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The Protein-Packed Way to Kick Things Off
The indulgences begin as soon as you walk into the host's backyard, whether it's a tray of pigs in blankets or a big bowl of potato chips. It'll be easier to monitor your intake if you follow these two pieces advice: First, eat (or drink) something with protein in it before you get to the party. Kelly LeVeque, a certified holistic nutritionist whose new book is titled Body Love, tells her clients to do this for the same reason you shouldn't go grocery shopping when you're hungry: You tend to make poor food choices when you're ravenous.

Second, eat everything from a plate, a tip from Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The Superfood Swap. That way, you're less likely to nibble and mindlessly pick at foods, and you'll put more thought into what you're eating. As for what to put on that plate, Rebecca Scritchfield, a nutritionist and author of Body Kindness, suggests wholesome, high-protein options such as deviled eggs and nuts. And just because the chips and guacamole are next to each other doesn't mean you need to eat them together. LeVeque likes to grab veggies from the crudité platter and eat them with a dollop of guac.

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A Main Course That Makes You Happy
From hot dogs and hamburgers to steaks, chicken, bratwurst and ribs, meat is pretty much a given at any barbecue. And while the experts we talked to differed on which protein was "better" than the other (grilled chicken covered in sugary barbecue sauce vs. a bunless and joyless burger, and so on), here's one thing most of them agreed on: Keep a big-picture view of your meal. If the hot dogs look amazing and you really want one, go for it. Or, if you've been waiting for your first burger of the grilling season, have at it. Blatner puts it this way: Pick your absolute favorite food, and enjoy it, because if you don't, you'll feel deprived and might overindulge elsewhere. Then, to avoid feeling like you overdid it, opt out of something else, such as potato salad or dessert.

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Baked Beans, Tailored
As vegetarians know, beans are a superfood, filled with fiber and protein. The only trouble is, baked beans at cookouts are usually served in a sugary sauce that was probably made with brown sugar and/or molasses, as well as ketchup or barbecue sauce, which are both high in sugar. Stepfanie Romine, co-author with Matt Frazier of The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, has a trick for cutting down on the sugar while still enjoying the beans: Use a plastic fork (a slotted spoon is ideal, but may not be handy) to serve yourself beans, draining off as much of the sauce as you can. Romine, who follows a plant-based diet, has even used baked beans as a topping on a plain baked potato when she's at a barbecue, making her own version of a loaded potato with the beans and any veggies she can raid from the fixings meant for burgers and dogs, from shredded lettuce and tomatoes to pickles and chopped onions.

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Veggies Minus the Unhealthy Bells and Whistles
Whether or not you're trying to lose weight, it's great to fill as much of your plate as you can with vegetables; as Romine points out, they'll leave you feeling way more energized to swim and play badminton than heavy carbs and fatty proteins will. Almost every nutritionist we spoke to mentioned coleslaw (you heard it here first: Cabbage is the new kale, says Scritchfield)—if the dressing is vinegar- and not mayo-based, that is. Other great options are plain corn on the cob (Romine says you'd be surprised at how delicious it is without butter and salt), tomato and cucumber salad or any grilled vegetable, from asparagus or cauliflower steaks to peppers and zucchini.

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Smart Hydration on a 90-Degree Day
Sparkling water, plain water mixed with lemonade and iced, unsweetened herbal tea are the obvious healthy drink choices. But, if you're looking for a mixer to make a beverage with a bit more kick to it, Blatner recommends using iced tea (her favorite is hibiscus tea, for its lightly floral taste) instead of a sugary tonic. She'll add a splash of vodka or tequila to it with plenty of ice for a refreshing, not-too-caloric cocktail. Another mixer Blatner loves: kombucha, a fermented tea. You can buy it by the six-pack and mix it with tequila for a twist on a margarita that's way lower in sugar than the traditional version.

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LeVeque has one tried-and-true way to enjoy a sweet treat at the end of a barbecue (beyond going for a watermelon wedge or scoop of fruit salad, that is): She reminds herself of the stash of dark chocolate at home in her fridge. Knowing that she will eventually get her sugar fix—and that it'll be a lot healthier—helps her steer clear of the ice cream sundae bar or apple pie. If you just can't pass up a dessert, though, Blatner says s'mores are one of the best options, since they take some effort to make, which means you'll likely take more time to savor each and every delicious bite.