Just a few years ago my idea of a well-balanced meal to me was one that had sugar at the beginning, sugar in the middle and sugar at the end.

That changed when I started running.

It may be that man cannot live on bread alone, but I couldn't run very far eating a doughnut and Coke for breakfast. So I began to change.

For those who've always eaten healthy, nutritional meals, good eating habits might seem obvious. But as a hooked-on-fast-food kid, I can testify, there is nothing obvious or easy about moving toward the food pyramid and away from the vending machine.

I started with breakfast because I love most breakfast foods. Lunch was harder because I'm usually in my car, and frankly, I am not sure I can survive without french fries. I work at night, which means planning ahead (those who know me are laughing) or eating on the run again. I'm also not a three-meal-a-day person. I eat here and there and everywhere and my challenge was just to swap out the Snickers for an apple or at least a granola bar. (By the way, why are so many "good-for-you" bars so awful?)

This change has forced me to actually read labels and consider eating foods that haven't been processed. I am grateful that grocery stores have made it easier to make better choices with individual snacks of cut vegetables or fruit, as well as sushi, that while not as fresh as a restaurant, is much easier to eat and run. And I have found that even at my favorite fast-food restaurants, I can make better choices and still eat lunch in 10 minutes or less.

I have found the more dedicated I am to my work outs, the less likely I am to give in to the urge to eat a cheese Danish for breakfast. If only sugar were good for you.

The nutritional shift, which is still a work in progress, has helped with energy during my runs. But once I started running more than four or five miles a day, I quickly had a new problem — protein deficiency.

This problem would be easily solved if I liked meat, but alas, I do not. I love fish, but my schedule doesn't allow me to prepare it very often. My husband and a friend suggested drinking a supplement in the morning that contained whey protein. He bought one for me — chocolate — and it was OK, but it never dissolved in the milk and I could never drink it within an hour of working out.

So while I continue my nutritional shift, I plan to investigate some other types of protein supplements that might be more palatable and easier to digest. My trainer, Neil Anderson of the Fitness Zone on 1280 AM (Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.), also has some supplement ideas. I've decided to look into these options and write about them in the month as the protein, or lack thereof, is becoming a critical issue.

When I don't eat well, it doesn't affect me for about 24 hours. The day after I do the drive-through, and make the worst possible choices from the convenience of my car, I feel it most in my runs. The weight training always makes me feel a little like Bambi struggling to stand up on his first day of life, but running usually doesn't do that to me. That is, unless I've reverted to my wicked ways.

Will supplements help make up what my diet lacks? Neil seems to think they will. In fact, he said I should be on them even if I'm making good food choices. So if anyone with a favorite, keep in mind taste matters, send me a suggestion. Otherwise, I'll check into the ones others have suggested and report back in a month after I've had time to use them an determine if they help.

NEXT: Some workout etiquette issues in the gym and on the trail, because believe it or not, everyone can't bench 400 pounds.

E-mail: adonaldsonx@desnews.com