If you're looking for a balanced diet menu for a week, you can create your own based on your dietary needs and weight loss goals. What works for you may not work for someone else since caloric needs are based on age, gender and other factors.
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What You Should Eat
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a healthy eating plan provides your body with the nutrition it requires every day while staying within your daily calorie guidelines for either weight maintenance or weight loss. Creating a healthy food time table will also reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions.
Your healthy eating plan should:
- Place strong emphasis on fruit and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Control portion sizes.
- Include lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs and nuts.
- Limit sodium, added sugars and saturated and trans fats.
How much you should eat depends on your age, gender, current health and whether you want to maintain your current weight or lose weight.
According to Harvard Health, healthy men should consume no fewer than 1,500 calories per day, and healthy women should not consume fewer than 1,200 calories. The NHLBI says very low calorie diets of 800 calories or less a day shouldn't be used without medical supervision.
For a healthy rate of weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week, you should cut 500 to 1,000 calories from your diet every day, either through reduced food consumption, regular exercise or a combination of the two. If you're exercising regularly, build your balanced diet menu for a week based on 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day.
If you want to maintain your weight, use a basal metabolic rate calculator to determine your estimated daily calorie burn based on age, gender, height and activity level. This way you know how many calories to plan for in your daily food schedule without losing weight.
Create a Daily Food Schedule
When it comes to building your daily food schedule, there's a lot of conflicting advice out there. Some people say you should be eating every two to three hours to keep the metabolism revved up, while others say you should stick to only eating three meals a day.
According to a May 2018 article for Insider, Dr. Edward Bitok, DrPH, MS, RDN, assistant professor, Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at the Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions, says, "The wait time between meals should be between three and five hours."
The reason for this time frame is that this is the average amount of time it takes for the stomach to empty its contents into the small intestine. It also ensures you're truly hungry, rather than eating out of habit.
A healthy food time table should start with breakfast within two hours of waking up. According to an October 2018 Forbes article, Kim Larson, RDN, CSSD, CD, says, "The sooner you eat breakfast after you wake up, the better it is for your metabolism."
Let's assume you wake up at 6 a.m. This means you should eat breakfast no later than 8 a.m. Lunch should occur sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. From there, dinner should occur between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. If desired, you could have a small healthy snack around 9 p.m. as long as you don't go straight to bed afterward. Doing so may cause acid reflux, according to Harvard Health.
Balancing Your Daily Diet
The key to building a balanced diet menu for a week is to focus on following the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate guidelines. If you've made a healthy food time table, it won't matter if you're eating the wrong things or eating too much of them.
According to those guidelines, half your plate should contain fruits and vegetables. Your vegetables should be varied. Aim for whole fruits when possible because of added sugars that are often found in processed fruit products. The remaining half of your plate should be made of grains and protein. At least half of those grains should be whole grains.
A healthy diet will include vegetables from each sub-group, which are: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, beans and peas, red and orange vegetables and other vegetables. You can eat them cooked, fresh, frozen or dehydrated. You can eat them whole, sliced or cut or mashed, depending on your tastes.
To make the most of your healthy diet, aim to get most of your servings of fruit from whole fruits. You can eat them fresh, frozen, canned or dried. You can cut them up, eat them whole or puree them. The key is to avoid fruit with added sugar, such as fruit cocktails packed in syrup rather than water.
Whole-grain foods provide more nutrition, namely fiber than refined grains. That's why you should look for products that say "100 percent whole grains" or "100 percent whole wheat." Instead of using white bread, tortillas and rice, opt for whole wheat and brown alternatives.
When it comes to protein, be sure to mix it up. Try to eat seafood twice a week, and limit red meat to once or twice a week. Don't forget to include vegetarian sources of protein such as beans, nuts, seeds and eggs.
If you're on a budget, you'd be surprised at what you can do with cheap meal plans. It's possible to eat a healthy balanced diet by eating smaller portions, shopping sales at your local grocery stores and shopping for produce that's in season. You can also make meat an accompaniment to your dish, focusing instead on more fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
It's OK if you indulge in sweets from time to time, but for the best weight loss results do your best to plan those occasions in advance. On a day when you know you'll be having something that's not quite as healthy, you can fill up on more fruits and vegetables or amp up your physical activity. That's why it's called balance!
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Healthy Eating Plan"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie Counting Made Easy"
- Loma Linda University: "Faculty Directory"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Media Press Room""
- Harvard Health Publishing: "9 Ways to Relieve Acid Reflux Without Medication"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "What Is MyPlate?"