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7 smarter ways to eat and drink on Labor Day weekend

Here’s how to enjoy your summer favorites without depriving yourself on the holiday weekend.
by Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD /
Samuel Wells / Getty Images/Aurora Creative
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The Labor Day weekend finds many of us at more than one end-of-summer barbecue. And we all want to indulge our favorites one last time without overeating, feeling stuffed or feeling guilty about it. The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy yourself if you think before you eat. Try some of these tips to maintain better control over your holiday eating.

Avoid portion distortion. Start with smaller plates for automatic portion control. Choose a variety of foods and avoid seconds except for low-calorie items like fruit, vegetables and salads (dressings on the side).

Learn to barter. Take a look at all the available options and make some mental swaps before serving yourself. Your choice can be within the same foods groups, like selecting potato salad OR macaroni salad, or opting for an extra glass of wine instead of a sugary dessert.

Be a taster. Studies show the first taste of any food is always the most satisfying. Enjoy variety and serve yourself with a tablespoon, not a large serving spoon. Enjoy that taste (or two) and eat it slowly, savoring the flavors.

Don’t let other people choose your food. Eat what you prefer and not what others recommend. Make your own choices – and learn to say no (politely) – when people try to force you to eat. Remember, food is not love.

Offer to bring a dish. While your host might say you don’t need to bring anything, prepare a dish you know you’ll definitely want to eat. Colorful raw vegetables with hummus or reduced-fat dips are always a healthy go-to dish, or a mixed green salad (dressing on the side).

Count your alcohol calories. Alcohol is tricky because a serving is not the size of the glass. One serving of alcohol is a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of spirits. For optimal portion control, stick with a bottle of beer: a regular bottle is about 150 calories and lighter versions come in around 100 calories. If you plan on having more than one drink, alternate it with a seltzer and lime, or other non-alcoholic, low calorie beverage.

Drink water. Few people drink enough water in hot weather and it’s important to stay hydrated. While water is ideal, if you’re not a plain water drinker, stick with seltzer or another non-sugary drink. Remember that clear doesn’t always mean low calorie, so read the label. And skip 100 percent fruit juice – it’s best to eat your fruit, not drink it. While thirst is the best indicator of how frequently we should drink, we often ignore that signal, so check in the bowl after you urinate – if it’s pale yellow, you’re hydrated. Anything darker, drink up!

Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD is the NBC News Health Editor. Follow her on Twitter @drfernstrom.

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