Balanced diet

Alternative names
Well-balanced diet

A balanced diet refers to intake of appropriate types and adequate amounts of foods and drinks to supply nutrition and energy for the maintenance of body cells, tissues, and organs, and to support normal growth and development.

A well-balanced diet acts to provide sources of energy and nutrition for optimal growth and development.

Food Sources
Milk group (milk and milk products)

  • milk, cheese, yogurt

Meat group (meat and meat substitutes)

  • meat: chicken, fish, beef, pork, lamb  
  • legumes: beans and peas  
  • nuts and seeds

Fruit and vegetable group

  • fruits  
  • vegetables

Grain group (breads and cereals)

  • whole grain breads  
  • enriched breads  
  • rice  
  • pasta

Side Effects
An unbalanced diet can cause problems with maintenance of body tissues, growth and development, brain and nervous system function, as well as problems with bone and muscle systems.

The term “balanced” simply means that a diet adequately meets your nutritional needs while not providing any nutrients in excess. To achieve a balanced diet, you must consume a variety of foods from each of the food groups.

There are several guidelines available to help a person plan their balanced diet. They include:

  • The Food Guide Pyramid  
  • The U.S. Dietary Guidelines (RDA guidelines)

RDA guidelines include:

  • eat at least 3 meals each day  
  • do not skip breakfast  
  • eat foods from each of the Four Food Groups at every meal

The most important step to eating a balanced diet is to educate yourself with what your body needs, and read the nutrition label and ingredients of all the food that you eat.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by David A. Scott, M.D.

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