Tag Archives: healthy eating

6 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean_diet2-300x236If you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option for you. While this type of approach has many benefits, there are also several misconceptions about this healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s debunk the myths about the Mediterranean diet:

Myth 1: This diet is expensive.
The fact is the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than eating dishes of meat, cheese and processed foods. You’ll be creating meals of beans or lentils, as a source of protein, and eating more plants and whole grains.

Myth 2: Wine is always healthy.
Wine is good for your heart in moderation. For example, one glass a day for women and two for men. More than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: You can eat all the pasta and bread you want.
Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way Americans do. Pasta is typically a side dish with only a 1/2 cup or 1 cup serving size. The rest of their plate contains salad, vegetables and a small portion of meat.

Myth 4: You’ll lose weight on this diet.
This diet alone may not lead to weight loss. The people of the Greek islands also include exercise in their daily lives, by walking up and down steep hills, tending gardens and living off what they can grow themselves.

Myth 5: The diet is only about food.
The Mediterranean diet has more to do with how the people live their lives. They sit down for meals, relax and eat leisurely while enjoying the meal with others. This approach to food may be as important to your health as what’s on your plate.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry twice a week or more
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

Here are 6 health benefits of eating in a Mediterranean style:

Prevent heart disease and stroke
One of the main reasons to follow a Mediterranean diet is to promote heart health. Refined breads, processed foods and red meat are discouraged. In addition, red wine is better for your heart than hard liquor.

Protect against type 2 diabetes
Rich in fiber, the Mediterranean diet slows down digestion and prevents huge swings in blood sugar. The diet also includes less sugar than the typical American diet.

Reduce risk of Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All of these factors may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Halve the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The risk of Parkinson’s disease can practically be cut in half. That’s because this diet contains high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress.

Live longer
With a reduction in developing heart disease as well as cancer, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of death at any age.

Stay agile
The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty as we age by 70 percent.

While the Mediterranean diet may seem like a daunting change, it can be easier to adopt than you think. It follows the common sense approach to incorporating balance into your diet, by including lots of vegetables and fruits, cutting down on meat and eating more fish, chicken and good fats. You should also include physical activity and enjoy your meals with family and friends.

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9 Myths and Facts About Weight Loss

scale-series-4-1077712-mFor all the information that’s available about dieting and exercise, we still have a lot of misconceptions about weight loss. Sometimes, the research and studies about weight loss even contradict each other.

I read a study that said you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound. It has since been found that there are many variables that can affect weight loss, including age, weight, height, sex and body fat.

The biggest problem we have as Americans is that we want a quick fix and instant gratification. However, there is no magic way to lose weight and maintain it. The best results are achieved when you find balance in all areas of your life and achieve a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, eating right, reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep, breaking bad habits and setting goals for success.

Here are 9 myths about weight loss and the facts that will help you live a healthier lifestyle:

Myth: Snacking is always bad for you.
The idea that you shouldn’t eat between meals is a myth. The problem with snacking is that you may be making poor food choices. Grabbing something from a vending machine will most likely be a fattening treat. The fact is that snacking between meals may actually help you eat less. The key is to eat nutritious foods – such as a moderate amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts or yogurt. Snacking can also keep you from overeating because you won’t feel like you’re starving when you finally eat a meal.

Myth: The secret to weight loss is removing one type of food from your diet.
Any diet plan that removes a specific food – or requires that you to focus on one type of food – will fail in the long run. You may have tried to cut fat, carbs, dairy or gluten. You may lose weight initially because you are eating fewer calories, but eventually you will replace it with something else. The key is to eat a balanced diet of all sorts of healthy foods.

Myth: Eat breakfast to lose weight.
This myth isn’t completely black and white. While I do believe that breakfast helps jump start your metabolism and allows you to begin the day feeling full and satisfied, it depends on what you eat. A bowl of oatmeal with fruit and a piece of whole-wheat toast will satisfy your hunger without loading on calories. A full breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and orange juice will jump up your daily calorie intake.

Myth: Everyone gains and loses weight the same way.
Studies of twins have shown that people gain and lose weight in different ways. Some people gain weight more easily than others, while some must work harder than the average person to burn it off. Try not to compare your weight loss efforts and success to someone else. Each person should set his or her own expectations and plans for losing weight.

Myth: All carbs are bad.
While eliminating all bread won’t help you magically shed weight, changing the type of bread you eat may help. There are good carbs and bad carbs. While all bread is high in calories, white bread doesn’t offer much nutrition. Whole-grain bread is high in fiber and provides more nutritional value. You can also enjoy the carbs found in fruits, vegetables, beans and other whole grains.

Myth: No more fast food.
You can still eat fast food and lose weight. It’s about portion control and making healthy choices. You can get a salad, grilled chicken, whole grain tacos or flat bread. Ask for sauces or dressings on the side, or scrape them off as much as you can.

Myth: Eating fat makes you fat.
Once again, it comes down to the type of fat. Some fat is actually food for you. Animal fat and saturated fat have been linked to weight gain and health problems, such as heart disease and high cholesterol. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, have been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Myth: Don’t eat before bed.
It’s not eating before bed that is an issue – it’s what you eat before bed that may cause a problem. We tend to grab unhealthy snacks, like cookies, cake, ice cream or movie theater butter popcorn late at night. It comes down to how many calories you eat each day. Snacking before bed is fine if you make healthy, low calorie choices.

Myth: Just exercise and you’ll shed pounds.
Cutting calories by adjusting what you eat is the best way to lose weight. However, many of us think that because we exercise we can eat whatever we want. In addition, exercising may make you more hungry and then you eat more. Exercise alone won’t make you drop pounds. Keep in mind that drinking a can of soda can be 140 calories. It takes 30 minutes of moderate walking to burn it off. The best option is a healthy, lower calorie diet with regular aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching.

When it comes to diet and exercise, the one thing you can count on is new weight loss schemes coming out every day. The secret to losing weight and maintaining it is finding the right balance between exercise and healthy eating that works for you!

10 Healthy Eating Myths and Facts

Healthy eating myths and factsSome days, it’s difficult to decide what to eat. Dairy products are bad for you. Carbs make you gain weight. No late night snacking. Eat low-fat foods because all fats are bad.

With this blog, we hope to help you demystify the rules of healthy eating. As with life, a healthy diet seems to truly be about balance. Eating a healthy, balanced diet of good nutritious foods is the best way to go.

Here are 10 common dieting myths and the truths that will set you on the path to a more healthy, balanced diet:

Myth: Some sugars are worse than others
As we blogged about recently, all sugar is simply sugar. Table sugar, agave, honey and high-fructose corn syrup add up to about the same calories. Your body absorbs all these types of sugar in similar ways. Rather than try to find the “best” sugar or avoid one kind of sugar, you should try to limit added sugars of any kind. This means sugary sodas, candy and other sweets.

Myth: Nighttime eating is more fattening
Many dieting methods will tell you not to eat after a certain time in the evening. The theory is your body will store more fat because it is not burned off with any activity. Studies have been conducted and found that eating a large meal late at night did not make the body store more fat.

Myth: Coffee is bad for you
We have also written in the past about the health benefits of coffee. Two to three cups of coffee a day has actually been proven to be part of a healthy diet and provides you with antioxidant phytochemicals. Coffee may help reduce the risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, gallstones and some cancers. However, use cream, sugar and flavored syrups in moderation.

Myth: All cholesterol is bad
There is good and bad cholesterol. We all need some cholesterol to build cells and make vital hormones. Saturated fats – found in meat, cheese, cream and butter – tend to raise LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol. It’s best to minimize your saturated fat intake. You can eat more healthy fats, which help raise your DHL or “good” cholesterol.

Myth: Sea salt is good for you
Are you thinking of switching to sea salt to save on sodium? Gourmet salts have the same sodium as your table salt. Try using spices, herbs or pepper to add more flavor to foods. You already get about 75% of your salt intake from processed and prepared foods, not the salt shaker.

Myth: The less fat the better
As we mentioned, you need to eat some fats to thrive. You should eat the good, unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, fish, olives and avocado. You should limit saturated fats, while avoiding trans fats (or hydrogenated oils) as much as possible.

Myth: Carbs make you fat
Just like fats, not all carbohydrates are bad for you. People tend to lose weight on low-carb diets because these diets also restrict calories. Fewer calories mean fewer pounds over time. However, good carbs can help you feel more full and keep you from overeating or grabbing, unhealthy snacks.

Myth: Dairy is unhealthy
Skimmed and semi-skimmed milks actually have more calcium than the full-fat milk. The calcium is in the water part of milk, not the creamy part. If you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, low-fat milk and dairy products can give you nutrients without added fat.

Myth: Margarine is better than butter
Ordinary margarine contains just as much fat and calories as real butter. Margarine also contains hydrogenated oils which are considered trans fats – the category of fats that you should avoid.

Myth: Grazing helps you lose weight
While eating small, nutritious snacks between meals can help you curb your appetite, constant grazing sets you up to eat too many calories. You may also lose your ability to pay attention to your body’s natural cues that you are hungry or full if you continually graze.

As with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is no secret trick to weight loss or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The most effective approach is to form a lifelong habit of eating a nutritious, balanced diet and exercising regularly.

7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For You

Fatty foods that are good for youAre you having eaters’ remorse after indulging in a tasty Easter meal this past weekend? You may be worried that you consumed too many fatty foods. But you may have actually eaten good fats.

In addition, eating more fat – instead of less – can be key to helping you reduce your calorie intake. You won’t feel deprived like you do when you eat all low-fat foods or turn to carbohydrates to feel full.

We recently blogged that fatty foods may not be as bad for us as we once thought. It’s about more than just the amount of fat you eat. It’s the types of fat you eat that really matter.

Trans fats are still to blame for many of the unhealthy things that all fats get blamed for – heart disease, weight gain, clogged arteries and more. Trans fats are also called hydrogenated oils and are made from unsaturated fat that has been chemically altered to keep food fresh longer. Your body has no use for these fats.

On the other hand, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can be good for you. They can help raise good HDL cholesterol and lower bad LDL cholesterol, and protect against the build up of plaque in your arteries.

You should still keep an eye on how much fat you eat. The USDA recommends that you keep your total fat intake to 20-35% of daily calories. You should limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories. Limit trans fats to only 1% of your calorie intake.

Here are 7 foods that are packed with healthy fats:

Olive oil
Olive oil is often used in a Mediterranean diet. It is a healthier choice over vegetable or palm oil. It may help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancers. Olive oil has 100 calories per tablespoon, so you should still use it in moderation.

Eggs
Eggs are a great source of protein. We have been told that egg whites are the healthier part of the egg because they have less fat. While the egg yolk has some fat, it also has important nutrients. The yolk contains choline, a B vitamin that helps regulate the brain, nervous system and cardiovascular system.

Dairy
Cheese is packed with protein and fats that help keep you full. It’s great for a snack and for eating on the go. Milk and yogurt that are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids are a source of good fat. While sour cream has a bad reputation as a fatty food, at least half of its calories come from saturated fat. In fact, it has half the calories of a tablespoon of mayonnaise.

Seeds and nuts
Pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds are good for you. Flaxseeds are also a good source of omega-3s. Nuts are a great monounsaturated fat. Grab a handful of almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans or cashews.

Fish
Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines, are a good source of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating two 3-ounces servings of fish each week.

Avocados
Avocados are high in fat, but it’s the monounsaturated, hearty-healthy kind that is good for your cholesterol. In addition, when you eat avocados with other food, they can help your body better absorb nutrients. Add avocado slices to a sandwich or substitute avocados for butter or cream cheese.

 Soy foods
You may be surprised how many foods you can buy that are made from soybeans. You can try tofu, miso, tempeh, soy milk and edamame. Soy products have many health benefits including the plant-based fatty acid ALA. You can even snack on roasted soybeans.

The key to healthy eating is creating a balanced diet with a variety of good food choices. It also helps to create healthy eating habits.

11 Healthy Eating Habits for 2014

Eat breakfast every day healthy eating habitsI love to eat. And I like to eat junk. Give me potato chips, brownies and pie a la mode. That was okay until I hit 40 years old. Then, things started to change. My butt became more jiggily and my belly got paunchier.

I need to change my eating habits for better health. There is no magic diet or easy fix. It’s all about finding balance in your diet, and balance in your life in general.

Healthy eating comes down to creating healthy habits. Let’s face it: with all the fast food and junk food options available, it can be hard to resist giving in to bad eating habits.

You can make lifelong changes to how and what you eat. But, it won’t happen overnight. It takes time to make good habits stick.

Here are 11 healthy eating tips to help you on the path to a balanced lifestyle:

Eat breakfast every day
Most people who have achieved and maintained their weight loss goals, eat breakfast every morning. Your morning meal will jump start your metabolism and give you the energy to tackle the day. Eating breakfast can also help you absorb more vitamins and minerals. You are less likely to have a hunger attack during the day when you’ve had a healthy breakfast.

Eat more often
When you eat more often – usually every 2 to 3 hours – you keep your stress hormone cortisol at a steady level. High cortisol levels tell your body to start storing fat, typically in your belly region. Skipping meals sends your cortisol levels off the charts. Eating 6 small meals a day can help you lose weight and feel better.

Eat moderate portions
However, if you are eating more often, you need to eat moderate portions. Eating more often doesn’t give you a license to eat more. It’s about letting your body digest and use energy more efficiently throughout the day.

Drink water
I know we have blogged about this many times. Drinking water affects so many areas of your health. It keeps your body working in homeostasis and aids in almost every aspect of your body’s functions. And we don’t mean soda, iced tea or energy drinks – just plain old water.

Know your diet downfalls
We all have our diet downfalls. You may salt everything you eat. You might crave sugar when you get tired or stressed. You may add a lot of butter or dressings to your food. We all have our bad eating habits. I love sweets. I would like to eat dessert with every meal and as a snack. Make it a goal to break these bad eating habits.

Reduce (not eliminate) unhealthy choices
At the same time, you want to enjoy your meals. If you try to cut out all the bad food choices at once, you will become disheartened by your healthy eating habits very quickly. Make it a point to moderate the less healthy choices. Eat a small piece of cake, or salt your food half as much as you normally would. As you adjust to better eating and start feeling better, you will find you miss those unhealthy foods less than you think.

Listen to your body
When you start to feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack. When you feel full, stop eating. Because we have food available all the time, we tend to eat when we’re bored, lonely or stressed.

Sit down for dinner
Make it a point to sit down to dinner every evening. You can talk with your family or friends about the ups and downs of the day. Or, simply listen to everyone else. If you live alone, you can still sit down and enjoy your meal – rather than grazing or eating over the sink. Sitting down to a meal helps you relax, connect with others and enjoy your food.

Plan to have setbacks
You will fall off the healthy wagon, so to speak. You’ll pig out from time to time. You’ll have three donuts at work after you just had breakfast. You’ll salt that already salty food. Don’t beat yourself up or feel like you have failed. Tomorrow is a new day to get back on track to creating balanced eating habits.

Set a bedtime routine
While it may not seem to have anything to do with healthy eating habits, a good night’s sleep can do wonders for your health and wellness. In addition, going to bed and waking up around the same time every day can help set your body’s natural rhythms. You will feel more rested and less likely to become stressed or turn to food for comfort or an energy boost during the day.

Find your balance over time
Healthier eating habits take time. There is no quick fix. It’s about changing your mindset and relationship with food. Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Every healthy change you make to your diet matters. Even if you can’t completely give up sweets, salt or fatty foods, reducing how much you eat or how often you eat it, still helps you on your path to a more balanced diet. And creating a more balanced life!

9 ways to eat healthy this 4th of July

4th of July and healthy eating tipsI look forward to 4th of July every year – partly for the amazing fireworks, but also for the tasty picnic food. However, backyard barbecues held on the 4th of July tend to be less than healthy.

I made a commitment to healthier, more balanced eating at the beginning of this year. So, I am a little worried about the 4th of July spread of yummy potluck and picnic foods.

Here are 9 ways to eat healthy this 4th of July without giving up the fun, festivities and good food:

Eat healthy foods first
Starting with healthy food choices first will help fill you up so that you are less likely to pig out on the bad stuff. Salads, fruits and vegetables are a great way to begin. You can also add some protein to help you feel full sooner.

Put color on your plate
The MyPlate healthy eating guidelines recommend that you fill your plate at least half full with fruits and vegetables. You can grill skewers that include veggies, such as peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, onions and more. Corn on the cob also tastes great off the grill. It’s easy to throw together a fruit salad with watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, sliced apples, kiwi, etc.

Choose whole wheat
When you load up on white bread, your insulin levels spike and your body goes into fat storage mode. Eating whole-wheat breads and grains can help keep fat storage at bay and allow your body to maintain a steady insulin level.

Grill healthy
We recently wrote about healthy grilling tips. While you need to be aware of the toxins that can be produced from grilling, you can take advantage of the benefits of grilling. Choose lean meats to grill or remove excess fat before cooking. You can grill as many fruits and vegetables as you want because they don’t produce harmful substances.

Use small plates
By using a smaller plate, you may find that you eat less than you normally would. You may eat more slowly and even if you go back to fill your plate a few times, you will still end up eating less.

Go easy on dessert
Sugar and refined carbs are some of the worst things to eat. You don’t have to skip the dessert, just take smaller portions. Sample little bits of several different desserts. You will get your dessert fix without feeling like you’ve blown your healthy eating habits.

Drink water
Since it’s normally hot on 4th of July, be sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Drinking water will also help you feel fuller and less tempted to graze and overeat. In addition, water is a better option than soda, punch or sugary drinks. Keep in mind that the calories in alcohol can also add up quickly. Pace yourself throughout the day and be sure to drink water as well.

Don’t skip meals
You may be tempted to skip a meal so that you can eat more during the 4th of July festivities. However, this strategy may backfire on you. You are more likely to overeat and make poor food choices. By eating regular meals, your metabolism will burn energy at a steady rate throughout the day.

Stay active
Take advantage of the great outdoors and the summer weather to get in some exercise. You can fit in a game of basketball, volleyball, badminton, softball or even swimming, depending on your location. You can also play horseshoes, bean bag toss or other backyard games. Or just go for a walk – whatever it takes to get you moving and away from the food tables!

Do you have a favorite healthy 4th of July dish? Or do you have tips for sticking to your healthy eating habits during backyard cookouts? We would love to hear from you!

14 healthy foods that boost energy

1411446_empty_and_full_1I start to drag in the afternoons at about 2pm. I crave foods that are not the best choices, such as cookies, cake, donuts or any prepackaged sugary treat.

Most of us suffer from fatigue from time to time. We are stressed, often sleep deprived and eat fast food on the go. Our bodies simply run out of fuel. One of the best ways to fight fatigue is by eating foods that boost energy. Smart and healthy food choices can help improve your overall health and well-being. They can also help you feel more energized.

All foods give you energy, but how the energy is released determines which foods are better at helping you feel more invigorated. Caffeine and energy drinks can give you a quick energy boost, but the right foods can help keep you going all day long.

Our fuel comes from the food we eat, but some foods can provide a richer and more long-term source of energy than others. Here are 14 healthy, energy boosting foods:

Vegetables
Green vegetables contain vitamins and minerals – including vitamin B, magnesium and iron – that help boost energy. Some examples include spinach, asparagus and broccoli. Cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, watercress and kale are all high in nutrition and act as energy boosters.

Cereals
Cereals are typically digested slowly so they release over time and help keep your blood sugar more level. Many cereals, such as shredded wheat, corn flakes, bran flakes and oatmeal are good energy boosters. They also contain fiber which helps your body release energy steadily.

Eggs
Eggs are a good source of protein. Protein helps with almost all of your bodily functions so you experience improved energy levels. Eggs also contain iron which is good for sustaining energy throughout the day.

Nuts
All nuts are a good source of minerals and are high in nutrition. Nuts have vitamins A, B and E, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Almonds are a good source of healthy fats and have protein that helps balance out blood sugar. Almonds also improve heart health and may lower risks of some cancers. Walnuts also have energy boosting properties and overall health benefits.

Seeds
Many seeds, including pumpkin and sunflower, are rich in minerals and contain protein. They are also a great source of magnesium and iron.

Fruits
Fresh fruits – apples, oranges, grapes, peaches, watermelon, pineapples, bananas – can give you an energy boost. Fruits have simple carbohydrates or sugars which are easy for your body to break down and use for energy. Fruits are also rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and water.

Citrus fruits, such as lemons and limes, contain vitamin C which is good for your immune system. Dark berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, are full of antioxidants. They can be good for your heart health by helping to lower blood pressure.

Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are good sources of carbohydrates and potassium. Lentils and other legumes, such as kidney beans and chick peas, help level out blood glucose levels so that you avoid that mid-afternoon crash.

Honey
Honey has been called nature’s energy booster. It is great for building up your immune system. Honey is also a natural remedy for many ailments, such as sore throats, sleeplessness and may even have cancer-fighting properties.

Green and other teas
Green tea gives energy to your entire body. It’s also a great source of antioxidants. Green tea offers many other health benefits, including fight cancer and heart disease, lowering cholesterol, burning fat for weight loss, preventing diabetes and stroke, and staving off dementia.

Chamomile tea is great for calming the mind and reducing stress. Black tea may help lower levels of cortisol when you drink it on a regular basis. Ginger tea is also fused with nutrients and can help you avoid afternoon fatigue.

Yogurt
Eating yogurt gives you both protein and carbohydrates – both of which can give you energy and a feeling of fullness. Yogurt also contains probiotics which are known to aid in healthy digestion.

Water
Our good friend water has so many health benefits. Water keeps your body hydrated and allows it to work at optimum levels. It helps you digest, absorb and process nutrients. If you don’t drink enough water, you can become dehydrated and may experience a feeling of fatigue. So, drink more water!

Peanut butter
Peanut butter that contains monounsaturated fat can be a healthy choice for a snack. It has protein, potassium and iron. Smart snacking with smart carbs and protein-rich foods can help keep your blood sugar level throughout the day and give you the energy to tackle whatever comes your way.

Salmon
Salmon is great source for omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein. Cold water fish, like salmon, sardines and tuna, give you more omega-3 fatty acids than warm water fish. Omega-3 fatty acids aid in energy production, brain activity and are good for heart health.

Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate provides energy by supplying your body with magnesium and iron. It contains flavenoids that help keep your blood vessels healthy and reduce inflammation. Dark chocolate may also lower cortisol – a stress hormone that can lead you to eat more and gain weight. That’s plenty of reasons for me to eat chocolate!

So, fuel your body with energy boosting foods. You’ll feel better throughout the day and be on your way to creating a healthier, more balanced you!