Thich Nhat Hanh
“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”-Thich Nhat Hanh

Balanced Meal Practice

Increases energy, strength and immunity… Daily Practice linkback

Commit to at least one meal a day that's optimally balanced.  It should have sufficient amounts of each grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat (or meat alternatives).  Additionally, it should correctly balance portions of protein, starch and vegetables.  This balance and moderation provides the nutrition your cells, organs and tissues need to work their best.  Be mindful of planning and eating balanced meals as well as the impact it has on how you feel throughout the day.

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You can Expect: increased strength and vitality; longevity; improved heart, joint and digestive health; better mood and a stronger immune system. In some cases, gradual weight loss.

What the experts are saying: "There's no question the immune system fundamentally is influenced by overall health -- and a balanced diet is key," says David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Yale Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Connecticut. "Not only are essential nutrients critical for the production and maintenance of key germ-fighting cells in the immune system, but a balanced diet also has a strong effect on vascular function, and the immune system is dependent on blood flow," Katz says. The bloodstream is the route along which infection-fighting cells travel throughout the body to where they're needed.

Level of Effort: Easy

Time Involved: 5 Minutes Day


Getting Started:

  1. Understand balanced eating and your daily requirements.
  2. Understand the food groups and reading nutritional labels
  3. Understand a balanced meal using the plate portion guide
  4. Ways to maintain a balanced diet


What to Consider:



1. Understand a balanced diet

People often think of healthy balanced eating as an all or nothing proposition, but a key foundation for any healthy diet is moderation.  A body that is well balanced mentally and physically can result in more vitality and strength, enabling you to live a longer, healthier and have a more enjoyable life. A balanced diet ensures that you get enough of the five food groups daily --grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat or meat alternatives - which supply all the nutrition necessary for the functioning of body cells, organs, and tissues.   The term "balanced" simply 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:

  • How many calories you should consume every day
  • What size portions you should eat.
  • Which are the healthy choices from each food group

Keeping a food journal can help you to understand these elements of your eating better. Learn more...


2. Understanding the food groups and nutrition labels

  • Read nutrition labels on all foods. This will help you know what kind of fats, and how much, the food contains. Learn more...
  • Know your food groups and how much you should have per day.  Learn more…


3. Understand a balanced meal using the plate portion guide

Balancing your individual meals focuses on ensuring that you are balancing your proportions of protein, starch and vegetables for every meal. A quick and easy way to start balancing your meals is to use the plate portion guide. A balanced meal is primarily vegetables with the other half divided between proteins and starch.  Envision your plate before preparing a meal. Focus on one quarter of the plate being protein, one-quarter carbohydrate and the rest fruits and vegetables.

Plate Portions













4. Ways to Maintain a balanced diet

Don't skip breakfast. Having a healthy breakfast is the best way to start your day off on the right foot.

Fuel the Body. Whether you design an eating plan with three meals a day and two small snacks, or six mini-meals per day, the key is to keep the body fueled. Ensure that each meal consists of adequate protein, carbohydrate and fat from natural food sources which supply multiple vitamins and minerals necessary for health. Eat foods from each of the food groups at every meal.

Control your portions by eating until just before you are completely full.

Smart Snacks. When it comes to snacks, combine a protein source with a carbohydrate source. Examples are an apple with nut butter or cheese with grapes.Read the nutrition label and ingredients of all the food you eat.

Smart Beverages. When it comes to drinks, reduce or eliminate those beverages that add unnecessary calories, sugar or artificial sweeteners to your diet. Choose water, teas, milks and fresh 100 percent fruit juices.

Understand food combinations. Digestion is the process of breaking down food so that it's small enough to be absorbed and used by the body for energy or in other bodily functions. Eating foods in the right combination for each meal allows for the better absorption of the nutrients in the foods you eat. This means you have more energy and benefit from all the nutrients in your foods.

Eat slowly. This makes digestion easier and you will tend to feel full sooner. Chew your food completely which helps reduce the work of your stomach. Also be sure to not gulp your bites. "People who take big bites also swallow air. This can cause a condition known as 'aerophobia' that can cause bloating and pressure."

Take smaller portions. Using a smaller plate and learning how to measure appropriate portion sizes are good ways to keep your portions better balanced.



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Why it's important to eat balanced meals

  • Can alleviate health issues including heart disease, arthritis and high blood pressure.
  • Eating a nutritionally balanced meal at every meal will provide optional nutrition and help you maintain a healthy weight. Filling up on veggies helps you control the amount of other foods you are eating. Along with helping to control weight it also helps reduce risk for developing chronic diseases such a, diabetes, obesity or kidney disorders.
  • Helps ensure that you get your daily balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body
  • Aids with digestion, most food needs elements of other foods in order to digest appropriately and provide their full nutritional benefits. Eating foods in the right combination of foods for each meal allows for the better absorption of the nutrients in the foods you eat. This means you have more energy and benefit from all the nutrients in your foods.


Some key recommendations:

  • Follow a balanced diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol -- such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan.
  • Get the most nutrition out of your calories - choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day-those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients but lower in calories.
  • Choose whole grains and aim for eating 3 ounces or more of whole-grain products per day
  • Make total fat intake no more than 20 - 35% of calories. Choose "good" fats such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils containing polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Lean, low-fat, or fat-free meats, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products are preferable. Total fat intake can approach 35% if most of the fats are "good" fats
    • Get fewer than 7% of calories from saturated fatty acids
    • Avoid trans fatty acids, which are unhealthy fats. They are found in fried foods, commercial baked goods such as donuts, cookies, and crackers, in processed foods, and in margarines
    • Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg/day
  • Stay away from added sugars
  • Consume fewer than 2,300 mg (approximately one teaspoon of salt) of sodium daily, and limit added salt when you prepare food.
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation-up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men


Every "body" is unique and has its own set of food requirements

Be sure to listen to what your body needs, some days you may need more food, some days you may need less.  If you live in a temperate/seasonal climate, your food requirements may change as the weather changes 
You may also want to keep a food journal for a few weeks and write down how you feel both physically and emotionally after eating. That's one of the best ways to gain insight and figure out your body's needs.


Additional Resources and Articles

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