Why do we need to eat for balance?

A balanced diet gives your body all of the essential nutrients it needs to stay active, healthy and strong. These include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. These are all found in the foods we eat.

Carbohydrates, protein and fat provide the body with the calories, or energy, that it needs to grow, play, heal and learn. When we don’t eat enough carbohydrates, protein and fat, our bodies cannot perform at their best. If we eat more than our bodies need, then we are at risk of gaining extra weight. So,it is good to listen to our bodies’ natural cues and eat when we are hungry but stop when we are satisfied.  

Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are like gasoline for your car! See how these nutrients can help keep your body healthy and strong.


What does it do?

Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy or fuel to run, play, learn, grow and heal. Carbohydrates are also a source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps clean out your intestines and also helps you feel full after meals.

Which MyPlate group is it in?

Grains, Fruits, Vegetables and Dairy.

What are some healthy food choices that contain each nutrient?

  • Whole grains, such as 100% whole wheat bread, pasta, cereal and rice; and corn or wheat tortillas.
  • Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products.


What does it do?

Protein is used to build, repair, and maintain muscles and tissues, such as your skin, hair, nails, muscle, bone and organs. Protein is needed for proper growth and development, especially during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy.

Which MyPlate group is it in?

  • Protein (meat and plant-based sources)
  • Dairy

What are some healthy food choices that contain each nutrient?

Lean meats and poultry, seafood, soy products.Unsalted nuts and seeds, beans andpeas.Eggs, fat-free (skim)or low-fat (1%) dairy products.


What does it do?

Fats are the most concentrated source of energy we eat. They are a part of every cell in our body. Fats deliver certain vitamins to our body, play a role in our nervous system, and can be found in body hormones.

Which MyPlate group is it in?

Protein (meat and plant-based Dairy, and some Vegetables sources)

What are some healthy food choices that contain each nutrient?

  • Olives, nuts, nut-butters, seeds and avocados.
  • Fish such as salmon or tuna, lean beef and pork, skinless chicken breast, and eggs.
  • Cheese, milk and milk products.


Vitamins and minerals are like oil for your car!

All body processes depend on vitamins. Some vitamins help us grow and heal, while others protect us from infections or help us see better at night. Vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in body fat. But, the body does not store water-soluble vitamins, soeating a diet that restores these vitamins is important.

  • Examples of water-soluble vitamins are vitamin Cand the B vitamins.
  • There are 13 vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin,pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate).


Each mineral has a unique job that helps with our metabolism and other bodily functions.

  • There are 16 essential minerals: calcium,phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium,chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper,manganese, iodine, selenium,molybdenum, chromium and fluoride.

Vitamins and minerals help our bodies work properly. Eating a variety of healthy foods can ensure you get the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Most children who eat a well-balanced diet receive adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals for healthy growth and development. Children who have restrictive diets, poor appetites, chronic medical conditions, or are picky eaters often develop nutrient deficiencies requiring additional dietary advice from their health care provider.

By choosing to balance and offer foods from each of the MyPlate food groups, you will be more likely to give your bodies the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need to be healthy, active and strong.

Buffington, A., Lindsay, A. 2021, A Balanced Diet, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-21-106

Learn more about the author(s)


Also of Interest:

Effects of different antioxidants on quality of beef patties from steers fed low-moisture distillers grains
Corn Distillers Grains plus Solubles (DGS) are commonly used as a source of protein and energy for finishing cattle and its composition may vary based on moisture levels, fat and protein content. However, the inclusion of DGS in finishing diets alters beef quality attributes when...
Fruet, A.P.B., Nörnberg, J.L., Calkins, C.R., de Mello, A.S. 2019, Meat Science, Volume 154, August 2019, Pages 119-125
A kid eating a bowl of icecream.
Dynamic energy balance: An integrated framework for discussing diet and physical activity in obesity prevention - Is it more than eating less and exercising more?
This paper highlights the importance of advancing nutrition educators’ understanding about PA, and its synergistic role with diet, and the value of incorporating a dynamic energy balance approach into obesity-prevention programs.
Manore, M., Larson-Meyer, E., Lindsay, A., Hongu, N. and Houtkooper, L. 2017, Nutrients 9(8):905. doi:10.3390/nu9080905. Available at: www.mdpi.com/journal/nutrients
Healthy Weight Loss
This fact sheet contains information on ways to start losing weight in a healthy manner. Learn ways to do it yourself or register a dietitian to help you along with your program.
Wilson, M. 2000, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-00-36

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