Tips to survive summer BBQ season

When the weather is fab and the days are long, the thing to do is this: fire up the grill, round up your family and friends, and feast. Everybody loves a barbecue. But if you're trying to watch your weight, big food spreads may actually induce stress-and that's a problem. Fortunately, we've got fixes.

Fix #1: Pay attention to portions. Use these 3 memorable points of reference:

  • A tennis ball or baseball = about 1 cup (or use your clenched fist as a rough estimate). This measure is useful for scoopable sides (think: potato, pasta and bean salads). If you're trying to keep a cap on calories, aim for 1 cup total of these starchy side dishes.
  • Your cell phone (provided you've upgraded since 1999) = about 3 ounces meat. (The other oft-cited reference for 3 ounces of meat is a deck of cards.) This measure comes is useful for steak, chicken and fish.
  • Your thumb = about 1 tablespoon. This measure comes in handy when you're trying to estimate dressing or a spread. Most full-fat salad dressings have 50 to 100 calories per tablespoon (creamy ones fall toward the higher end); mayo (at 100 calories per tablespoon) is another one to watch. Choose reduced-fat varieties, which usually have half the calories, whenever you can.

Fix #2: Fill up on vegetables first.

  • Eat loads of green salad-with a couple of tablespoons of dressing, preferably one that's lower in fat.
  • Crunch on the crudités-and go easy on dips-instead of chips.
  • Bring your own healthy dip to the party so you know you'll have something good to snack on.
    Always a crowd-pleaser:

    Black Bean Dip

    This lively dip can be made in minutes. Serve with baked tortilla chips.

    1 19-ounce or 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
    1/2 cup prepared salsa, hot or mild
    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

    Combine black beans, salsa, lime juice, cilantro and cumin in a food processor. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Fix #3: "Prioritize" your favorite food-like this.

  • If you're dying for a big cheeseburger, get in line at the grill. Stick with a green salad or grilled vegetables and fruit as sides.
  • Not so big on buns? Go for grilled chicken, fish or tofu on top of greens and spend that starch serving on a scoop of the creamy potato salad you truly love.
  • Have a piece of lean protein (chicken, fish), grilled vegetables and a healthy side (1/2 cup or so of baked beans or a bean salad) so you can indulge in dessert.

Fix #4: When you're finished, go play.

  • Start tossing a ball with the kids.
  • Rally the adults to play horseshoes or some other outdoor game. No need to jump around like a kangaroo to "burn off" dinner; the point is to pull yourself away from the chips and salsa.

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