Although we talk about the different nutrients the body needs to stay healthy, it is difficult to advise people to eat a certain amount of nutrients as nutrients are hidden in food. Therefore, health authorities generally advise people to eat a balanced diet. A balanced diet is a diet that provides an adequate amount and variety of food to meet a person’s energy and nutrient requirements for a healthy and active life. Eating a balanced diet means that people eat a variety and combination of different foods in sufficient amount, so that it contains all of the macronutrients and micronutrients a person needs.

It is important to have a balanced diet as each food contains different nutrients and we need these to maintain our body functions, to grow and develop, and to stay active. Pumpkin, for example is a good source of B-carotene which the body transfers into vitamin A, but hardly contains protein. Meat contains protein, but does not contain vitamin C, etc. The human body needs a large array of nutrients and for that reason, we need to eat a diverse variety of foods. Consequences of a non-balanced diet are described in §2.3 on malnutrition.

Next to achieving the right amount of nutrients through diet, it is also important to eat foods that reduce the risk for disease. As described in §3.2, for example, it is known that eating enough fruits and vegetables reduces the risk for several diseases (Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport 2015). Also, avoiding foods that can be harmful for health is part of a balanced diet. Most countries have national (food based) dietary guidelines to advise the general public on what foods to consume. In the Netherlands for example this is the Schijf van Vijf (wheel of five) (Voedingscentrum).


Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport. (n.d.). Richtlijnen goede voeding 2015. Retrieved from

Voedingscentrum. (n.d.). Voedingscentrum. Retrieved from