Mother, Infant and Young Child Nutrition & Malnutrition Mother, Infant and Young Child Nutrition & Malnutrition - Feeding practices including micronutrient deficiencies prevention, control of wasting, stunting and underweight
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Home  »  Healthy Nutrition  »  About Healthy Nutrition  »  Planning balanced Meals  »  Variety

About Healthy Nutrition

Planning balanced Meals


Variety in what you eat should be considered with regard to what is in season and locally available. It is how you combine your foods together each day and each week that makes the difference to a healthy diet.

The number of different food groups consumed over a given period is important for the following reasons:

  • A more varied diet is an important achievement in itself.
  • A more varied diet for women during pregnancy and lactation is associated with improved birth weight and child nutrition status.
  • A more varied diet for young children is associated with increased chances of survival from diseases and better development.
  • A more varied diet promotes adequate caloric, protein, mineral and vitamin intake.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the following set of 12 food groups can be used to calculate variety in diet:

A.  Cereals
B.  Root and Tubers
C.  Vegetables
D.  Fruits
E.  Meat, Poultry, Organs (kidney and liver)
F.  Eggs
G.  Fish and Seafood
H.  Pulses / Legumes / Nuts
I.  Milk and milk products
J.  Oil / Fats
K.  Sugar / Honey
L.  Miscellaneous like condiments

Households consuming an average of four different food groups would suggest their diets offer some diversity in both macro- and micronutrients.

To assess the level of diet variety in your household, you should use a 24 hour period as reference making sure it is an average day for the household (in other words it is not a special occasion such as a feast, wedding or funeral). It is important to specify the month.

You should include the food groups consumed by household members in the home, or prepared in the home for consumption by household members outside the home (e.g., at lunchtime in the fields). Do not include foods purchased or consumed by individual members outside the house.

Self assessment on the household diet variety

For more info, check these Charts with nutritional values of different foods. Chart 1  |  Chart 2

Note: We acknowledge that this approach has its limitations in defining dietary quality given that there is no single optimal diet and that this will differ from one location to another. However, the main aim of this exercise is for the user to get an idea about the variety in his/her household diet and get familiar with the nutritional values of different foods.

View What can you put on your plate?
in East Africa, India, Middle East and South America

14 September, 2019

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