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Think of the food you find at any state fair. Fried oreos. Corndogs. Elephant ears and even fried butter. They’re all the same dull shade of brown.

Think of your dinner last night. Was your plate full of the same brown hues of fried food and baked desserts or the starchy whites of bread and potatoes?
Now think of the produce section at your local grocery: The reds and oranges of fruits, the bushy green heads of fresh lettuce, the bright yellow of corn or the deep purple of an eggplant.

Everything in nature is saturated by rich and bountiful colors, from beautiful landscapes to a healthy dinner plate. As a nutritionist, personal trainer and single mom, I am all about making health and fitness fun to do and easy to understand. Healthier eating habits and lifestyle choices can lengthen life span, save money on health insurance premiums and claims, and also increase quality of life.

When I grocery shop with my three-year-old son, Reid, one of our favorite games is for me to challenge him to find at least one food in every color. He comes back with dozens of radiant apples, green grapes, yellow lemons and what he calls “purple lettuce.” He gets even more excited when we get home and incorporate them all into a healthy, colorful dinner.
Eating right doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. By combining fruits and veggies that are in season with in-store discounts and coupons, I sometimes end up saving more money than I spend.

Additionally, spotting the good foods from the bad can sometimes be as easy as looking down at your plate and taking a quick roll call of the colors you’re seeing.

If you often find that your plate is mostly brown, that’s a cue that the foods you’re eating are probably not the healthiest options available. Brown foods are typically fried, starchy, breaded and full of processed sugar and more carbohydrates than you probably need for one day.

A simple key to eating healthy is to be creative about incorporating more colorful foods into your diet. Fruits and veggies are, by nature, beautifully colored and full of nutrients and natural sugars.

Instead of drenching your leafy green salad in white ranch dressing, opt for a splash of bright red wine vinegar. And, instead of topping it with a few handfuls of processed cheddar cheese and croutons, try yellow, red, or green peppers; red onions; green peas; or even a few mandarin orange slices.

Thinly cut and lightly seasoned slices of zucchini or squash baked in the oven for 12-15 minutes make the perfect side dish or afternoon snack.
Also, you can tell by looking down at your plate whether or not your portions are too large. Always eat from a standard sized dinner plate, not the giant size you’d find in a restaurant. Your plate should be adequately full, but not piled high.

Healthy eating is a lifestyle, not a temporary crash-diet. Start simple by working to make your dinner plate fun, exciting and colorful and before you know it, your body will crave apples and fresh veggies instead of candy and cookies!

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Written by Nan Gibbons

Nan Gibbons is a licensed personal trainer and nutritionist who owns her own fitness and training company in San Diego. The proud single mother of her three year old son Reid, she understands both the joy and chaos that come with parenting! Check out Nan's blog and connect with her on Twitter; @healthnut2011.