Kick back, relax and enjoy summery cocktails, BBQ fare, and tasty desserts without gaining a pound.

Backyard barbeques, neighborhood block parties, beach trips, family reunions: summer is a time to let loose and make the most of the beautiful weather. But if you’re watching your weight, the steady stream of picnics and celebrations does have the potential to throw a monkey wrench into your healthy eating routine.

There’s no need to stress (after all, summer is about relaxing!). If you think ahead and have a plan in place, you can manage the fattening temptations at parties and indulge strategically without veering off track. Follow this foolproof, 3-step eating guide and you’ll enjoy the delicious food and festivities with friends and family without sacrificing a single pound:

First, be selective about your splurges.

Review your summer calendar and choose just a few special days or events each month as times to indulge — maybe it’s a big Fourth of July bash, your annual company outing, or a few days of your family vacation. On the other days, stick to your normal healthy eating habits and bypass the extra goodies.

Second, when you do choose to indulge, follow my “Rule of One.”

Stick with just ONE deliciously tempting appetizer, one plate of food (filled with anything you choose), one alcoholic drink, and one dessert (or a sliver of two, if you can’t decide). It’s also my own personal approach to smart party eating.

Third, never arrive famished.

Have a light snack (200 calories or less) about an hour before you make your entrance at the party or barbecue. This will help take the edge off your hunger so you don’t dive into the first edible item you lay your eyes on (like greasy potato chips with creamy, fattening dip). Smart pre-party snacks include apple slices with one level tablespoon peanut butter, two rice cakes topped with sliced turkey, or a stick of string cheese with a banana or orange. Eat one of these mini-meals before you arrive and you’ll be far less likely to cave when you get there.

By thinking strategically and following these tips, you can enjoy all the summer fun in slim-style fashion.

And, definitely check out my list of slimming summer superfoods. The season is short and you don’t want to miss out!