The universe and its living elements are based on the five attributes of nature: water, air, food, sunlight and soil. Our every routine action is for living our nourishing our minds and bodies. Eating is one such activity. We don’t always eat when we are hungry. Any times we eat just for taste. Every day we wonder what to eat. The different diets advocating the intake of so many different types of food thoroughly confuse us. With a little awareness about the food we consume, nurturing ourselves will not be so perplexing.
The table below states the nutrients provided by different food groups:
|Milk groupThis includes other protein rich foods such as pulses, nut, meat, fish, eggs, etc||Rich source of proteins, minerals and vitamins|
|Fruits and green leafy vegetablesPapaya, orange, mango, guava, banana, etc and all other green leafy vegetables||Rich sources of certain vitamins and mineral|
|Other vegetablesBeans, brinjal, ladies finger, etc||Fair sources of vitamins, certain minerals and roughage.|
|Cereals, roots, tubersRice, wheat, ragi, maize, pearl millet, etc, potato, sweet potato, etc||Rich sources of starch, fair to good sources of proteins and certain B vitamins|
|Fat and oils and pure carbohydrate foodsVegetable oils, animal fats, sugar, honey, custard powder, starch, etc||Vegetable oils are rich sources of energy, air to good sources of essential fatty acids and vitamin EButter is a god source of vitamin AAnimal fats rich in cholesterol|
For maintaining good health and physical efficiency, a diet should provide adequate amounts of all nutrients. For designing balanced diets, it is essential to know the daily requirements of different nutrients. The amount of the nutrients needed by individuals vary with different ages, activities and sex. Balanced diet may be defined as one which contains the various groups of foodstuff such as energy yielding food, body building food and protective foods in the correct proportions so that the individual is assured of obtaining the minimum requirements of all the nutrients. The components of a balanced diet will differ according to age, sex, physical activity and economic status
Since adequate nutrition is important for physical, mental an emotional development of an individual, it is necessary that sufficient emphasis be laid on planning of proper meals before they are cooked and served. The major objective of diet planning is to achieve nutritional adequacy. It also helps to keep the expenditure within the family food budget. Therefore, food availability, food preferences, purchasing power and other important factors, discussed below should be considered in order to make proper selection of food items:
- Nutritional adequacy. The first pre-requisite of a good meal plan is to meet the nutritional needs of all the family members. Essential nutrients are widely distributed in nature and can be obtained from variety of food stuffs. However no single food is complete food; thereby cannot meet all nutritional requirements. This objective can be achieved through an inclusion of combination of different foods in the diet. For this purpose, foods should be selected judiciously from all the five food groups, as mentioned earlier.
- Food cost. The price of the food is independent of its nutritional contribution to the diet. It is important to plan food and bus wisely so that maximum benefit is derived from the money spent. For this, first of all, the total budget on food allocation should be decided. Then, one can select the type of foods to be bought with the available money.
- Availability of foods .It is important to keep in mind the seasonal variation and local availability of foods. In each season, some food items from each food group are available. Inclusion of seasonal and locally available fruits and vegetables is not only economical but the fresh ones are more nutritious and have better taste
- Family size and composition. The family size affects the selection of foods to be served. It has been established that the money spent for food per person decreases as the family size increases, when the family income becomes constant. Family composition affects the kind and amounts of food needed and the pattern of meals served.
- Satiety value. Meals should be planned in such a way that they are filling and the individual does not feel hungry till it is time for the next meal. Inclusion of the protein, fat and fibrous food help to attain satiety value
- Food fads. False ideas about foods are common. They mostly originate from ignorance and may be harmful. Such beliefs that lead to harmful practices should be discouraged.
- Tradition. Most of your food selection is influenced and affected by our tradition. Religious and socio-cultural beliefs govern the choice of food items. Food habits and tradition prohibit or promote the intake of particular foods in different communities. It is a good practice to evaluate traditional food selection in the light of knowledge of nutrition. Thus, the good habits can be retained and those resulting in poor selection can be changed.
- Variety. Variety in food can be created through preparing dishes with differences in colour, texture, flavor, etc. Avoid repetition of a particular food for the same meal or different meals of a day.
- Food Acceptance. Acceptability of meals is important while selecting foods for meal planning. The likes and dislikes of family members should be considered. Different family members have different food preferences, which should be catered to at the time of planning meals.