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Dietary Nutrition: fundamentals, principles, and practices for a healthy life

Nutrition is a crucial element for maintaining and improving health. A correct, balanced, and varied diet is key to preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. But why, specifically, is a balanced diet so important and what practical advice should be followed for a healthy and balanced diet?

A balanced diet is one that provides the right balance of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), along with an adequate intake of fiber and water. The Italian Society of Human Nutrition (SINU) recommends the following percentage distribution of energy from macronutrients:

  • Carbohydrates: 45-60% of total energy.
  • Proteins: 10-20% of total energy.
  • Fats: 20-35% of total energy.

It is important to emphasize that the distribution of macronutrients should come from high-quality food sources. For example, carbohydrates should primarily be complex (such as whole grains), proteins should come from both animal and plant sources, and fats should be predominantly unsaturated. It is also important to emphasize the importance of choosing locally sourced and seasonal foods from sustainable farming practices that respect the environment.

Practical tips for a healthy and balanced diet

Talking about a healthy and balanced diet means following, as mentioned earlier, a balanced nutritional regimen that ensures the well-being of the entire body and takes into account individual specificities such as age, physical activity, or any health-related issues. In general, here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Diversify your diet: a varied diet helps ensure an adequate intake of different nutrients. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins (both plant-based and animal-based), and healthy fats in every meal.
  • Prefer whole grains: whole grains, compared to refined ones, contain more fiber and help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
  • Consume proteins from different sources: it is important to vary protein sources by consuming lean meat, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. (It is important to alternate protein sources, increasing the consumption of plant-based proteins found mainly in legumes)
  • Limit intake of saturated fats, preferring monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (such as those found in olive oil, fish, and nuts) over saturated and trans fats.
  • Limit intake of simple sugars, found for example in sugary drinks, sweets, and snacks.
  • Hydrate adequately: water is vital for the functioning of our body. The recommended intake is 1.5-2 liters per day, varying according to age, sex, weight, physical activity, and climatic conditions.
  • Moderate portions: it is important not only what but also how much you eat. Keeping portions adequate can help avoid excess calories.
  • Do not skip meals: dividing calorie intake throughout the day helps maintain a steady metabolism and avoid hunger pangs.

How to plan a healthy weekly diet without effort?

Organizing a healthy meal plan for the week means creating a plan that allows for the preparation of balanced meals to be enjoyed from Monday to Sunday. Here are the steps that can facilitate this process: plan meals to be served over the next seven days; make a list of the ingredients needed for each recipe; build each daily menu based on the expiration dates of various foods, prioritizing fresh products.

Other useful tips for managing the preparation of a weekly program are: choose dishes that are easy to prepare, ready in a short time and without effort; on weekends, or when you have time, prepare some meals in advance to store in the refrigerator or freezer and use as needed; anticipate some variations to meet a current need or the preferences of one or more members of your family.

When it comes to diet, however, it is important not to be autonomous in compiling a calendar. It is always advisable to consult a nutrition professional or a doctor for personalized advice.

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