Basics of Nutrition

Basics of Nutrition

Nutrition is the process in which you consume food or nourishing liquids, digest and absorb them and use them for health and growth. Nutrition is all about the study of food and how our bodies use food nutrients as fuel for growth and daily activities. The macronutrients which are required in large amounts by the body include proteins, carbohydrates, fiber and fats. The micronutrients or "little" nutrients are the vitamins and minerals that we need to be healthy. They all play a critical role in the normal functioning of the body. Enough water or fluids and moderate physical activities are very important for a healthy body besides a balanced diet. The challenge with many people is either under or overconsumption of particular food nutrients. As a result the outcome may be undernutrition or overnutrition commonly associated with problems of overweight and obesity.

A healthy diet should consist of 45-65% carbohydrates, 10-35% protein, and 20-35% fat (with no more than 10% saturated fat and 0% trans fat). This constitutes a balanced diet that provides enough nutrients for optimal growth and development.

Milk group (dairy products)

  1. Cheese: fat-free or reduced-fat (1%)
  2. Milk or buttermilk: fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%)
  3. Yogurt: fat-free or low-fat, regular or frozen

Meat and beans group

  1. Legumes (including beans, lentils, peas, and split peas)
  2. Meat (beef, pork, poultry with skin removed, game meats, fish, shellfish): select   lean cuts; trim away visible fat; broil, roast, or poach
  3. Nuts and seeds (including almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts)
  4. Tofu, tempeh, and other soy-protein products

Fruit group

  1. Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, berries, dates, grapes, grapefruit, mangos, melons, oranges, peaches, pineapples, raisins and other unsweetened dried fruits, tangerines
  2. 100% fruit juice

Vegetable group

  1. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, collard and other greens, cucumbers, green beans, kale, lettuces, potatoes, radishes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
  2. 100% vegetable juice

Grain group (breads and cereals)

  1. Enriched, whole-grain breads, rolls, English muffins, bagels, cereals (hot and cold), and pasta
  2. Grits
  3. Rice


  1. Light or low-fat salad dressing
  2. Low-fat mayonnaise
  3. Vegetable oil

An unbalanced diet can cause problems with maintenance of:

  1. Body tissues
  2. Brain and nervous system function
  3. Growth and development

The term "balanced diet" means that a diet meets your nutritional needs while not providing too much of any nutrients. To achieve a balanced diet, you must eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups. You will need to know:
  1. How much calories you should consume every day
  2. What size/portions of food you should eat. Too much of a healthy food may no longer be healthy
  3. Which are the healthy choices from each food group

There are several guidelines available to help one plan a balanced diet. The food pyramid guides individuals on how to make healthier food choices and achieve regular exercise. Unlike the older model, food groups are arranged in vertical bands, instead of horizontal ones. Band width indicates portion size. The wider the band, the more food from that group you should eat.



General Guidelines

  1. Avoid skipping breakfast
  2. Take at least three meals each day
  3. Consume foods from each of the food groups at every meal

The most important step to eating a balanced diet is to be educated about what the body needs, and to read the nutrition label and ingredients of all the foods consumed.