If you’re on a quest to shed pounds or maintain a healthy weight, getting through a holiday weekend can feel like navigating an obstacle course. Memorial Day is particularly challenging for many of my clients, as it marks the start of both bikini and BBQ season (sigh). If holidays tend to trip you up, here are five tips for making it to Tuesday, without feeling like you need to undo the damage.

Prepare (or bring) a healthy “filler”
Traditional cookout menus offer plenty of splurge options, but tend to lack in the vegetable department. Fewer (or no) veggies means you’ll fill up on foods that contain far more calories per bite. For example, a quarter cup of potato salad, about the size of a golf ball, packs about 90 calories, compared to a mere 8 for the same sized portion of juicy grape tomatoes. If you’re hosting, build in plenty of appetizers and side dishes made from water-rich veggies, and if you’re a guest, bring a platter to share. Great options include vinegar-based slaw, veggie kabobs to toss on the grill, chilled tomato cucumber vinaigrette salad, and raw veggies with hummus for dipping, like tomatoes, cukes, broccoli florets, sliced red peppers, radishes, and good old baby carrots.

Pick a starch, any (one) starch
After a holiday weekend, when you feel a bit heavier and your jeans are a little too tight, carb overload was likely the culprit. To avoid it, commit to some simple compromises. If you love potato salad or grilled corn on the cob, make room. For example, wrap your lean turkey burger in crisp Romaine leaves instead of a bun. Or if what you’re really looking forward to is dessert, like a patriotically decorated cupcake, stick with veggies and protein as your meal, and forgo the other starchy stuff. Rather than regarding this give-and-take as missing out, think of it as an ingenious strategy that allows you to have your cake and eat it too!

Build in some burn
As anyone who has struggled with weight issues knows, it’s far easier to put it on than it is to take it off. And one of the best ways to prevent your weight from creeping up is to balance out extra nibbles with a boost in activity. Even backyard fun can make a big difference. An hour of badminton burns about 300 calories, Frisbee 200, and a brisk walk around the block about 350. Just standing, talking with friends, rather than sitting, can help you burn 50% more calories per hour!

Rethink that drink
In addition to lowering inhibitions, alcohol can act as an appetite stimulant; a recipe for gobbling up lots of food you probably wouldn’t eat sober. But if you don’t intend to teetotal it this weekend, stick with skinnier options. A 100 calorie shot of tequila can instantly become a 500 calorie margarita once it’s swirled into a sugary mixer, but a 12 ounce bottle of light beer clocks in at just 105 calories. Or choose a drink that will help you take in less alcohol per volume, like a wine spritzer (made with sparkling water) rather than a large glass of wine.

Rely on H2O

Reaching for water is important for staying hydrated (especially if you imbibe in a drink or two), but it’s also a smart weight control strategy. One study found that adults who downed two cups of water before meals shed 40% more weight while following a low cal plan over a 12-week period. While the reason wasn’t completely clear, it may be because agua helps to naturally curb eating. In a different study, the same group of scientists found that subjects who drank two cups of H2O before meals naturally consumed 75-90 fewer calories. For an extra edge, add a generous squeeze of lemon. A quarter cup of fresh squeezed juice provides about 50% of the vitamin C you need daily, a nutrient that’s been shown to boost fat burning, both during exercise and at rest.

What’s your take on these tips? Do you feel especially challenged on holidays?  Please tweet your thoughts to @CynthiaSass and @goodhealth

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest

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