In no particular order, a balanced diet must contain a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber in moderate amounts to maintain good health. Each of these items plays a particular, yet important, role in helping the body to function properly. Carbohydrates and fats provide the body with energy, proteins assist the body with growth and repair, vitamins and minerals contain vital nutrients to further support tissues and organs, and fiber helps ensures the intestines operate smoothly.
A critical step to achieving a balanced diet is to become educated about what the body needs to function well. In the US, the Food Guide Pyramid developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides simple guidelines to ensure a well-balanced diet is regularly followed. Based on current scientific evidence linking diet and exercise with good health, the pyramid is illustrated using multi-colored vertical stripes, with each stripe representing one of five food groups, in addition to a group known as "fats and oils."
Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber can readily be consumed in the proper amounts by following the guidelines provided by the FDA Food Pyramid. Both the pyramid and the medical community urge individuals to eat at least three meals a day, and to avoid skipping breakfast as this meal helps get the body off to a good start each day. It is also considered wise to limit the amount of foods containing high amounts of cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol, as these do not provide the body with any particular necessary nutrition. In fact, when consumed in large amounts, foods containing these items can cause or exacerbate poor health conditions.
A well-balanced diet as evidenced by the food pyramid encourages people to eat a variety of foods in the correct proportions. Followers are encouraged to plan meals around the foods with the thickest wedges of the pyramid, including whole grains and vegetables, and eat less of the foods with thinner portions, such as oils and fats. If weight loss is a goal, the minimum number of recommended daily servings should be consumed. If weight gain is the goal, the maximum should be eaten.
Doctors and most governmental agencies urge the adoption of a daily exercise regimen to complement and enhance a balanced diet. The amount of recommended exercise is dependent on age and weight goals. If weight loss is necessary, then more exercise is recommended, while, if weight maintenance is the goal, less exercise is required.