With Memorial day weekend upon us, we’re entering into the season of cookouts. From hot dogs to macaroni salad to that weird Jell-o salad of Grandma Mary’s with who-knows-what in it, these summertime gatherings can make us feel like we’ve been teleported straight back to the days when we habitually ate macaroni out of a box (and thought it was amazing).

Yep, we’ve come far, and cookouts don’t have to be the thing to throw us off track. Here are some tips for keeping your health and your sanity this summer.

Figure out your limits before you get there. Maybe you’ll take a burger over a hot dog, and just figure that eating a less-than-amazing refined white bun this one time probably won’t kill you, or go bunless. Maybe you’ll allow yourself one questionable side and dessert. Maybe good portion sizes are your only limit. Pick what you’re comfortable with, and do your best to stick to it.

Fill up on one or two of your own healthy dishes. The best way to make these occasions healthier is to bring a couple of amazing dishes of your own. With everyone gorging themselves on burgers and desserts, they’ll treat your dishes as   sides, leaving plenty for you to fill up on. Then if you choose to partake in some other dishes, you’re more likely to go a little easier since they’re not the only answer to your starvation.

Let fruit save you from sugar binges. If you can financially swing fruit salad, great, but just a bowl of watermelon or oranges works to make sure there’s something sweet besides all the pies, cookies, and brownies. Even if you allow yourself desserts, hanging out for a long time can lead to the kind of crazy binging we’d rather avoid.

Be polite, but don’t be pressured. You’ve already set your limits, so don’t let Uncle Bob try to humiliate you out of them. It’s interesting how people will sometimes start sharing their own philosophies about why eating healthy doesn’t matter when they find out you’re trying to eat well. Unless these are pretty close relatives, just ignore it and move along.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, host. This really gives you all the power where the grill is concerned. Turkey burgers, anyone? Veggie kabobs. Superior bun options. You’re happy and your family is resigned to having healthy food forced upon them. But hey, if you’re really accommodating you can always ask someone to bring regular burgers too.

Most of all, have fun! Your food is important, but it doesn’t have to get in the way of enjoying time with your family and friends. Plan ahead for your health goals, and then chill. The time hanging out and having fun is just as great for your health as the food you put into your body, so enjoy it!

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