With recent cold weather, it certainly doesn't feel like summer is around the corner. But as temperatures warm up, we'll begin attending more barbecues, weddings and trips to the beach or cabin. Many of these social gatherings revolve around food and drink.

If you are trying to eat healthier, summer can be a difficult time to stick with your nutrition plan. This doesn't mean you have to avoid partaking in these events, but it is important to have a plan.

Here are my tips for keeping it healthy through summer social events.

If you're going out to eat or to a barbecue where you're likely to have higher calorie, higher fat and higher carbohydrate foods, focus on lean proteins and vegetables for your other meals and snacks. For an evening outing, start your day with a veggie omelet and side of berries, have a snack of bell pepper sticks mid-day, and for lunch have a salad with mixed dark greens and a variety of bright vegetables topped with chicken breast and a vinaigrette dressing.

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Don't skip meals leading to an event. Instead, eat higher protein and fiber meals containing lots of brightly colored vegetables to help you feel satisfied and prevent you from gorging at the event itself. You'll consume less overall and feel more in control of your choices.

Focus on hydration. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for at least 75 ounces of water, and even more on a hot day. This will also help prevent you from overeating and help you feel better throughout the day. If you want something a bit more fun, try the many varieties of flavored sparkling waters. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

Bring something healthy to share. If the gathering is a potluck, bring a salad, vegetable dish or fruit tray. This ensures that there is something healthy for you to munch on at the event.

Like de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo recommends, only select things that bring you joy. When there is a buffet or lots of food available, only take the special foods that you know you love and skip the rest.

Make a plan around alcohol. Decide whether you will drink alcohol and decide in advance how much. Skip the sugary mixers and stick to drinks with seltzer or soda water.

One unhealthy meal isn't going to make or break you, but overall consistency throughout your week and year is what is most important. Make healthy choices where you can at social gatherings.

Try to stick with healthy, whole food choices 80 to 90 percent of the time, and give yourself some grace for a small treat or fun food here and there. Avoid the all-or-nothing mindset trap, which leads to feelings of restriction and ultimately binging on greater quantities of what you were trying to avoid in the first place. Enjoy your time with family and friends but return to your healthy eating pattern the next day, or even next meal.


Jean Larson is a licensed and registered dietitian in the Integrative Health Department at the Essentia Health-Duluth Clinic. Contact her at Jean.Larson2@EssentiaHealth.org.