Food and nutrients

A balanced diet

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Food culture

What is a balanced meal?

A balanced meal contains at least a drink, vegetables and fruit, and a starchy foodstuff. It also contains proteins from meat or fish or, for vegetarians, from eggs, tofu, a dairy product or pulses. Fat is added when dishes are being prepared. Sugary food should not be consumed at every meal.

Do illustrations of a balanced diet vary from country to country?

The Swiss food pyramid has several levels.

The Japanese depict the balanced diet with a spinning top and incorporate the notion of physical activity.

Other illustrations of a balanced diet include the bowl in Guinea-Bissau and MyPlate in the United States.

These illustrations help us better understand the key principles of healthy eating and a balanced diet.

What influences the composition of food pyramids?

Cultural preferences and the availability of certain foodstuffs can influence the composition of a meal. For example, a traditional Swiss meal may include boiled potatoes, whereas an American meal may contain ‘fries’, and a Mexican meal corn tortillas. Indian and Japanese meals often include rice, whereas a Malian meal may feature millet rolled into balls.

Dietary prohibitions also influence the composition of a meal.

In India, cows are sacred animals so the consumption of beef is taboo.

The Quran and the Torah prohibit the consumption of pork as pigs are considered impure animals.

The variety of food we can access should enable us to eat a balanced diet.

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