The human body requires a balance of nutrients to lead a healthy life. And for getting these nutrients, it is crucial to have a healthy diet plan per the body’s needs and requirements. It’s rightly said, “A well-balanced diet along with exercise is the key to good health.”
A healthy diet plan comes with many benefits; it helps prevent malnutrition in all its forms, along with various non-communicable diseases. On the contrary, a poor diet can lead to reduced immunity, therefore, making an individual prone to health diseases as well as less productive physically and mentally. Especially nowadays, people consume more processed foods high in calories, trans-fats, and sugars or salt and do not eat enough fruits, vegetables, and dietary fibers such as whole grains. All these factors contribute to an imbalanced diet and unhealthy lifestyle.
Despite all the benefits, designing a healthy diet plan is a real task as it varies according to the individual needs and various other factors such as age, gender, lifestyle, degree of physical activity, cultural context, locally available foods, and dietary customs. So, to assist and help you enjoy a healthy lifestyle, our experts have done a thorough research and hence came up with this article. This article is a comprehensive guide to a healthy diet plan. It will help you learn more about healthy well-being and how you can plan your own diet. So, scroll down and expand your knowledge.
Healthy Diet Plan As Per Different Stages Of Life Cycle
The body’s requirement of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals varies with each life cycle stage. What to include in your healthy diet plan differs with each stage of life, like an infant, growing child, pregnant/lactating women, and older people. Apart from this, the diet also varies for every individual depending upon various factors like age, gender, physical activity, nutritional requirement. Body weight and height are also important factors to consider while designing a healthy diet plan.
Here’s how a healthy diet plan should be according to the different stages of the life cycle:
Babies should be only breastfed for the first six months of their lives. It should start within an hour after delivery which will include the first milk (colostrum). Infants don’t require a diet plan as breastfeeding is sufficient to boost their immunity and stay protected from several infections. This is because breast milk is the most natural and wholesome food for growth and healthy development and covers all the required nutrition that promotes overall development.
After six months, babies can be gradually given small quantities of home-cooked semi-solid complementary foods such as porridge, cereals, pulses, mashed potatoes, etc. However, till the age of two, the health plan of kids will include breastfeeding.
With children, having a well-balanced, healthy diet plan becomes essential for achieving optimum growth and boosting immunity. Hitting adolescence requires a good amount of carbohydrates and fats for high energy; calcium-rich products like dairy products and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, celery for bone mass development; proteins for muscle building, repair, growth, and essential vitamins for an active body. Including these items in the diet plan helps in the proper functioning of the body.
Especially in today’s era, children are more inclined towards junk food, so it is very important to have a healthy diet plan that can motivate them to have good and clean eating habits. Poor eating habits may lead to various long-term health complications.
These days, most adults do not follow good dietary habits due to time crunch and a sedentary lifestyle. They intake a lot of salt, sugar, and processed and preserved food items, leading to lifestyle problems such as high BP, high sugar, and nutrient deficiency at a younger age. This is why it is recommended to follow a healthy diet plan and incorporate calcium and iron-rich food items. Milk, other dairy products like yogurt, green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, etc., and fiber-rich food like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits should be included. At the same time, items like oil, butter, cheese, and cream should be limited because of saturated fats and trans fats.
In the later adulthood stage, the body composition changes quickly, and nutritional needs become different. Their healthy diet plan requires fewer calories and high calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A, and antioxidants. This helps prevent age-related degenerative diseases and enjoy healthy aging. They should design their diet plan with products rich in calcium, proteins, vitamin D, etc., and food with high saturated fats, sweets, oily food, salt, and sugar should be avoided. Also, the quantity should be decreased to moderate, and their diet should contain eating in frequent intervals.
Categorization Of Food As Per Nutritional Value
Before diving into how a healthy diet plan should be and what it should include, let’s look at different food categories according to their nutritional values. Here’s a broad classification:
Energy-rich foods (Carbohydrates and fats): Whole Grains, Cereals, Millets, Vegetable Oil, Nuts, Oilseeds, and Sugar.
Bodybuilding foods (Proteins): Pulses, Nuts, And Oilseeds, Milk and Milk Products, Meat, Fish, Poultry.
Protective foods (Vitamins and minerals): Green Leafy Vegetables, Fruits, Eggs, Milk And Milk Products, Fish, and Meat.
What To Add and Avoid In A Healthy Diet Plan
- Vegetables and fruits:
Vegetables and fruits are rich sources of micronutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin C, folic acid, carotenoids, phytochemicals, and macronutrients like complex carbohydrates/ fiber. While some vegetables and fruits provide meager calories, others are a great source of it as they are rich in starch. Such vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, and fruits like bananas. Hence, adding them to your healthy diet plan will help increase or decrease calories, as per the requirement.
While most people think that fats should not be a part of a healthy diet plan, at least 15-30% of total calories in the diet should be provided in the form of fats for better results. However, the diet of an infant and children requires an adequate amount of fat to fulfill the higher energy needs compared to adults. Some of the fats/oils that are important to be acquired include animal fat that is available in butter, milk, cheese, eggs, and fat from meat and fish; vegetable fat that can be found in groundnut, mustard, sesame, coconut, canola, olive, and soya bean. Other than these, hydrogenated oils are also crucial.
Salt contains sodium and potassium, which are vital for the proper functioning of the body. As per the various studies, having a high salt consumption or insufficient intake, usually less than 3.5 g, contributes to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. This is why WHO recommends everyone to include less than 5g of salt per day in their healthy diet plan.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that “Sugars should be completely eliminated from a healthy diet plan.” However, in reality, sugar must be added to the diet, but its proportion should be managed for better results. One must not intake artificial sweeteners as they are harmful to the body. At the same time, food items like honey, syrups, fruits, fruit juices, etc., are sources of healthy sugar and should not be less than 10% of the total energy intake of a day.
- Whole grains:
A whole grain contains all edible parts of the grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. A healthy diet plan should be rich in whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, oats, unprocessed maize, millets, etc. Consuming them in your diet will help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and forms of cancer. Whole-grain diets also improve bowel health as it helps maintain regular bowel movement and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.
- Water and beverages:
Water accounts for about 70% of total human body weight. However, our body tends to lose it through sweat, urine, and feces during an entire day. Hence, water should be a critical part of a healthy diet plan to meet daily fluid requirements. Other than water, there are several beverages that should be consumed for a healthy lifestyle. These beverages include milk, which is a rich source of calcium and helps build strong bones; natural fruit juices that provide in addition to energy, some vitamins, and minerals. Other than that, buttermilk, lassi, coconut water, tea, and coffee are some options to add to your healthy diet plan. These beverages are way more beneficial than synthetic drinks and alcohol.
- Processed and ready to eat foods:
Today, processed and ready-to-eat foods are quite a trend because of our hectic schedules. However, such food items are subjected to technological modifications either for preservation or for converting into ready-to-use/eat foods, and hence, they are called “processed foods.” Some of the techniques used include freezing, canning, baking, drying, and pasteurizing products that help preserve highly perishable products and facilitate the seasonal availability of foods and transportation over long distances. While these processes might save the food item in the long run, it results in a lack of dietary fiber and micronutrients. Thus, they should be avoided on a healthy diet plan.
- Junk food:
Junk food includes many food items that should not be a part of your healthy diet plan. This might include the foods that undergo special processing or items that are rapidly prepared and quickly served in a packaged form for takeaway. Not just packaged food, ready-to-eat foods and beverages, prepared and sold in public places are also a part of the junk food category. Such food items are rich in calories, high sugar/ fat/ content, and have low nutrient value in terms of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This makes it essential to avoid such kinds of foods for healthy well-being.
Now that you made it here, you are well equipped with information that you need to know about a healthy diet plan. We hope that the article will benefit you and help you in enjoying a wholesome life. So, pin this article for future reference and design your own diet plan.