Diet is one of the major determinants of health and nutritional status at every stage of an individual’s life. Unhealthy dietary practices are accountable for increased occurrence of nutritional deficiencies and disorders, infectious diseases, obesity, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancers and other chronic diseases. These health problems are further exacerbated by sedentary work culture. Dietary modifications to select and consume a balanced diet along with regular physical activity have proven to reduce diet-related chronic diseases. Foods which contain a variety of nutrients in such quantities and proportions that will adequately fulfill our bodies’ need for energy, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins required for maintaining health, vitality and well-being. All the weight loss diets popular nowadays, like KETO, Atkins, Military diet etc., are all causing imbalance between nutrients in our body leading to different diseases and nutritional deficiencies.
Energy provided by food is measured in Kcal., commonly termed as calorie, where 1 gram of carbohydrates and proteins provides 4 Kcal, and that of fats provides 9 Kcal.
Essential nutrients cannot be provided to the body in adequate amounts by a single-nutrient or meal. On the basis of nutrients foods are divided into six groups: Cereals, Meat and pulses (meats/eggs/pulses), Dairy (milk and milk products), Vegetables, Fruits and Fats and oils.
These My Food Plate groups were initially developed by Harvard School of Public Health but are now recommended strongly to be followed by Dietary Guidelines of Pakistan 2018 to reinforce that the diet must contain all food groups to satisfy the nutritional requirements of the body.
Cereals group is essential for providing carbohydrates, proteins, vitamin B1, vitamin E and minerals. It is the main staple providing over 50% of energy, protein, vitamins and mineral requirements of the body.
Meat and pulses group includes mutton, beef, poultry, fish, liver, eggs and pulses that are rich sources of proteins and minerals.
Dairy group includes milk and milk products essential for skeletal growth and development, neurological and muscular functions. It is a rich source of calcium, phosphorous, protein, lactose, energy and vitamins. Vegetables are essential for providing antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals that protect our body.
Portion size in My Food Plate for adults (1500 calories):
1 (1 serving = 80 kcal)
2 (1 serving = 140 Kcal)
Fruits & Vegetables:
6 (1 serving = 60 Kcal for fruits and 25 Kcal for vegetables)
Fats & Oils:
2 (1 serving = 45 Kcal)
Milk & Milk products:
3 (1 serving = 90 Kcal)
These portion sizes guide you to fill your plate according to the choices available and distributing them at a minimum interval of three hours with three major meals as breakfast, lunch and dinner with intermittent small 1-2 snacks. Drink 6-8 glasses of water daily along with the fluids mentioned above to keep yourself well hydrated. Happy eating and stay healthy.HH
The writer is head of community medicine Department at Services Institute of Health Sciences, Lahore.
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