nutrition |njʊˈtrɪʃ(ə)n|noun [ mass noun ]the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth: a guide to good nutrition.• food or nourishment: a balanced diet gives her nutrition.

If you’re like me (and every other human), you’ve probably struggled with finding the right diet and exercise regimen to keep yourself in shape, while still enjoying the occasional brownie splurge or a side of french fries from time to time.

For me, health is a lifestyle. I don’t like to jump from diet to diet, or starve myself until I reach my goal weight. I enjoy food, and have found that dieting just doesn’t work. Making healthy food choices and exercising must become a lifestyle if you really want to acquire the best results for your body.

Starting Your Day the Right Way
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I encourage you to not skip it! It revs up your metabolism (actually helping you to lose weight). I am in the routine of working out each morning, so skipping breakfast is not an option. I need to eat a substantial breakfast in order to give me the energy I need throughout my day.

If you enjoy being in the kitchen, try cutting up a sweet potato and boiling it in water.  Fry an egg and cut up an avocado to put on the side. Simple to cook, and very filling. Or head over to Starbucks and get a Classic Oatmeal. (I don’t really care for brown sugar, but I like the nuts and berries that they give you.) I also love having a Venti Iced Green Tea Unsweetened from time to time!

If you’re in a hurry, try a simple berry or protein smoothie recipe. Here is a link to one of my favorites from a blog I posted a few months ago: My Morning Smoothie. Enjoy!

A Balanced Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet is all about balance.  It’s not about depriving yourself, but planning ahead of time for what your body needs (more whole foods and less saturated fats, sugars and junk food). If you can’t plan every meal, then opt to have a heavier lunch and a lighter dinner.

I try to eat at least two servings of leafy green vegetables each day. Getting your greens is very important! You can add them to your morning smoothie, as a side for your lunch and dinner meals or snack on them throughout the day. Too many green vegetables is never a problem!

Staying Away from Sugar
Make sure you are eating more vegetables than fruits. Fruit can be a deceiving “healthy food” because of all the health benefits, but eating too much fruit can actually work against you because of the natural sugars. Sugar of any kind spikes your insulin levels and results in storing more fat on your body. Something to keep in mind when preparing your plate!

I do have a sweet tooth, so staying away from dessert can be difficult for me. When craving sugar, I opt for the natural sugar in fruit or honey, and always keep a bag of dark chocolate almonds nearby! I have to hide these from my husband and house guests sometimes because they are just too delicious! Beware of other sneaky sources of sugar like ketchup, salad dressings and non-fat yogurt.

Substitute to Succeed
The greatest piece of advice that I can give you for changing your eating habits and lifestyle would be to substitute junk food for healthier food options. Quitting anything cold-turkey rarely works and takes an incredible amount of self-control. You’ll need self-control to change your eating habits anyway, so let’s not make this harder on ourselves than it already is!

Here are some examples for food substitutes that have really worked for me:
-If you’re a fan of potato chips, try exchanging that greasy bag of Lays for some baked sweet potato chips or dried veggie chips (my favorite brand is Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips with Sea Salt – yum!).

-Another good substitute for crackers or quick carbs would be natural almonds or dried fruit (again, be careful with fruit, and make sure that there are no added sugars).

-As a Texan, I’m a huge fan of chips and salsa. I will often substitute celery and carrot sticks for corn chips. They taste delicious with homemade salsa, organic hummus or almond butter!

-Replace regular french fries for sweet potato fries, a side salad or fruit whenever possible. When out for a burger, opt for the lettuce-wrap option rather than the heavy carbs that come with bread.

-Stay away from high-calorie frappuccinos and sodas. These can be easily avoided if you keep a stash of sparkling or tonic water nearby. The carbonation in the water tricks your body into thinking you’re enjoying a soda, but without the added calories. Win, win!

-Drinking a lot of water daily helps you to avoid over-eating (it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger). Keep a bottle of water next to you and sip on it throughout the day!

Keep Healthy Snacks Nearby
Always be prepared to combat your cravings with healthy snacks. If you’re like me, you will often work until your body is on the verge of “hangry” (so hungry you’re almost angry). When we allow our bodies to get to this point, we are weak-willed, and more prone to compromise on our food choices.

Keep healthy snack choices in your purse or desk drawer that are readily available during those times. I like to have a bag of trail mix or raw almonds between meals as a yummy and filling snack.

Remember, health is a lifestyle. Give yourself grace as you make minor changes in your daily diet that will get you to a place where you can splurge from time to time without feeling guilty.

Enjoy your life, your food and your family! After all, they are the greatest gifts God has given us!

PS I absolutely LOVE the book, It Starts With Food. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to discover a natural, healthy way of eating. It will change your life!