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Tips to balance a diet, social life

Nutritionists from the University of Maryland Medical System regularly contribute guest posts to The Baltimore Sun's Picture of Health blog. The latest post is from Courtney Ferreira.

Weekends at the beach, evenings by the pool and backyard barbecues may be a distant memory now, but the temptations of alcohol and indulgent foods are not. You may not need to wear a bathing suit until next summer, but that doesn't mean you should stop caring about what you put into your body. Maintaining your health (and weight) means making good choices over long periods of time; consistency is key. But you don't need to sacrifice to enjoy the fun events in your life.

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With the right tools and a positive mindset, you can enjoy life (and food) and keep your sanity, without compromising your wellness. Don't let your social life sabotage you.

Here are my top five tips for surviving your social scene:

1. Avoid sugary (alcoholic) beverages. Tiki drinks, frozen margaritas and even vodka cranberries are loaded with sugar. Just one drink can exceed your sugar quota for the entire day (36 grams for men; 24 grams for women). Frozen margaritas contain more than 80 grams of sugar per drink. Opt for drinks with sugar-free mixers like vodka or tequila with seltzer water and lime. Substitute seltzer water for Sprite in cocktails. Choose wine over sangria. And don't forget to drink one glass of water per alcoholic beverage.

2. Skip dessert. If you're consuming alcohol or feeling stuffed after a large entree or big tailgate spread, do not eat sweets. It will cause a blood sugar crash and promote fat storage if combined with alcohol or a dense meal.

3. Just pick one. A good rule of thumb to prevent stuffing yourself is to choose a less healthy appetizer or a less healthy side, not both. If you really have a craving for fries, then try a seasonal salad appetizer. Want nachos? Don't scarf down onion rings as a side with your meal. Pick something you are really in the mood for and remember you can always take leftovers or try a different appetizer or side next time.

4. Eat something green. Did you go for the nachos? A simple salad with oil and vinegar will be a lighter finish to your meal. Crab dip is a staple in Baltimore, but it is very heavy and dense. Pick a small salad or vegetable as your side. Better yet, encourage your friends to skip the pita and bread and get carrots and celery as vehicles to eat the dip.

5. Exercise. When in doubt, get moving. Are you in charge of weekend plans or picking the happy hour spot? Choose something that keeps you moving. Some ideas include a spot walkable from work, a group exercise class before drinks or a place where you know you can dance the night away.

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