and calcium. If eaten in moderation these foods are very unlikely to do you harm. The keyword here is “moderation”.
Even processed pork, one of the most denounced foods, was recently shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%, but to get that increased risk you had to eat more than 50gms every day. The odd slice of ham in a sandwich is not going to increase your risk by much at all.
Having said all this, the choices you make do have an effect on your health. It does have an impact on whether you lose weight, keep cholesterol down, keep blood pressure within safe limits, develop type 2 diabetes and other diet-related diseases.
A healthy, balanced diet definition can be as follows or should consist of three elements:
WHAT You Eat
This is the different food groups, which provide all the nutrients necessary for health.
WHEN You Eat
This means when, at what time of the day, you have your meals.
HOW MUCH Your Eat
This is your portion sizes from each food group.
Without these three elements it’s pretty difficult to have a healthy balanced diet, so that’s where we start with all our clients.
Let’s look at these three elements in depth.
#1 WHAT To Eat On A Balanced Diet?
The first question that comes to our mind is…
Well, it all beings with… Calories.
Some love them and others hate them!
We are somewhere in between (although if you’re looking to lose weight for the long term, we say – do not count calories, it’s not a sustainable approach).
There is no doubt that if you eat fewer calories than you expend then you will lose weight, but the trouble comes when you try to determine how much you eat and how much you expend.
Not only do we know from myriad studies that people consistently under-report their food intake, we also have issues with knowing how much gets expended.
You probably know that a calorie is a unit of energy – like a gram is a unit of weight – and it can be used to measure energy in all forms. When we talk about a balanced diet or losing weight, we think about the simple equation: energy in = energy out, but it’s actually not that straightforward.
Energy is measured in the form of calories so to know how much is going in and out of your body, you need to know how much you are putting in from food and drinks, and what is being used (or burned) by your metabolism and physical activity.
To explain the problems with this, let’s dispel a few myths.
“If you reduce your calories you will lose weight healthily.”
This one can be true but more often than not it isn’t.
Your body needs a range of macro- and micronutrients to function efficiently and if you concentrate only on calories then you may be missing out on essential nutrients.
For example, it is very difficult to get all the nutrients you need from a diet that’s less than 1,200kcal per day.
So if you decide to use half your calorie allowance on a 600kcal juice diet rather than having a nutrient-dense 600kcal Whole egg omelette and salad, it’s easy to see that you may not be getting everything you need.
“We know exactly how many calories are there, in specific foods…”
The methods for determining the calorie content of food are known to be pretty imprecise.
Plus, without weighing everything with accurate scales, you can be pretty sure that the calories you count in the foods you eat are at best a good guess, at worst completely wrong, and this problem is especially evident in India where the food authorities and rules are not as stringent as ones in the developed nations.
“We know how many calories we burn”
Everybody has different metabolic rates that are in turn affected by all sorts of things, such as the amount of muscle you have and the temperature of the room you happen to be in.
Although possible, measuring basal metabolic rate accurately is pretty impractical in real life and becomes even harder when you factor in specific exercise.
So again we are back to best guess/completely wrong territory.
NO, we are not bad-mouthing calorie counting.
It’s a great idea to know roughly how much energy is in a food and to make educated choices about what you eat by reading food labels etc. but remember it’s going to be a good guess at best.
This isn’t necessarily a problem in itself – a good guess is all you really need – but concentrating on only one nutrient (energy) in food is unlikely to be the healthiest way to do it.
Counting calories in a meal is like counting the words in a book: it will tell you one thing about the meal but not the only useful thing.
So in this blog post we attempt to suggest a different way to guide your eating.
Instead of the usual “balanced diet pyramids”, we thought we should explain each of the parameter of the pyramid for you.
The #1 Macro-Nutrient Of Any Indian Balanced Diet Chart – Carbohydrates
In recent times, weight loss and carbohydrates have been deemed as rubber and glue!
But do not mistake carbs as evil.
Our bodies have evolved to use carbohydrates as the primary source of fuel.
This means that whenever we use energy – for running, waving our arms about or even thinking – the body always looks for carbohydrate energy first.
The brain is the hungriest of all the organs and, in most circumstances, likes to run only on carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates come mainly from foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, oats and wheat and these foods are known as starchy or complex carbohydrates, which have long chains of molecules which take time to break down and digest.
Carbohydrates also come in simple forms such as sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruit and sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup) and glucose, which are made up of only one or two molecules and are therefore much quicker to digest.
These are the kinds of carbohydrates that we typically think of as sugar.
Carbs are measured on a scale known as the glycaemic index or GI scale.
The glycaemic index or GI of a food tells us how quickly the carbohydrate from that food enters our bloodstream compared to glucose.