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Diet-friendly summer party survival guide

Tracy E. Hopkins is an accomplished writer, blogger and editor living in New York City. She has expertise covering travel, fashion, health and entertainment.

Healthy cookout tips and recipes

With so many cookouts, barbecues and outdoor parties to attend, it’s challenging to stick to our healthy eating habits during the salad days of summer. So SheKnows enlisted the advice of several nutrition experts to give us tips on how to skip calorie-packed temptations and make tasty and wise food choices.

Healthy BBQ Meal

5 Healthy diet tips for summer

5 Summer eating tips from Weight Watchers Online

Jennifer Hudson's dramatic weight loss is proof that Weight Watchers PointsPlus program works. Stephanie Rost, M.S., R.D., corporate program development director for Weight Watchers International Inc., offers these smart swap-out tips for picnics and cookouts:

  • For a nutritious dip, skip the ranch dressing and opt for carrot and celery sticks with hummus.
  • Swap out sugary, nutrient-void juice drinks for no-calorie flavored waters. Make your own by adding fresh lemon slices to water.
  • Pack a cup of air-popped popcorn so you won't be tempted to reach for fatty potato chips. Popcorn is a nutritious, whole grain snack that's fun to munch.
  • When you're hosting a cookout, try throwing skewered shrimp and pineapple chunks on the grill for a low-fat treat.

Want more ideas? Subscribe to Weight Watchers Online and access the PointsPlus program from your phone to easily look-up the PointsPlus value of any food anytime.

1Pile on the veggies

"I know people don't normally gear up for a barbecue to eat the salads and sides, but those are the most nutrient-dense, fibrous foods," explains Latham Thomas, founder of Tender Shoots Wellness. The New York-based fitness and nutrition consultant adds that we should pile our plates with green beans, corn on the cob and salads, and allot only 10 to 20 percent of our cookout meal for heavier foods like steak and chicken.

2Stay well-hydrated

Thomas recommends you show up to the barbecue with 1-1.5 liters of water to sip on throughout the gathering. "If you aren't starving," she says, "you will be less likely to make poor choices about what to eat." When we haven't had enough water, she adds, we often confuse thirst for hunger and eat more than necessary. Foods naturally packed with water like cucumbers, celery and watermelon also keep us cool and hydrated while we're hanging outside (wearing protective sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, sunglasses, and a hat of course).

3Small plates are great

If you have a choice between a large plate or a salad plate, Thomas says pick the small plate. "We tend to super-size at every meal in this country, and in this instance less is certainly more," explains the certified holistic health counselor. Eating a smaller portion will allow you to determine if you really want that second helping of potato salad or if you'd rather leave room for dessert.

4Drink responsibly

Yvonne Quinones Syto, MA, RD, CDE, IBCLC, advises to avoid alcoholic drinks with excessive sugars and syrups. "[For fewer calories] stick with beer or a small glass of wine or liquor mixed with seltzer or tonic and lime wedges," says the registered dietitian.

5Bring a healthy dish

To guarantee you'll have something healthy to nosh on, says Syto, author of Nutrition Map: Your Guide to Eating Healthy in the Real World, bring a vegetable side dish or fruit salad to share.

Up next: Healthy cookout recipes >>

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