Healthy Food Choices

Food is any material consumed to give nutrition to an organism. Generally, food is of animal, plant or bacterial source, and usually has key nutrients, like proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals or iron, which are required in small quantities. When consumed in the right quantities, food provides the body with the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to function normally. A person may require only a small amount of food, but if he/she takes in a large quantity of food, his/her body gets an excess of some of these essential nutrients that could actually be lacking in his/her body, due to various reasons.

To maintain a healthy balance in one’s diet, one should have a well-balanced diet. A well-balanced diet includes all food types in the right proportions. Some of the food types include: grains (mainly rice), pulses, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans), fish, dairy products, and dairy foods. These food categories are further broken down into daily eating habits and portion sizes, to help people maintain a balanced diet.

Carbohydrates are important to everyone, but some people need to eat more than others depending upon their individual needs. Carbohydrates are found in many food types and are available in small or large amounts. Carbohydrates are made up of starches, glucose or sugars, which are absorbed easily by the body. These food types provide energy, which is the main requirement for the body to perform its daily functions, especially when the energy requirements are more than the supply of carbohydrates available in the body. Some of the commonly used carbohydrates are sugar, flour, corn syrup, pasta, white bread, potatoes and cereals.

There are two groups of carbohydrates: non-fibre carbohydrates and fibres, which are also known as nutrients. Non-fibre carbohydrates are generally found in fruit and vegetables; whereas fibres are found in grains, beans, nuts, seeds and oilseeds. The difference between the two is that fibres are the ones that are broken down into starches and provide the energy for the body to perform all of its daily functions, whereas non-fibre carbohydrates are consumed slowly throughout the day and slowly break down into starches, which provides little energy and is therefore not recommended for dieting.

One of the most important factors in determining a healthy diet is the food source, or diet, of the individuals. This refers to the amount of nutrients that are provided by the food. Some of the common food sources are: whole grains, fruits and vegetables, grains (mainly rice), nuts, oils, and water. Other valuable sources of nutrients include fish and seafood, eggs, milk and dairy products, seeds, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, wheat products and cereals.

The above mentioned food groups are representative of a balanced diet, which includes important nutritional needs. However, there are some other food categories that should be considered when determining a balanced diet; these include the following: cereals and breads, pastas, potatoes, kidney beans, eggs and poultry products, sugar, coffee, tea, sugar substitutes, spices, dairy products, fish, meat and poultry products, coffee substitutes, confectionery and snacks. The food pyramid is a good way to start creating a balanced diet, and this pyramid has seven categories, including cereal and breads, beans, potatoes, milk, tomatoes, cereals and breads, dairy products, fish, meat and poultry products. It is also important to consider the food groupings of the eight major food groups. These include: vegetables, fruits, breads, legumes, proteins, oils, fats and drinks.