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What does a balanced meal look like?

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By Jessica Andersson

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There’s some truth in the old saying, ‘you are what you eat’. Everything you eat affects how your body functions. Combined with regular exercise, eating a well-balanced diet helps you to stay healthy and lowers the risk of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It’s also important for your immune system, and for maintaining a healthy weight.

Your body’s needs depend on various factors including age, gender and physical activity, and will change over the course of your life. However, there are a few basic principles that make up a typical balanced meal – these apply specifically to adults, since children’s needs are slightly different.

The 5 main food groups:

protein

Essential for growing, repairing and building body tissues and cells. Needed to produce hormones and enzymes.

carbohydrates

The primary fuel for the brain and body, and a good source of fibre.

fruit and vegetables

The main source of vitamins and minerals.

fat

Insulates the body, protects organs, and is required for hormone production and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K. Essential and unsaturated fats omega-3 and omega-6 lower the risk of heart disease, and reduce inflammation.

dairy

A good source of protein and calcium.

How much should I eat per meal?!

Ideally, you want your meal plate to be made up of…

  • ¼ protein foods,
  • ¼ carbohydrates,
  • ½ vegetables.

A small portion of your meal can include dairy and fats like example oil, butter, cheese and cream.

balanced meal chart

Average Portion Sizes:

Protein

  • Meat, fish and chicken, 100-125g
  • Lentils and pulses, 80-100g (cooked)
  • Tofu, 100g
  • 2 eggs, 120g
  • Nuts and seeds, 25g

Carbohydrates

  • Rice, couscous and bulgur, 60g (uncooked)
  • Potatoes, 170g
  • Pasta, 70g (uncooked)

Vegetables

The average portion size for raw vegetables is 80g per serving

Fats: oils, butter

Approximately 10ml.

Dairy

  • Cheese, 25g
  • Feta, 30g
  • Yoghurt, 50-100ml
  • Mozzarella, 60-125g
  • Crème fraiche, 50-100ml

If you have any other questions about eating balanced meals, or you’d like to know the average portion size for another food, leave a comment and I’ll respond to you as soon as possible!

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