Balanced Diet

A balanced diet may be defined as one which contains the various groups of food stuffs such as energy yielding foods, body building foods and protective foods in the correct proportions so that an individual is assured of obtaining the minimum requirements of all nutrients.

·         The components of a balanced diet will differ according to age, sex, physical activity, economic status and the physiological state viz., pregnancy, lactation etc.,

·         In addition a balanced diet should also provide biochemical compounds such as dietary fiber, antioxidants and nutraceuticals which have positive health benefits.

·         A balanced diet should provide around 60-70% of total calories from carbohydrates, 10-15% from protein and 20-25% of total calories from fat.

·         Balanced diets at high cost: such diets will include liberal amounts of protective and protein-rich foods such as milk, eggs, meat, fish, fruits and moderate quantities of cereals, pulses, nuts and fats.

·         Balanced diets at moderate cost: These diets will include moderate amounts of protective and protein-rich foods such as milk, eggs, meat, fish, fruits and fats and liberal amounts cereal, pulses, nuts and green leafy vegetables.

·         Balanced diets at low cost: These diets will include minimal amounts of protective and protein-rich foods such as milk, eggs, meat, fish fruits, nuts and fats and liberal amounts of cereals, pulses and green leafy vegetables.

·         ill- Balanced diets: A diet is considered to be ill-balanced diet if it is deficient in caloriesproteins, essential vitamins and minerals as it is lacking in protein-rich and protective foods.

Basic Food Groups
Food may be broadly classified into 11 groups based on their nutritive value:

·         Cereals and Millets

·         Pulses (Legumes)

·         Nuts and Oil Seeds

·         Vegetables

·         Fruits

·         Milk and Milk Products

·         Eggs

·         Meat, Fish and other animal foods.

·         Fats and oils,

·         Sugar and other carbohydrate foods

·         Spices and condiments.


Nutritional classification of foods
The different groups of foods may be broadly classified under three heads from the nutritional point of view.

·         Energy Yielding Foods
This group includes foods rich in carbohydrates and fats and also pure fats and carbohydrates. Cereals, roots and tubers, dry fruits sugar and fats are the important energy yielding foods. Cereals, however, provide in addition to energy the greater part of the proteins, certainminerals and vitamins in the diets of the low income groups in developing countries.
·         Body Building Foods
Foods rich in proteins are called body building foods. This may be broadly divided in to two groups.

1.       Milk, Egg, Meat and Fish rich in proteins of high biological value and

2.                   Pulses, Oil Seeds and Nuts and low-fat oilseed flours rich in proteins of medium nutritive value.

1.                  Protective Foods
Foods rich in proteinsvitaminsand minerals are termed protective foods. Protective foods are broadly classified in to two groups.

1.                   Foods rich in vitamins,minerals and proteins of high biological value.
E.g. Milk, eggs, fish and liver and

2.                   Foods rich in certainvitamins and minerals only.
E.g. Green leafy and other vegetables and some fruit


Five Food Group Plan
The Nutrition Expert Group of Indian Council of Medical Research, India suggested a five group plan and the nutrients supplied by each food group are given in table.

Table. Five Food Groups and nutrients in them (Nutrition Expert Group, I.C.M.R.)

S.No. Food Group Nutrients Contributed
1. Cereals, roots and tubers
Rice, wheat, maize, ragi, sorghum, pearl millet etc., potato, tapioca, sweet potato etc.,
Rich sources of starch-fair to good sources of proteins and certain B-vitamins.
2. Milk group
This includes other protein-rich foods such as pulses, nuts, meat, fish, eggs etc.,
Rich sources of proteinsminerals and vitamins.
3. Fruits and green leafy vegetables
Papaya, orange, mango, Indian gooseberry, guava etc., and all green leafy vegetables.
Rich sources of certain vitamins and minerals.
4. Other Vegetables
Beans, brinjal, ladies finger etc.,
Fair sources of certain vitaminsminerals and roughage.
5. Fats and Oils and pure carbohydrate foods
Vegetable oils, animal fats, sugar, jaggery, honey, sago, custard powder, starch etc.,
Rich sources of energy. Vegetable oils are fair to good source ofessential fatty acids and vitamin-E. Butter is a good source of vitamin-A. Animal fats are rich in cholesterol but are poorsources of EFA and vitamin – E.


The five food group system can be used by health professionals for the following purposes:

·         Tool for nutritional assessment and screening: A brief dietary history system can disclose inadequacies of nutrients from any of the above group. The information can be the first clue for the possibility that the subject may be at risk of developing nutritional deficiency.

·         Tool for nutritional counseling: The dietary history based on the five food group system allows a health team to counsel or teach a patient about nutrition.

·         Explaining therapeutic diets to the patient: Therapeutic diets are scientifically based on nutrient composition and groups which can be used in menu planning.

·         Food labeling and surveillance system: Food groups can be used for food labeling and for nutrition surveillance system.