5 Ways to Actually Stick to Your Diet This Summer

How to make healthier choices, even at BBQs, pool parties and beach vacations.

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Summer is here at last—and with it comes a full calendar of events, many of which center around food. If you want to stay svelte for swimsuit season, we can help you make smart choices and still enjoy yourself. “Whenever you’re at a party where there is a lot of food, always do a walkthrough,” says psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD. “Maybe you eat that famous mac and cheese but you forego the burger,” she says.

Charting a smart course on the buffet table isn’t all you can do. Try our tips to keep your weight in check at all of your summer gatherings, family reunions and pool parties.

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

Family reunions

2 / 6 Family reunions

Seeing relatives for the first time in years? Don’t feel like you have to eat every bite of the dish they want you to try. “If these are people you don’t see very often and you don’t want to hurt their feelings, go ahead and take food,” says Durvasula, “[But] taking Uncle John’s ribs doesn’t mean taking six of them.” Keep in mind that a family gathering isn’t really the time to make a stand for your diet. “Get along with other people using your own form of portion control,” says Durvasula. “Cut a portion they give you into pieces that you can share or eat later.” If you’re nervous about disappointing anyone, go ahead and fill a plate with healthy choices, so you can’t accept any more food.

Kids’ birthday parties

3 / 6 Kids’ birthday parties

Among all of the balloons and presents, birthday parties always have birthday cake—something that may stress you out. But it doesn’t have to. “There’s no reason you can’t share your piece [of cake] or eat your favorite part,” says Durvasula. For many, that’s the heavy, buttercream icing. Eat that part slowly and really savor it instead of finishing it and going back for more.

Pool parties

4 / 6 Pool parties

Summer pool parties aren’t just about the kids and grandkids—there are often adult beverages, too, which can be deceptively high in calories. Two Coronas have about 296 calories, or roughly the same number of calories in three and a half wedges of watermelon. Going the cocktail route? One margarita can have 153 calories, which is about the same number of calories in three cups (5.9 ounces) of strawberry slices. So, what can you sip on without blowing your diet? “A vodka soda is one of the lowest calorie drinks out there,” she says.


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Barbecues, especially around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, are summer’s Thanksgiving. Huge spreads of grilled hamburgers, decked out hotdogs with multiple toppings, macaroni salad, desserts and more are tempting, but should you give in? “It’s all about balance,” says Durvasula, “So if you’re going to go with the big, meaty burger, then watch your sides.” Another food you should watch out for? That hamburger bun. Skip it to save about 120 calories.

Don’t be too stringent with your food rules. Summer fun is supposed to be just that—fun. “What you don’t want to do is make all these rules and take the pleasure out of life and the pleasure out of summer,” Durvasula says. “I think in its own way, that helps you be more mindful.”

Summer weddings

6 / 6 Summer weddings

Weddings are a time to enjoy the company of family and friends while celebrating the union of people who vow to spend the rest of their lives together. But for people on a diet, summer weddings can be a challenge. Many weddings have an open bar, or a buffet filled with mouth-watering selections. However, you don’t have to cheat your diet to have a good time—just be sure to make healthier decisions.

Instead of going for the mac and cheese at the buffet, choose some fresh vegetables, a salad or a lean meat like chicken. And if you’re trying to decrease your calorie intake, be wary of alcoholic drinks. Avoid heavy beers and high-cal mixed drinks—instead, enjoy a lighter option, like a vodka soda or a glass of red wine.

Trying to burn some extra calories? Hit the dance floor. For a woman who weighs 169 pounds dancing can burn upwards of 344 calories in an hour and a half. Bust a move!

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