Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEWORLEANS- The hotter days of summer are on their way, with good food at the festivals and family holiday barbecues. So how do you enjoy summer food but keep the pounds from creeping on?

A nutrition expert who helps pro athletes with their summer diets says she can help.

Leslie Bonci, is the director of sports nutrition at the UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Center for Sports Medicine. She is also a consultant to countless organizations and sports teams in Pittsburgh and nationwide. She says you can do the same thing as he pro athletes do to stay fit this summer. First she says, balance with lots of color on your plate.

'What does your plate look like. Is half of your plate fruit and vegetables? One-third of your plate is going to be a lean protein and one quarter is going to be the other, a rice pasta, potato or bread,' she described.

Next, she says, think of food swaps.

'If somebody says, 'I really want to have the bread,' maybe they don't do the potato salad. Or, 'I really want to have the brownie, I won't have the rice,' ' Bonci explained.

Next she says, don't eat bland food. Add flavor.

'That's critically important. Those spices and herbs and vinegars can be great ways of enjoying what it is that we eat,' she said.

And be strategic with the good fats.

'Don't take the fat off the plate. A little bit of a good oil or a little bit of a salad dressing or a little bit of nut,' she said is good.

Slowing down and savoring will help you eat less.

Hydration is also very important from the minute you wake up. Muscle is made of water and protein, so drink enough to keep your metabolism up and prevent gaining weight. Always drink well before you ever get thirsty. Gulping not sipping will get more fluid into your body. 'Eating' your water will too.

'Any fruits and vegetables is 50 percent water, so making this gorgeous salad that might have fruit and vegetables in it or throwing some vegetables into that pasta sauce or throwing some fruit into our grains, it's a way of hydrating as well as enjoying what we eat,' Bonci said.

And cut out the soft drinks.

'I think if people really like the taste of carbonated, how about something like a seltzer water with a tiny little splash of some juice to it or using a seltzer water blending some fruit with it and then freezing it so you have a fruit smoothie. That works well too,' said Bonci.

Other tips are: pouring water over your head does not hydrate you, drink it. Drink tea and coffee without sugar. Use smaller plates and go easy on the sauces.

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