Registered dietitian Caroline Susie, who is a Lake Highlands High School alumna, works for a global healthcare company, advising clients of all sizes on how to improve their diets. She’s also shared health tips on episodes of Fox 4’s  “Good Day.” “The best tip I can give: Don’t take nutrition advice from Dr. Google or an influencer on social media. Work with a registered, licensed dietitian. Dietitians have degrees in nutrition, have completed a 1,200-hour supervised internship, passed national boards and complete ongoing continuing education. Look for RD or RDN in title, or when in doubt, ask” Susie says.

Load up on H20

Hydration is so important, especially as we age, as water contributes to almost every function in our bodies. Research shows that having a glass of water before each meal can result in consuming fewer calories at the meal. To increase your water consumption, use a water tracker, get a cool water bottle, and vary your water flavors by making “spa water,” adding citrus or cucumbers.

Focus on adding foods, not eliminating

When you eliminate a specific food or food group from your diet, you can’t help but think about it 24/7. I call this, “the Chick-fil-A effect.” What is the day of the week you always want Chick-fil-A? Sunday [when the fast-food restaurant is closed]. So instead of restricting yourself, focus on adding foods to your diet. This positive mindset will help you make healthier choices and feel good about them.

Don’t fear carbs

Yes, it’s true, not all carbs are created equal, but to simply demonize the entire food category is not fair. We have decades of research associating complex carbs with decreased risk of developing heart disease, stroke and chronic conditions. Some great choices of complex carbs include whole-grain bread and beans, brown rice and fresh fruit.

Naturally occurring sugar is just fine

Remember back in the ’90s, when we were so terrified of fat? Well sugar is the new fat. But here is the secret: Sugar is not the bad guy. In fact, naturally occurring sugar occurs in two forms: fruit [fructose] and milk [lactose]. In addition to natural energy, fruit and milk provide a host of other nutrition benefits like vitamin A, C, D and calcium. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, watch your portion sizes.

Choose lean

Lean protein is not only an essential nutrient imperative to many bodily processes, but research shows that consuming lean protein contributes to satiety, that feeling of staying fuller longer. Reach for fish, lean beef, Greek yogurt, chicken, pork, cottage cheese, eggs, peanut butter, tofu and shrimp. 

The perfect pair 

I tell all my clients to always pair complex carbohydrates with lean protein at every meal and snack. The complex carbs provide energy, while protein provides that feeling of fullness. Pair them to balance out blood sugar levels. This will prevent you from being “hangry” later.

Stock up

Your freezer is your best friend. Stock up on healthy foods such as frozen veggies, fruits, grilled chicken and fish. These can save you in a time pinch. 

Eat more veggies

Sneak veggies in everywhere. Add veggies to your eggs. Top your sandwich with spinach and a slice of tomato. Puree veggies into your marinara sauce. Incorporate a small salad with lunch and dinner, or try adding more veggies into soups and chilis. Try the crudite approach: finger friendly veggies such as mini peppers, carrots and cucumbers, served with a low-fat dip.

Make exercise a habit

Every step counts. Even if you only have 10 minutes, get moving. Your exercise goal is 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. Yes, brisk walking counts and yes, you can break this up into 10-minute segments. Schedule exercise into your day. Invest in a wearable device like a Fitbit for motivation. Find a group of friends who can hold you accountable. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Follow @CarolineSusieRD on Twitter and Instagram or check out her website for more tips.