School’s out and summer is here – bring on the hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream and pie. Not so fast, according to registered dietitian Jennifer Bailiff of Novant Health Bariatric Solutions .

“It’s easy to get off track in the summer months when the days get longer, you stay up later, you go on vacation and there are all those cookout invites,” Bailiff said. “A few simple steps can keep you on track, such as observing ‘kitchen closing’ times, bringing your own healthy dishes to cookouts, and only picking a few vacation occasions to ‘go big.’”

Other tips:

Watch the liquid calories.

“Drink water with fruit slices or sparkling water with a dash of fruit juice,” Bailiff said. “Drink herbal teas, which don’t require as much sweetener. Halve your alcoholic beverage calories by opting for wine watered down with flavored sparkling water as a spritzer.”

She also recommended opting for lighter versions of iced coffee drinks, including using unsweetened almond or skim milk and no whipped cream or sugar syrup.

Put something healthy on the grill.

“Get your fruits and veggies by throwing them on the grill – it really brings out the flavor,” Bailiff said. Gain extra points if you make the chunks big. They fill up the plate and create the illusion that you’re eating more, she added.

“Choose leaner meats (chicken, fish, turkey, and leaner beef or pork) over hot dogs, kielbasa and sausage, which add more calories and less nutrition.” She suggested trying dry rubs of fresh herbs and spice or homemade marinades over store-bought, calorie-laden marinades.

Keep everyone safe by keeping raw meat in the fridge while marinating, clean the grill between sessions and always cook meats to required temperatures – don’t go by appearance alone. Always wash all fruits and veggies with soap and water.

“Washing fruits and vegetables with soap and water can be a weird concept for some,” Bailiff said. “But if you think about where your produce comes from and all the places it has to go and be handled to get to you, it makes sense – especially if you’re going to eat the peel or skin, such as with cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, etc.”

Skip the sugar when cooling off.

“Fruit smoothies are a good alternative to ice cream and milkshakes, but proceed with caution – using too much fruit can make sugar add up quickly,” Bailiff said. “Use unsweetened vanilla almond milk or a splash of juice and mostly water. Add plain nonfat Greek yogurt or ice cubes to thicken.”

Homemade popsicles are also another quick option, and adding a dash of Pedialyte or a sports drink adds some electrolytes. “Frozen fresh fruit, such as grapes, is also a fun alternative,” she added.

Keep your food safe.

“Do not put prepared food out too early and don’t leave it out, as it can become a breeding ground for bacteria,” Bailiff said. “Set up food in the shade, and have separate coolers for gatherings – one for drinks and one for food, since the drink one will be opened a lot more often.”

She also recommended using hand sanitizer while away from the sink.

Snack wisely on the go.

Pack that picnic, backpack or cooler with fruits, precut veggies or freeze-dried fruits and vegetables – minus the added sugar. “Unsweetened applesauce and pre-portioned packets of nuts are great,” Bailiff said, adding that nuts are also a great way to slow eating down and keep even little fingers busy.

“If you have a cooler, try bringing some dips – natural peanut butter or plain nonfat Greek yogurt mixed with a ranch seasoning packet for a healthier take on ranch dressing.”