The difference between a diet and an eating plan is quite big. A diet is a collection of food and drink that a person consumes from day to day, whereas an eating plan specifies the different meals that a person eats at certain times of the day and in certain amounts.
Different diets the world over
There is a vast amount of different diets that can be found the world over.
Each culture on Earth has their own traditional diet:
- The Americans are famous for their hamburgers and fries,
- Mexicans have tacos, nachos and borritos,
- Germans have eisbein and sauerkraut, and
- The French eat frog legs and snails.
Right here at home, in South Africa, we also have a great variety of diets depending on our culture, from phutu pap to mopani worms, braai meat and koeksisters. But everyone’s eating plans will look similar, because these types of plans won’t specify a certain food. They will focus more on food groups:
- Imagine a colouring picture. The outline of the picture is the eating plan and each person colours it in a different way.
- The outlines of the different food groups stay the same, but the colours differ.
Working out an eating plan
If a nutritionist works out an eating plan for you, she will distribute the carbohydrates evenly throughout the day to keep your blood glucose levels even. The types of carbohydrates you can eat is up to you to select from a list. This list is called an exchange list.
This lists all the different items in each food group and shows serving sizes which contain equal nutritional contents. For example, for starch exchanges, the serving size of one slice of bread contains the same amounts of carbohydrates, protein and fat as half a cup of cooked rice or half a cup of cooked mealie meal. It can also be equal to half a cup of cooked potato or pumpkin since these vegetables also contain starch in high amounts.
As we said, the nutrient content for carbohydrates, protein and fat – the energy sources and building blocks of the human body – are comparable in each food group, but each food item contains different amounts of vitamins and minerals. That’s why it is important to include a variety of foods in your diet so that the meals do not become monotonous or exclude certain nutrients.
The importance of certain types of foods
For a diet and eating plan to be balanced, always include starches, meat or eggs, dairy products, fruit, vegetables and unsaturated fats daily. You can also include nuts, seeds and legumes. Distribute these different food groups evenly throughout the day according to the amounts that your body needs. A woman will need about six starch servings daily, whereas a man will need about seven.
Always distribute these evenly throughout the day, e.g. two servings each at breakfast, lunch and supper. Other average recommended servings are three fruit, two vegetables, three dairy, one hand palm-size protein, and limited use of fats.
Distribute all of these throughout the day in an eating plan and select which foods to eat from each group – those which are culturally acceptable to you. This ensures that you can maintain a balanced diet which is individualised. The best person to ask for help would be a nutritionist.
To find out more about how to institute good nutrition principles in your diet, and even become a nutritionist yourself, we recommend that you do our Specialised Nutrition Course. For more information, please follow this link.