The 5 Main Food Groups for Balancing Your Diet

Food is fuel for your body and so it is really important to eat a balanced diet to help your body perform at its best and stay healthy.

What is a Balanced Diet?

A balanced diet is one that gives you all of the different nutrients that you need in the right amounts.

Food for a balanced diet.

[Photo: National Cancer Institute]

So how do you Balance your Diet?

Make sure that you eat a variety of foods from the five different food groups.

1. Proteins.

Protein is essential for your body to grow healthily and for the repair of body tissues. Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, chicken and eggs. Meat is also an especially good source of iron which makes red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. If you are a vegetarian, nuts and pulses, such as beans and lentils are a good source of protein too, as well as tofu and Quorn (a meat substitute, made from a certain kind of mushroom that is rich in protein). Teenagers should try to eat 3 servings of protein a day.

2. Carbohydrates.

Your body needs plenty of carbohydrates for energy so it’s important to include foods from this group in your diet with every meal if you can. This group includes starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes and also breakfast cereals that are often fortified with vitamins and minerals. Wholegrain rice, bread and pasta are particularly healthy choices. You also obtain fibre from these foods and this is important for a healthy digestive system and prevents constipation.

3. Dairy Products.

Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium which keeps your teeth and bones strong. They contain some protein too and essential vitamins such as B12, A and D. So make sure that you include milk, cheese and yoghurt in your daily diet.

4. Fruit and Vegetables.

Fruit and vegetables are not always on a young person’s list of favourite foods but it is so important to try to eat at least 5 portions from this group everyday so add an apple to your lunch box and snack on dried fruit not sweets. Fruit and vegetables provide your body with vitamins and helpful chemicals called antioxidants which can help protect against diseases such as cancer. It’s fine to eat frozen or canned products too.

Balanced diet - fruit and vegetables.

[Photo: Bill Ebbesen]

5. Fats and Sugars.

Unfortunately many of the tastiest and irresistible foods fall into the final group of fats and sugars. Yes, we all love chocolate, cakes and biscuits and crisps but it’s important not to eat too many of these products. You need some sugar and fat for energy but consuming too much leads to being overweight and can cause diseases such as diabetes. Too much sugar may mean too many trips to the dentist too.

So to keep your body fit and strong, try to eat a good variety of foods from these 5 groups and don’t forget that you also need to drink plenty of liquids, to keep well hydrated, especially if it’s hot or you have been exercising. Avoid too many fizzy drinks and the healthiest choice really is water.

Taught science for 16 years at a secondary school in the East Midlands.