Must-have Foods for a Productive & Balanced Diet

by Nick Collins

One of the most amazing healthy diet benefits is that it allows you to eat almost everything. Thus, it contains easily accessible groceries and familiar recipes, so you won't waste your time looking for unique ingredients on the other side of your town.

Food you should have in your diet to keep it balanced & healthy

You'll be surprised that most of the foods you eat daily are a part of a balanced macronutrient diet. So essential balanced nutrition includes such foods:

Vegetables

The good old times, when our parents were telling us to eat more veggies, remained far in the past. But still, it's time to heed their advice. Because veggies are bursting with nutrients and antioxidants, they're essential for our wellness and energy. Fresh or steamed, they are an excellent match for any meal. Besides, veggies are the healthiest low-calorie food, so consider making them a favorite in your fridge and on the plate.

Even if most people aren’t so fond of veggies, you still need them in your diet to fill the guts with the crucial nutrients. And we’ll help you to minimize the difficulties with consuming them by giving you some practical advice.

vegetables

Leafy greens

Salads, or leafy greens, are a great food to make your meal nutrient-dense. They’re rich in vitamins A, B, K, and C, high in potassium and fiber. Simultaneously, they are low in calories and easy to prepare food that you can instantly add to your meals.

Eating leafy greens could also boost your energy. If you have a low iron level, you’ll face constant fatigue and tiredness no matter how long you sleep at night. And leafy greens are extremely rich in iron, so by eating them, you can replenish its natural balance in your body and become more energized.

What’s more, by eating green leafy veggies, you support your brain health. Research has shown that people who eat them have a slower age-related cognitive decline.

How can you add leafy greens to your daily menu easily?

Another outstanding benefit of leafy greens is that you can easily prepare them with any dish. For example, add some spinach or kale to your morning boiled eggs, put arugula in your whole-grain sandwich, and chop some cabbage to your dinner salad. Thus, you’ll get your daily leafy greens portion to boost your energy and brain performance without extra calories.

leafy greens

Root vegetables

Root veggies are a convenient choice when it comes to getting daily energy. They’re rich in fiber and low in fat, making them an excellent match for a filling, healthy meal. In addition, most of the root vegetables contain resistant starch - complex carb, that digests slowlier and gives us more energy in the process.

Elements and nutrients you can find in root veggies are beneficial for maintaining a sufficient energy level. They help convert the foods we eat into energy, fight excessive stress, insomnia, and anxiety. Some root veggies, like radish, contain elements that support cognitive and motor function to make you more productive when working. Celeriac, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets are among the top healthiest roots you should add to your diet.

How can you add some roots to your plate?

Although you may think root veggies are not easy to prepare, there are plenty of ways to eat them when you’re busy. For instance, you can add raw baby carrots to your quick lunch, drink a cup of beet and apple juice in the morning, and bake a few sweet potatoes for dinner.

Fruit vegetables

You may be unaware, but many veggies you eat are fruits, even if used as a veggie. They’re also a part of a balanced diet, bringing not only an outstanding taste but also tons of health and energy benefits. Some of them, like tomatoes, include carotenoids - elements that keep your vision clear and eyes healthy.

tomatoes and cucumbers

Cucumbers, which also belong to a “fruit” family, are an excellent source of antioxidants, as well as bell peppers, that can increase your metabolic rate and support immunity.  Zucchini, which is also more fruit than a veggie, is rich in dietary fiber and minerals to keep you fit and full for a longer time.

How can you quickly add fruit vegetables to your menu?

It will not be so hard, as fruit veggies are a common ingredient of many dishes. Order some whole-grain pasta with tomato sauce for lunch - research says cooked tomatoes have an increased nutritional value. Prepare cucumber and a cabbage salad for your evening chicken breast, and chop bell pepper into a morning omelet.

Fruits

According to the medical recommendations, we need to eat four fruit servings per day to stay fit and maintain a nutritious diet. Besides being yummy, fruits are extremely rich in vitamin C to boost your immunity and energy and folic acid to support your cardiovascular system.

citruses

At the same time, fruits are cram-full of dietary fiber that makes you full without extra calories. It also lowers the cholesterol level in your blood and even helps you live longer. Fruits are also one of the best organic support for your brain. For instance, eating pomegranates reduces the risk of getting Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

We’ll focus on particular fruit “families” like citruses, berries, and pome fruits, as long as they are the richest in vitamins and energy-boosting properties.

Citruses

These refreshing fruits with a delicious smell and plenty of vitamin C are the crucial part of a balanced diet. Citruses are full of brain-supporting antioxidants and polyphenols - organic compounds that keep your brain active. As low-calorie fruits full of dietary fiber, citruses still provide you plenty of energy due to the high vitamin B content.

Besides, by eating citruses, you can lower your risks of stroke and other heart diseases, reduce the “bad cholesterol” level and normalize blood pressure. Elements you can find in citrus fruits improve our glucose tolerance, lowering the risk of getting diabetes. The healthiest citruses are lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and mandarins.

How can you add more citruses to your diet?

Try to use lemon juice as a dressing for salads to make them more nutrient-dense. Also, consider ordering fresh orange juice with no sugar to drink with breakfast. Citruses are also an excellent match for baked meat - so put some oranges on your dinner table to mix them with different dishes.

Berries

Despite their small size, berries are highly potent in increasing your productivity and maintaining a balanced diet. Firstly, berries are high in antioxidants that protect our cells from free radicals, detoxifying us and lowering the risk of chronic diseases. Then, by eating berries, you prevent age-related brain destruction and increase your motor and cognitive functions.

berries in hands

Also, berries are bursting with vitamins - for example, strawberries have a lot of vitamin B that helps our body produce energy. Eating berries can help you fight inflammation and, thus, feel less tired throughout the day. Blueberries intake, due to their antioxidant content, can also boost your memory and learning skills.

How can you add berries to your daily menu?

As berries are not so big as fruits and veggies, they’re the perfect topping for different dishes. Add some strawberry and blueberry to your morning yogurt bowl, or grab a pack of blackberries as a dessert for a quick lunch. You can also blend berries into a salad dressing or a sauce for cheese.

Pome fruits

And let’s not forget about marvelous rulers of the fruit kingdom - pome fruits! Or apples and pears, to be more precise. Both contain much fiber to keep your arteries clean and lower the level of “bad” cholesterol. Elements like niacin and folate that you consume with pear give you an energy lift.

According to the survey, pome fruits also promote active weight loss - people who eat apples are 30% less likely to become obese. Another study showed, eating pears lowers the risk of dying from heart diseases. Along with leafy greens and citruses, apples and pears reduce your risk of getting a stroke.

How to add more apples and pear to your menu?

Although raw apples and pears are delicious, there are ways how you can mix them with other foods to get more nutrients. Pear is an excellent ingredient for quickly made salads - for example, arugula, cheese, and pear salad. Apple can become a tasty dessert after a few minutes of heating with honey in a microwave.

Meats

When it comes to a healthy and balanced diet, most people are unsure if it should include meat. However, lean meats, poultry, and seafood will do a better job making you full than white bread or a protein bar.

a piece of meat on ice

When eating meat, you get a complete protein with nine essential amino acids to build muscles, repair tissues and transfer the nutrients throughout your body. But be cautious and don’t eat more than 70g of red meat daily to lower bowel cancer risks.

Meat is a source of vitamin B12 that converts fats and proteins into energy. Adding meat to your diet is a good idea if you’re facing anemia or feel tired regularly. Pork and chicken contain zinc to support your immunity and help you fight infections. And let’s confess, meat dishes are luscious, so that’s a relief balanced diet includes them.

Poultry meat

Consider poultry as an outstanding source of energy - it contains highly digestible proteins and B-group vitamins to power up your daily stamina and supports your bones. Plus, it’s full of unsaturated fats, being a perfect dietary food. And the icing on the cake is that poultry bursts with vital minerals like copper, iron, and zinc. The most nutritious poultry meats are chicken, turkey, guineafowl, and duck.

Surveys show that eating poultry may help you reduce the risks of getting obesity, diabetes, and cancer. As for chicken meat, it has a lot of collagen, which aids in normalizing your blood pressure. What’s more, turkey meat may enhance your mood because it’s rich in tryptophan amino acid that also strengthens your immunity.

How can you add more poultry to your diet?

Chicken is a widely-spread food that you can find in sandwiches and salads, so choose them for lunch instead of burgers or sub. You can also premake the turkey for a week ahead because it deteriorates slowly. When deciding what to order for dinner, prefer some udon with duck meat over fast food.

roasted chicken

Red meat

Recently, numerous controversies have flared up over whether red meat can harm you. We won’t go deep into them but say that eating red meat in small amounts will not harm your diet. Moreover, it can benefit your body by delivering protein and B-vitamins and maintaining your energy level. Red meats are pork, beef, veal, and lamb.

Pork and beef satisfy your hunger for a longer time and keep your blood sugar level on an average level, assisting in weight loss. Lamb meat loads you with Omega-3, well-known to reduce inflammation. Meanwhile, veal meat includes riboflavin and vitamin B6 to provide prolonged energy and improve brain function.

How to add more lean red meat to your nutrition?

As red meat in burgers and sausages are not so wholesome due to the high-fat content, stick to the lean meat. Better choose the veal steak for dinner or low-fat and sodium bacon for your morning eggs. Also, you can choose lamb instead of fatty pork as meat for your dishes.

Seafood

“Eat fish at least twice a week to stay healthy,” dieticians say, and they’re 100% right. By consuming seafood, you get valuable Omega-3 fatty acids that provide a healthy cardiac rhythm. Only 2 grams of Omega-3 from fish lowers your risks of dying from heart disorders by 36%. Fishes suitable for a balanced diet are salmon, rainbow trout, tuna, and sardines.

seafood on ice

Seafood is rich in manganese, boosting your concentration, cognitive performance, and memory. The high content of zinc makes seafood an outstanding option to keep your brain alert, reduce anxiety and working-related stress. Oily fish, such as salmon, include astaxanthin amino acid to protect your brain and boost “good” cholesterol levels in your blood.

How can you add more seafood to your nutrition?

While cooking raw fish may be too long for a busy lifestyle, you can add seafood to your diet without any difficulties. Quick toasts with salmon and avocado will make a delicious breakfast. For lunch, you can get a filling and nutritious salad with tuna and bell pepper. And for dinner, you can bake a rainbow trout in foil without much effort.

Legumes

LegumesIt’s hard to imagine a balanced diet without legumes. Vegetarians even replace meat with legumes in the diet to get all necessary proteins, fiber, and vitamins. As a result, they’re even healthier than beef, containing no saturated fats and fewer calories. Plus, legumes are rich in antioxidants, protecting cells from damage and slowing the process of aging.

But what legumes are best at is satisfying hunger for a long time. They’re not calorie-dense foods but full of complex carbs that digest slowly and make you loaded. Also, legumes are healthy for your guts - just one cup of beans contains almost 15g of fiber - that’s half of the daily norm for adults. The most nutritious legumes are black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts.

green peas on the table

How can you mix legumes into your diet?

The only disadvantage of legumes is that cooking them takes much time. However, when you’re extremely busy during the working week, you can premake some legumes on the weekend and serve them as a garnish for meat on dinner. Plus, you can always order some chickpeas dishes or a lentil soup in food delivery to make your diet more balanced.

Nuts and seeds

A considerable benefit of nuts and seeds is that with a small size, they contain as many nutrients as full-sized plants (and even more in some cases). They’re chock full of healthy fats, fiber, and protein, though a bit high in calories. Still, adding them to your diet would help you reduce the risk of heart diseases, diabetes and raise “good” cholesterol in your blood.

Nuts

As for nuts, they’re a total dope when it comes to boosting your cognitive performance. Surveys have proved eating walnuts can also reduce stress and prevent cognitive decline due to their high Omega 3 content. Meanwhile, almonds are rich in vitamin E, which can enhance your brain function.

Although nuts are calorie-dense foods, a study has shown consuming them won’t make you obese. On the contrary, it will help you lose weight. Plus, by eating nuts, you improve your insulin sensitivity, which reduces the risk of getting diabetes. The healthiest nuts are walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and pistachios.

How can you include nuts in your daily diet?

Nuts are a blessing when you add them as a topping. Add some chopped almond to your morning yogurt and fruit bowl. Pistachios will perfectly fit salads, so take some in a lunch box to mix them with your salad. If you like pasta for dinner, add some hazelnuts or walnuts to it and hit your taste buds.

nuts and seeds

Seeds

Seeds are also bursting with nutrients; still, most people ignore them in their diet. Seeds are a rich iron source that supplies your cells with oxygen and magnesium, crucial for your brain productivity and gut health. By adding seeds to your meals, you get more dietary fiber and protein, supporting your metabolism and muscles.

Chia seeds, so popular as a smoothie topping, can help you lose weight and lower the appetite (moderately, of course). Pumpkin seeds, instead, are tiny powerhouses containing magnesium for better sleep, iron for a sustainable energy level, and various antioxidants. Those worth adding to your diet are chia, pumpkin, flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds.

How can you add seeds to your nutrition?

It won’t be a challenging task as long as you can serve seeds without extra preparation. For example, you can add a pumpkin seeds handful to your veggie salad or throw a few chia seeds teaspoons to your morning smoothie or oatmeal. Sesame seeds are great with pasta or meat, so mix them with your dinner meal.

Water

The average percentage of liquid in our bodies reaches up to 70%, making water the vital element for us to survive and stay healthy. Aside from solid foods, water also performs many functions crucial for our welfare. They include the metabolism process, thermoregulation, and electrolyte balance maintenance.

What’s more vital for you as a career person, regular daily water intake can increase your brain performance. Drinking water boosts your energy level and maintains your blood pressure, preventing heartburn. Simultaneously, dehydration may cause severe health disorders like kidney stones, migraines, and constipation.

But you shouldn’t drink only plain water to stay hydrated. Researches have proved coffee and tea have the same hydration effects like water, while the milk is even more hydrating. Moreover, our body gets 25-35% of the necessary liquid with food, so maintaining a fluid balance is not just about drinking water.

How can you drink more water?

 a woman with a bottle of water

Always take a water bottle with you, so when thirsty, you can quickly rehydrate your body. You can also set a reminder on your phone if you fail to remember about drinking water. Taking a glass of water before every meal will also be helpful not only to rehydrate but also to eat less.

Resources: