The diet we follow is majorly influenced by the place we live, the way we were brought up, and our health conditions and habits. It may not be a perfect one, but as long as we are healthy, we typically never consider changing it—unless we ask ourselves what a perfectly balanced diet is.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a balanced diet should include the following nutrients:
|Dietary factor||% of total energy||Remark||For 2000 calorie diet*|
|Total fat||15 – 30%||Total fat energy of at least 20% is consistent with good health. Highly active groups with diets rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits and wholegrain cereals may, however, sustain a total fat intake of up to 35% without the risk of unhealthy weight gain.||Between 300 and 600 calorie which is between 33.5 and 67 grams.|
|Main source of animal fats: lard, suet, tallow, duck and goose fat, Schmaltz, cheese, butter, meat and eggs etc.Main source of vegetable fats: oils, nuts, seeds, avocados etc.|
|Included in total fat||Saturated fatty acids||<10%||<200 calorie which is 22 grams.|
|Main source of animal saturated fatty acids: milk, butter, Parmesan cheese, butterfat, tallow, suet, lard, and shortening, fish oil, processed meats, whipped cream etc.Main source of vegetable saturated fatty acids: coconut oil, palm kernel oil, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds etc.|
|Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)||6 – 10%||Between 120 and 200 calories which is between 13 and 22 grams.|
|Main source of animal PUFAs: fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout etc.Main source of vegetable PUFAs: soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil etc.|
|n-6 Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)Omega-6 fatty acids||5 – 8%||Between 100 and 160 calories which is between 11 and 18 grams.|
|Main source of animal Omega-6 fatty acids: poultry, eggs etc.Main source of vegetable Omega-6 fatty acids: avocado, nuts, rapeseed oil, canola oil, hemp oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, cashew, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts etc.|
|n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)Omega-3 fatty acids||1 – 2%||Between 20 and 40 calories which is between 2 and 4 grams.|
|Main source of animal Omega-3 fatty acids: fish, fish oil, krill, calamari oil, eggs (greens and insect fed), meat (grass fed) etc.Main source of vegetable Omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, flax, hemp, canola, pecan nuts, hazel nuts etc.|
|Trans fatty acids||<1%||<20 calories which is <2 gram.|
|Main source of animal Trans fatty acids: cattle and sheep milk and body fat etc.Main source of vegetable Trans fatty acids: baking shortening, margarines, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil etc.|
|Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)||By difference||This is calculated as: total fat – (saturated fatty acids + polyunsaturated fatty acids + trans fatty acids).|
|Main source of vegetable monounsaturated fatty acids: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, avocados, peanut butter, nuts and seeds etc.|
|Total carbohydrates||55 – 75%||The percentage of total energy available after taking into account that consumed as protein and fat, hence the wide range.||Between 1100 and 1500 calories which is between 275 and 375 grams|
|Main source of animal carbohydrates: milkMain source of vegetable carbohydrates: bread, grains, beans, vegetables, fruit etc.|
|Included in carbohydrates||Free sugars||<10%||For more precise recommendation go to our article: How much sugar per day||< 200 which is 50 grams.|
|Added sugar include monosaccharides (for example glucose or fructose) and disaccharides (for example sucrose) added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer and additionally sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.|
|Proteins||10 – 15%||Between 200 and 300 calories which is 50 and 75 grams.|
|Main source of animal proteins: fish, meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs etc.Main source of vegetable proteins: tofu, soymilk, beans, nuts, seeds etc.|
|Cholesterol||<300 mg per day|
|Main source of animal proteins: eggs, liver, fish, fast food, shellfish, shrimp, bacon, red meat, cheese, pastries etc.|
|Sodium chloride (sodium)||<5g per day (<2g per day)||Salt should be iodized appropriately. The need to adjust salt iodization, depending on observed sodium intake and surveillance of iodine status of the population, should be recognized.|
|Main source of sodium: table salt and salt added to pastries and breads, cold cuts and meats, processed foods, soups, cheese etc.|
|Fruits and vegetables||>= 400g per day||The benefit of fruits and vegetables cannot be ascribed to a single or mix of nutrients and bioactive substances. Therefore, this food category was included rather than the nutrients themselves. The category of tubers (i.e. potatoes, cassava) should not be included in fruits and vegetables.|
|Total dietary fibre||From foods 25 – 30 g per dayMain sources: bran, grains, vegetables, fruit etc.|
|Non-starch polysaccharides (NSP)||From foods 18g per dayMain sources: Wholegrain cereals, fruits and vegetables are the preferred sources of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP).The recommended intake of fruits and vegetables and consumption of wholegrain foods is likely to provide >20 g per day of NSP (>25 g per day of total dietary fiber).|
Nowadays, it is well known that not everybody fulfills the above recommendations. An average American increased his/her daily calorie intake by 523 calories between 1970 and 2003—but Americans, who consume 3,770 calories per day, are not the only ones who overeat. According to European Environment Agency data, only Bulgaria, Latvia, and Slovakia eat less than 3,000 calories per day on average. Austria is a definite leader in overeating, with 3,800 calories per day, then Greece with 3,710 and Belgium with 3,690 calories per day.
It seems that a Western diet is a key aspect of overconsumption. Sugar plays a special role, as its consumption increased by 19% between 1970 and 2003, and its usage is becoming even more common with the growing popularity of industrial and highly processed food.
There are a couple of solutions for those who would like to stick to healthy recommendations. First of all, it’s good to know what we are eating—reading articles, exploring product labels, and being interested in what you eat are essential steps to improving your diet. At first, using a calculator to get all the values correct is useful. Later on, it becomes easier to estimate a proper value. Secondly, avoid processed food at any possible cost. This will mean spending time finding reasonable restaurants and healthy food eateries and shops. It will also mean spending more money. Finally, learn how to prepare your own healthy food. It can be fun too.
*A 2,000-calorie diet is considered an average woman’s diet, while 2,550 would be the daily calorie intake for an average man. That depends on the level of activity and exercise, of course. The values in a table are calculated only for a 2,000-calorie diet option.
All the nutrients in details you can find in our articles listed here:
All about proteins – coming soon
All about fats – coming soon