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 soy 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 3 daily servings of pulses! Pulses like chickpeas and kidney beans contain good amount of nutrients; you can add them more often to your diet. Roasted peanuts and chickpeas make a great snack.
Having 2 or more servings of fruits a day is very easy as you can snack on your favorite fruits throughout the day. Apples, oranges, bananas, guava, coconut, pomegranate and gooseberry are particularly nutritious.
5 servings of vegetables sounds like more than it actually is. Spinach, carrots, peas, okra, french beans are tasty and versatile!
Whole grains are more nutritious than refined white grains so choose a whole grain bread for breakfast instead of a white loaf. Pearl millet, sorghum, maize, buckwheat, brown rice and sweet potatoes 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
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, tahini and sunflower are tasty and rich in protein and iron. You could have 1 serving of nuts, with a handful of your favorite nuts as a snack or eat 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.