The sun is finally shining and those BBQ invites keep rolling in. But if you're wary of falling off the healthy-eating bandwagon, help is at hand.
From smart snacking to DIY drinks and healthy salad dressings, dietician Laura Tilt has helped us devise some foolproof tips to stay happy - and healthy – all summer long (and they're all tasty, too).
1.The health benefits of fruit and veg
During summer it's more important than ever to stay hydrated and the good news is, fruit and vegetables count towards our daily fluid intake. 'Eating more fresh fruit and veg during summer is an easy way to increase our water intake thanks to their high water percentage,' explains Laura.
'As well as being hydrating, orange or red fruits also contain beta-carotenes which help to protect our skin from the sun – so get plenty of those. When it comes to veg, opt for brightly or darkly-coloured leaves - like watercress or rocket - which are full of antioxidants. It's also worth checking what's in season (Love British Food have a handy list). Not only is it better for the environment, but some studies have found more nutrients in produce bought seasonally.'
2. Make your own healthy ice lollies
Before you reach for the Haagen Dazs, check your fridge for the following: soft fruits (like berries, nectarines or plums) and Greek yogurt. 'By blending the two together with a dash of honey, you've made a healthy ice lolly mix - just pop into moulds and freeze,' says Laura.
If you fancy something sweeter and more of a 'treat', try Laura's banana lolly idea. 'Slice a banana in half and pop it on a lolly stick, before dipping it in melted chocolate and nuts. Then freeze on a baking tray.' The benefits? 'They're much lower in sugar than regular lollies and full of vitamins and healthy fats (if you add nuts). And because frozen foods take longer to eat, you'll feel more satisfied, too.'
3. Snack wisely to stay healthy
Summer brings so many delicious snacking options, you might never return to plain old crisps in front of the TV. As well as plenty of fresh fruit (watermelon triangles on sticks anyone?) Laura has a few other favourites.
'Edamame beans are a great snack during summer - they're a good source of protein and fibre and plenty of cafes and supermarkets sell them. Popcorn is another smart choice - it contains less calories than crisps (just avoid the sugary flavours).
I love chopping up tomatoes and sprinkling them with feta and a few olives for a savoury snack too, or adding Greek yogurt to fruit you've yet to use up (it's a great source of protein).'
4. Make your own healthy smoothies
While it's tempting to glug down litres of smoothies or juices in the summer months, Laura's warning is to be wary. 'I'd suggest going for smoothies over juices since they contain the whole fruit (so plenty of fibre, which makes them more filling).
'Juices can be sugary, so try drinking half-juice and half-sparkling water to make a cool, long drink for the garden (it halves the sugars and calories).'
And if you're buying smoothies or juices in the supermarket, look at the ingredients. 'Yogurt, milk or seeds will help balance those naturally-occurring sugars, and help keep you feeling fuller for longer.'
5. Try DIY fruit cocktails
Instead of loading up on pre-mixed cocktails at home or hitting the bar for frozen daiquiris, try DIY drinks for a healthy twist. 'Most frozen cocktails are really high in sugar, so a good tip is to alternate drinks - having something like vodka and soda for every other drink,' says Laura.
'If you love cocktails, an easy way to cut calories and sugar is to make clear drinks like gin with plenty of tonic water - adding berries to infuse it, served in a large glass with plenty of ice.'
For a non-alcoholic option, try cold-brewing hibiscus flowers for a refreshing iced tea. 'Turkish shops often sell hibiscus flowers - just brew them cold overnight (it's less bitter than brewing hot) and sweeten with a little honey for a great source of antioxidants that's also low in sugar.'
6. Perfect your healthy BBQ technique
If you've read about the link between HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and flame-cooked meat, then you might be wary of firing up that BBQ. But there are ways to reduce your risk. 'Marinating any meat or poultry using spices and herbs can make your BBQ healthier and reduce HCA by up to nearly 70 per cent,' says Laura.
'Any spice mixes, herbs or citrus is great. Cutting your meat into smaller pieces, or cooking partly in oven first also reduces the amount of time the meat spends in with flames - reducing your risk even further.'
7. Make your own low-fat salad dressing
It's easy to think you're eating 'healthily' when your plate is loaded with delicious salads and veg, but think about your sauces and dressings, too. 'Often salad dressings are full of fat, sugar and calories - sometimes more than the salad itself.
'While olive oil is great (it has anti-inflammatory properties) it's still high in calories. Instead, try mixing lemon and vinegar with a little mustard for a dressing, or make your own healthy tzatziki by mixing yogurt and grated cucumber (squeeze the cucumber in a kitchen towel first to get rid of excess moisture) with garlic and salt.'
8. Go for good quality meat (or veg)
It's recommended we eat as little processed meat as possible, so if you're a meat-lover, try making your own burgers. 'Good quality minced beef or pork with fresh herbs is great, or try free-range poultry, fish or steaks on the BBQ instead of processed sausages,' says Laura.
Or you could give a veggie BBQ (yes, that exists) a whirl. 'There are so many delicious and nutritious vegetable options - sweet potatoes in foil are great, and so is corn on the cob. I brush corn with olive oil, chilli, salt and a little parmesan.
Try vegetable skewers too (Mediterranean vegetables are best - like tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and onion) or baked aubergines in foil. You'll get plenty of fibre from the skins too, which is great for good gut bacteria.'
9. Think about your portion sizes
You've been invited to a BBQ and can't wait to hit that buffet, but according to Laura there's something you should think about. 'Studies indicate that overeating tends to happen in social situations when we're distracted,' she explains.
'The best way to combat this is not to turn up starving. Secondly, look at everything available before mindlessly filling up your plate - what's a smart choice? Aim to make half your plate full of salad or veg, and add lean protein.
'Studies say it's the volume you eat, rather than the calories that determines how full you feel afterwards, so you might surprise yourself by feeling full after just a salad. Aim to eat just one plateful and make a pact with yourself that you'll only go back if you're truly hungry.'
10. Experiment with salads
That's right, no more bland, boring salads! 'Avoid tasteless iceberg lettuce and opt for vitamin-packed rocket or watercress - there's more flavour and antioxidants,' says Laura.
'Salads are so much tastier when you roast or grill vegetables - think about adding grilled asparagus or baked butternut squash - and the different textures and flavours will leave you feeling more satisfied. Add some lean protein like tuna, chicken or feta - and some healthy fats (olive oil or nuts) and you're good to go.'
11. Up your fish intake to stay super healthy
It's recommended we eat at least two portions of fish a week (including one serving of oily fish) but are you hitting that target? 'Fish is a really good source of protein and it's so simple to prepare in the summer when you can just pop it on the BBQ in some foil,' says Laura.
'Load it with fresh herbs like parsley and coriander (stuff them inside with lemon and olive oil) or sprinkle with jerk spices. Make another healthy seasoning by chopping up garlic, ginger and chilli mixed with soy sauce - it really changes a meal and you're getting all the benefits from those fresh ingredients too.'
12. Avoid the frap trap
Hands up who skips gleefully to the frappuccino queue as soon as the sun comes out? Well, sadly they're not great for us - some contain up to 500 calories and almost 80g of sugar per serving. 'Most coffee chains share calorie info which is really helpful,' says Laura.
'Ask yourself whether it's worth consuming a large amount of calories for something that's unlikely to fill you up or sustain you. There are 'lighter' options - depending on how you feel about sweeteners - but I'd recommend an iced latte (milk is full of protein and it's low-sugar). Or DIY at home with oat milk, which tastes really creamy and indulgent and is full of fibre and folic acid too.'