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Eating sensibly

The smell of meat on the grill is a sure sign summer has arrived. Cookouts, and their accompanying foods, are popular, but they can pose a formidable challenge to somebody trying to lose or maintain weight.

TOPS Club Inc., the weight-loss support organization whose name stands for “take off pounds sensibly,” provides advice for eating healthy at cookouts, whether you’re celebrating Independence Day or simply enjoying the sunshine.

Eat before you go. If you’re attending a cookout somewhere other than your own home, it’s a good idea to eat a nutritious snack before you go. Eating beforehand will help fill you up and make you less tempted to overindulge later.

Assess the situation and make a plan. Crafting a plan before any meal is important for making smart choices. When you arrive, take a look at all of the food and try to identify the healthiest options available. Note exactly what you’re going to eat, and stick to your plan.

Go for the lean protein. Instead of high-fat hamburgers and hot dogs, choose lower-fat proteins like grilled chicken, turkey, or fish. If you can’t say no to a burger, avoid high calorie toppings such as cheese or bacon, and eat it with a whole-grain bun or no bun at all. Veggie burgers and turkey or chicken burgers are a few other healthy substitutes.

Avoid creamy dressings. Side dishes such as coleslaw, potato salad and pasta salad are found everywhere throughout the season, but the high-fat, creamy dressings in these dishes are particular calorie bombs. Substitute a vinaigrette dressing for a tasty, lighter option. If you must have a creamy dressing, use light mayo or light sour cream when preparing the dishes. Increase your satiety and the nutritional profile of these dishes by adding grilled or roasted vegetables.

Choose light, refreshing drinks. Sugary drinks such as soda and juice provide empty calories that you simply don’t need. Choose ice water with a lemon or cucumber slice instead or add a dash of 100 percent fruit juice to sparkling water.

Control your portions. Try to follow the one plate rule. Fill up your plate one time, being mindful of the food you decide to eat, and then relinquish your plate. Take your time eating your food, and one plate will be plenty.