Follow the four corners of a balanced diet and see yourself glowing with health

Without taking you through a math class, I'm going to use some simple geometry to illustrate my point. You will find it easy to remember that, just as a square has four sides, your square meal too must have four parts (in right proportions) to it. Now, that's easy enough.

But, do you know what those four parts are? And, why you need to eat these foods to look good and feel great?

Most of you already know that eating a balanced diet is very important. What you need, in the right proportions, is cereal, fruits and veggies, protein-rich foods and, in small quantities, fats and sugar.

Cereals, fruits and vegetables should make 55 to 65 per cent of your diet. Protein-rich foods should make 15 to 20 per cent of your diet. Fats should make 10 to 20 per cent of your diet. In the course of your day, you require three square meals, plus three to four small snack breaks.

So, you do the math — that means you are eating six to seven times a day, every day.

You only understand how vital a balanced diet is, when some nutritional components are missing, or in short supply. The truth is, it starts showing! You can end up with baggy eyes, split nails, poor skin, falling hair, spares tyres or a medical concern. So, why allow all that to happen?

Instead, with just a little bit of care, you can give your body all the nutrition it is asking for. That does not mean you cut out foods you like.

In every food group, there are so many exciting choices that you never have to feel deprived.

Cereals, protein-rich foods, fruits and vegetables, and fats and sugar are the four essential food groups for a healthy diet.

The four food groups ensure a balanced, wholesome diet for you.

Cereals

This food group makes up the bulk of your requirement. Cereals contain carbohydrates, a source of energy for the body and the brain. Consuming cereals in an unrefined form, such as whole wheat bread instead of white bread, retains the valuable fibre and nutrients in the diet. Grains such as rice, wheat, barley, bajra, millet, jowar and oats fall in this category. Also included are grain variants such as poha, sooji, upma, noodles, idlis and dosas.

Protein-rich foods

Proteins are the building blocks for growth. You must get protein (in grams) equivalent to your weight in kilograms. For instance, if you weigh 60 kilos, you should consume 60 grams of protein. Non-vegetarians can derive their protein from chicken, fish, meats and eggs. Vegetarians have milk and milk products, pulses (dals), sprouts, nuts, seeds and soya products to choose from.

Fruits and vegetables

For your vitamin and mineral requirements, this food group is vital. The different colours in fruits and vegetables have different nutritional properties, so varying the options gives you a broad range of vitamins and minerals. Overcooking destroys natural nutrients; so, eat your veggies lightly cooked. Locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables give you added benefits. Citrus fruits such as oranges and sweet limes, and watermelon are a light and delicious option in the summer months. Fruits such as bananas, mangoes, chikoos, sitaphal are more filling. Even dried fruits, such as prunes, figs, raisins and apricots are a great substitute for dessert.

Fats and sugar

As a food group, fat should be consumed in very small quantities — about five teaspoons a day. Limit, don't omit. Fat is needed by the body to build cells, provide energy, preserve body heat and protect the organs from damage. Vitamins A, D, E and K dissolve in fat; so fat is needed for their absorption. Examples of fat are butter, ghee and oil.

Keep your refined sugar consumption to six teaspoons a day. Sugar is naturally available in fruits, in the form of fructose. Limit intake of additional sugar in the form of sweets and desserts to avoid weight gain.

How can fast food be converted into a healthy square meal?

Pizza — whole wheat base with extra veggies, low on cheese

Frankie — roti roll with veggies and chicken tikka or cottage cheese

Pasta — whole wheat pasta with veggies and paneer or chicken

Channa bhatura — channa and tandoori roti, with fresh-cut salad plate

Burger — whole grain burger with meat /veggie patty & coleslaw side order

Uttapam/Dosa — dosa or uttapam with sambar (ask for extra sambar veggies)

Noodles — whole wheat noodles with veggies and chicken or paneer

(The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist)

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