Variety and diversity are the foundation of a healthy diet, with the additional benefit of making your daily meals more interesting and delicious. The following five components ensure you are eating a balanced diet. What counts, however, is your overall long-term nutrition – so it doesn’t matter if you don’t include all of these components every day. It’s also not to be taken too literally!
You could have soya milk with your breakfast cereals, peanuts as a snack during the day, and beans, lentils, peas or tofu for lunch or dinner – and, bingo, this makes for your three daily servings of legumes!
Having two servings or more of fruit each day is very easy as you can snack on your favourite fruits throughout the day. Apples, oranges, blueberries and blackberries are particularly nutritious.
Having five servings of vegetables sounds like a lot but put tomatoes and cucumbers in a sandwich for lunch, and serve broccoli, carrots and kale with your dinner and there you have it! You can boost your intake by dipping celery or sweet peppers into houmous as a snack.
Whole grains are more nutritious than refined white grains so choose a whole grain bread for breakfast instead of a white loaf. Whole grain pasta and brown rice, sweet potatoes and oatmeal are particularly nutritious and should be eaten over the course of the day. Four servings of whole grains are easily integrated into meals.
Nuts and seeds
Walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and tahini are tasty, and rich in protein and iron. You could have one serving of nuts in a handful as a snack, add them to your breakfast cereal or enjoy them sprinkled over a scrumptious salad!
Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D
Although soya milk, breakfast cereals and other foods are fortified with these essential vitamins, when following a vegetarian or vegan diet, vitamin B12 must still be supplemented. And that is very easy! Animal-free B12 tablets can be found in health food shops or online. Regardless of one’s diet, intake from the sun is often too low to provide your body with sufficient Vitamin D. Therefore, everybody should take nutritional supplements containing vitamin D unless you are absolutely sure you get enough sunlight.
The Food Plate was created by Virginia Messina, MPH, RD. She is one of the world’s leading experts on vegan nutrition and the co-author of “Vegan for Life” and “Vegan for Her” amongst other books. As a nutrition instructor, Ginny Messina taught at Central Michigan University. She was the director of nutrition services at a medical centre serving more than 50,000 patients, and has developed nutritional education materials for many organisations including the U.S. Government’s National Cholesterol Program.