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How to get your food basics right
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How to get your food basics right

The ingredients for a balanced platter, as recommended by health authorities
food
Representational image | Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has made people realize the need to be healthy and fit to keep the infection at bay. However, being healthy is mostly influenced by what and how well you eat.  

Attempting to “spot boost” immunity by taking herbal pills will not work. But what will is making sure your platter has a fantastic combination of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. 

Rather than looking at different types of prevailing diets, most of which are complex in how they interact with your body’s nutritional needs, it is way simpler if you look at the basic needs of the body. Getting your food basics right is the soul of a healthy body and mind. 

The US’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommend fulfilling 85% of your daily calories from nutrient-dense forms of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and proteinaceous foods. While the rest 15% calorie should be consumed in limit by added sugars and fats.  

Aligning with it, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends fulfilling the per day calories in the following ratios: 45-65% from carbohydrates, 10-15% from proteins, and 25-35% from fats (not exceeding 10% of saturated fat) – for a healthy body. 

India’s National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has a similar recommendation for the Indian populace to fulfill the per day calories which is 60% carbohydrates, 10-15% from proteins, and 20-25% from fats and oils. Also, NIN provides simple tips on nutrition to make your bite tasty and avails you to know your food, follow sound dietary practices and adopting healthy lifestyle for mental, physical, and social wellbeing. 

What does a balanced plate look like? 

Have you ever wondered what a balanced platter should look like? Here are the basics you should look for while making your platter in a fun way: 

This is what your ideal food platter should look like | Illustration by Syalima M Das

Vegetables

They should be in abundant proportion on the platter. Dark green and coloured vegetables, leafy vegetables, beans, peas, and starchy vegetables fulfill the need of carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins of the body. Moreover, vegetables like mushrooms, summer squash, and avocado can provide you with healthy fats.

Shalamali Sharma, Chief nutritionist and founder of Re-vive, Bangalore, emphasizes that you cannot get all the micronutrients, particularly minerals if you are not eating foods coming from the soil. However, macronutrients can be obtained from other non-plant sources as well.

Also, being low on calories and full of fibers, it maintains digestive health and promotes an illness-free body. The GOSH, a UK’s National Health Service foundation trust suggests having at least three to five servings of fruits and veggies per day. GOSH also describes what a portion of serving looks like. 

Fruits

Sharma warns that people are often influenced by half-cooked information on social media, with many replacing natural multivitamins with chemically synthesized multivitamin pills. But you don’t need supplements when nature has its own remedy. 

“Give yourself a natural multivitamin in the form of fruits, of course with no side effects”, she adds. 

The fibers, water content, and natural sugars in fruits, besides being low in calories, can fulfill all the requirements one needs. For example – a cup of mixed fruits namely apple, grapes, papaya, and oranges – can meet the demands of most micronutrients and anti-oxidants, providing some proportion of carbohydrates as well. 

Grains

Grains are full of fibers, micronutrients, proteins and carbohydrates, making them the healthiest option while making a platter. Grains include both types – whole and refined, and whole grains should always be in abundance. Whole grains comprise fibers (bran), starch (endosperm), and nutrients (germ), unlike refined grains which are primarily starchy. Brown rice, oatmeal, cereals, whole wheat bread, millets, and quinoa are whole grains while white rice, white bread, pasta, muffins, biscuits, and pancakes are refined ones. 

Dairy  

Milk, cheese, ghee, paneer, curd, soymilk, and yogurt are packed with proteins, vitamins such as A, D, and B, and minerals like calcium. Health authorities suggest aiming for at least three servings per day in favor of maintaining bone and teeth health.

Most dairy carries saturated fat which is to be consumed in lowest amount while low fat or fortified dairy products should always be in place.

One can limit the consumption of saturated fats as they increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. The daily value percentage (% DV) should not exceed 5. %DV is calculated as (Number of grams of fat/22) X 100. Health experts recommend that an adult eating a 2000-calorie diet on average should not consume more than 22 grams of saturated fat. 

Taking an example of a cup of milk having 5 grams of saturated fat, the % DV calculates to be 23% – which is very high. Noticing that the 5 grams do not sound much but a person with 2000 calorie diet will have 23% of saturated fat from just a cup of milk. However, the foods should be selected together in such a way that the overall daily goal of saturated fat should not exceed 100%.

Protein foods 

Proteins helps you maintain the muscle architecture, improve immunity, and manufacture neurotransmitters for proper brain function. 

Seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, and soy are the major sources of protein. However, when included in the platter, you should seek lean protein – that is without fat. Dr. Mohit Sharma, a diabetes, hypertension, and nutrition specialist from Chandigarh notes that 100 grams of chicken breast has 24 grams of protein with 2 grams of fat while 100 grams of beef has around 27 grams of protein with 12 grams of fat – making chicken the best option. Beans and peas can be a proper fit in the platter as it is a plant sources rich in protein, fibers, and carbohydrates. 

Additional information 

U.S. Department of Agriculture provides you few examples of food from five food groups. Also, you should consume plenty of water to replenish the lost water via various bodily processes.  

Australia’s Eat for health provides you a reference on how to use the food groups to make your platter in a fun way. You can also refer to the National Institute of Nutrition on how to make your platter based on the function of food groups. 

Now that you have got an idea on what and how much you should eat, take a shot at a snake and ladder kind of nutrition game for good nutrition and better health. Better health in a fun way!

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