Fourth of July already? That explains why I’ve had songs from the musical 1776 stuck in my head this week. For many of us in the U.S. of A, that means a long weekend. Since this is the first July Fourth weekend I’m not working in a few years, I’m planning to visit my parents and spend a little quality time with the folks and the pups on Saturday. I’m especially excited to see this little dude. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I brought him home! Where does the time go? Jess and Eli

My mom is planning a cookout with some family and friends, so we’ll be joining in the great tradition of boozing and BBQ-ing it up to celebrate our independence. That said, holiday festivities don’t have to be dietary disasters. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy yourself and still feel confident in your bathing suit the next day.

Prioritize. Scope out the offerings before diving in. If you’re dying for a bun on your burger, skip the chips and potato salad. If the ribs are calling your name (or mine), take it easy on the higher-fat stuff (cheese, mayo-based dips and dressings, fries) and sugary condiments like ketchup since most barbecue sauce packs in a lot of sugar. Sauce on the side so you can dip instead of slathering your burger or dog with the stuff is a great way to keep the sodium and sugar intake down. If you know you’re going to want dessert, say “no thanks” to that Limoncello-vodka drink—or share with a friend. burger

But don’t starve yourself all day beforehand to “save” calories. You’re more likely to overdo it if you show up hangry. Have some protein at breakfast like eggs, Greek yogurt, or toast with nut butter to stay satisfied and clear-headed.

Keep the 80/20 rule in mind. 80% healthy stuff/20% whatever the f*** you want.

Fill up on veggies. I know I’ve rolled my eyes at MyPlate before, BUT, I do support the part that recommends you fill half the plate with veggies. Have you ever tried a burger over salad? It’s really tasty. Some other options: grilled asparagus, peppers, onions. During the cocktail hour/appetizer afternoon, enjoy raw veggies dipped in salsa.

Hydrate. Drinking water is the easiest way to stay hydrated, which is especially important if you’re outside on a hot day. Watermelon, papaya, cucumber, tomato, and lettuce are some foods that pack in a lot of water, so pile your plate high. A few favorite ideas: grilled watermelon salad (like so) or a salad of watermelon, cucumber, and feta with mint.

Added bonus: Cucumber, watermelon, and papaya are great bloat-fighting foods, if you wake up feeling a little less than awesome.

What are your favorite summer BBQ foods? 

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