A Balanced Diet: 12 Key Rules Busy Women (Like You) Can Easily Follow

Sometimes we get so busy that eating well goes out the window. Here are 12 expert rules that you can follow to keep your diet nicely balanced.

Balanced diet
Balanced diet
(Image credit: Instagram/Miranda Kerr)

Sometimes we get so busy that eating well goes out the window. Here are 12 expert rules that you can follow to keep your diet nicely balanced.

Balanced diet
(Image credit: Instagram/Miranda Kerr)

12 key tips for achieving a balanced diet:

1. Breakfast is key

'Eating a hearty breakfast is essential to restore blood sugar levels after the overnight fast that happens as we sleep,' says Holland & Barrett nutritionist Alex Thompson. 'Skipping breakfast leads to a mid-morning blood sugar level crash, lowering your mood, energy levels and concentration. It also reduces your metabolic rate, meaning that your body won't burn calories effectively. Base your breakfast around slow-digesting carbohydrates with protein for sustained energy throughout the morning. Good choices are porridge, muesli, and eggs or baked beans on wholemeal toast.'

2. Go for protein 

'While eating a high-carbohydrate lunch can leave you feeling tired in the afternoon, protein-rich foods promote mental alertness,' says Alex Thompson. 'A good choice is to go for a salad with lean meat or eggs, and a small bread roll.'

3. Drink up

'Many people do not consume enough fluid throughout the day, and dehydration can affect your mood, concentration, and energy levels,' says Alex Thompson. 'The amount of fluid needed varies from person to person, depending on factors including your activity levels and how hot it is, so suggesting a generic daily volume of fluids to consume isn't useful. Instead, gauge how much water you need to drink by checking that your pee is the colour of pale straw, which means that you are well hydrated.'

4. Bulk up your meals

'Cook large batches of meals such as soups, stews, tomato sauces and low fat curries or chilli con carne, and then freeze them,' suggests Alex Thompson. 'This is a great way to ensure that you always have healthy meals ready to use. Just defrost a portion in the fridge the previous night. You will also avoid being tempted by sugar and fat laden ready meals or takeaways when tired or busy.' 

5. Cut caffeine

'Small amounts of caffeine can give you a much-needed temporary boost, but too much can lead to feelings of irritability and sleepless nights,' says Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington. 'Limit yourself to no more than three or four cups of coffee a day.'

6. Write it down

'Try keeping a food diary for a week,' says Vicky Pennington. 'The results may surprise you, as most of us think we are eating far less than we really are. Write down everything you eat as you go. Just doing this may be enough to set you on the road to mindful eating, and a healthier and more balanced diet.'

7. Balance your plate

'Make sure that one third of your plate is made up of carbohydrates, and another third of fruit and vegetables,' says Vicky Pennington. 'The last third should be split between meat or fish, and dairy products.'

8. Eat healthy fats

'Healthy fat is an absolute essential,' says Nina Omotoso, nutritional therapist at Revital. 'It keeps energy levels up and is used to produce hormones that help us cope with stress. Whole foods such as avocados, olives, eggs and chia seeds are great sources.'

9. Snack smart

'A snack fills the gap between meals and keeps us from experiencing the energy dips that can make it difficult to get through the day,' says Nina Omotoso. 'Go for a mix of carbs, protein and fats, as this will slow down your digestion for sustained energy release. Remember to keep sugar levels low, as well. Carrots dipped in houmous or crackers and nut butter are a great choice.'

10. Must-have magnesium

'The mineral magnesium relaxes the body and helps us cope with a hectic lifestyle, so it's a good idea to keep your levels topped up,' says Nina Omotoso. 'Start by eating magnesium-rich foods every day: sprinkle pumpkin or sesame seeds on your cereal, snack on Brazil nuts or almonds, and add a handful of spinach to your evening meals. You could also try a high-strength supplement if you're feeling particularly frazzled.'

11. Go green

'Try to consume a rainbow spectrum of fruit and vegetables across the day to ensure that you gets lots of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,' says Nigel Penny, lecturer in Applied Human Physiology at Birmingham City University. 'Aim to eat 10 or more portions a day, one portion equalling 80g, with a 3:2 vegetable to fruit ratio.'

12. Be an iron lady

'Women have higher requirements for iron, mainly because of the loss that occurs during menstruation,' says Nigel Penny. 'Keep your intake up by eating lean meat, eggs, vegetables and cereals. Remember that the concentrations in milk, fruit and vegetables are low, though.'