Common-sense swaps for a healthier summer

As the temperature rises, the days get longer, the weather sunnier, and we slowly attempt to peel off each layer of winter clothing, it generally follows that we become more aware of the benefits of a healthy diet and a new exercise regime. This is great! There’s nothing better than a jog around the park or a 20 minute HIIT session in the back garden when the sun’s shining (right?).

However, in the euphoria of our vitamin D overload and our desperate attempt to make the most of the beautiful weather, we can often be dragged into a calorific whirlwind of parties, barbeques and picnics.

So I’ve put together some simple swaps for when you’re out making the most of this lovely sunshine!

The summer BBQ

My guess is that most of us will go to, or host, at least 2 or 3 barbeques this summer. For some I imagine that’s a very conservative estimate.

The food served at barbeques doesn’t need to be unhealthy, so here are some ideas for guilt-free barbequing:

1. Opt for the meat without the bun, especially if the buns are white bread. This will reduce your consumption of refined carbs and if you really have a hankering for something to wrap around your burger you could try using wholemeal or seeded pitta bread.

2. Choose better quality, leaner meats or fish. Go for steaks, organic grass-fed beef burgers, turkey burgers or fresh fish and prawns – for the lowest saturated fat and the best sources of protein. Try to limit the amount of processed meat you consume and don’t overcook your meat!

3. For veggies- go easy on the cheese and instead go for falafel burgers  or veggie kebabs with smaller pieces of halloumi.

4. Pile the salad (avoid the mayonnaise drenched potato and pasta offerings pretending to be salad), corn-on-the-cob, or veggie kebabs onto your plate with your meaty BBQ goodies and you’ll soon fill up on the good stuff and won’t need seconds…or thirds.

5. Swap the chips or fries for thick cut, roasted sweet potato wedges cooked in a small amount of olive oil or coconut oil.

6. For a ‘posh’ non-alcoholic drink serve sparkling water with cucumber and mint and lots of ice (almost tastes like a mojito!). There are loads of ideas for very impressive and tasty ‘Mocktails’.

After-work drinks

The warmer it gets and the lighter the nights, the better the excuse for a night out! It doesn’t even have to be ‘out out’ just ‘out’. Beer gardens, rooftop bars or even dusty pavements with a few plastic chairs; they’re all fair game when the sun comes out. However, the additional calories you consume from alcohol are all empty (i.e. there’s absolutely no nutritional benefit); 7 kcals per gram of pure alcohol to be precise. Most drinks will have an abundance of additional calories in the form of sugar too. So how do you stay healthy and stick to your new regime? Here are a few ideas:

1. Stick to spirits mixed with reduced sugar mixers, like low calorie tonic water or soda water with fresh lemon. The worst things to be drinking? Beers, most wines, sugary cocktails (‘You’ve literally wrecked my life!’ I hear you scream).

2. Make it a spritzer. If your drink of choice is wine, then add sparkling water, soda or diet lemonade. Instantly you’re cutting your calories in half and adding some fizz.

3. Have a non-alcoholic drink in between each alcoholic one to keep hydrated and to reduce your overall alcohol consumption.

4. Go teetotal for a while. Shock horror! Can it be done? Yes, if you’re serious about getting fit and losing weight. Visit the Drink Aware website for the facts about alcohol

When you’re feeling ‘nibbly’

You wouldn’t be the perfect summer party host without crisps and dips would you? Why not try some alternatives?

1. Try making your own pitta or tortilla chips – cut pitta or tortilla into small triangles, rub conservatively with a small amount of olive oil, sprinkle on some black pepper, sea salt and any additional seasoning you fancy and then pop into the oven to bake.

2. Opt for fresh carrots, pepper or celery to dip for a much healthy choice.

3. Choose tomato-based dips such as salsa to reduce the calorie content or fresh yoghurt-based ones like tzatziki. Guacamole and houmous are packed with good fats and are filling to boot, just don’t go over-board. Remember your portion control. Here are some really great ideas for healthy dips that will keep things interesting and will hopefully move you away from the thousand island or the chilli cheese.

When you hear the ice-cream van

You know it’s summer (or at least the sun has shown itself for all of 2 minutes) when you hear that well known sound of British Summer….. ‘Greensleeves’? Yep, not sure why, but it works when it’s being piped from a van that sells iced goods. Here are a few healthier icy treats:

1. If you’re buying from the van opt for an ice cream with fewer calories – My favourite is the Solero and it’s under 100 calories! You’ll be surprised which other lollies are low calorie too.

2. Ignore the van and make your own fresh fruit ice-pops – freeze pieces of kiwi or strawberry into some no-added sugar fruit cordial.

3. Try freezing your own greek or natural yoghurt after swirling in some fresh fruit and honey (not too much honey!). You won’t tell the difference between that and ice cream! Promise!

Here’s a brilliant recipe combing the yoghurt and the lolly elements of 2 and 3.

A picnic in the park

If you’re anything like me having a picnic is one of the best things in the whole wide world. I’ve been known to eat a picnic in early winter at the top of a hill in the Lake District. It’s a great way to eat out, without eating out. Here’s how to make it a healthy pastime too:

1. Replace your white bread sandwiches with wholemeal wraps, or seeded pitta pockets. Or you could even consider using lettuce leaves to wrap around your sandwich filling instead of the bread. It tastes better than it sounds!

2. For the sandwich fillings think fresh salad, sliced boiled egg, cottage cheese, tuna or unprocessed and thinly sliced chicken or turkey. Replace butter or mayonnaise with a small amount of natural yoghurt seasoned with fresh black pepper, a few chilli flakes and a pinch of salt. For more wrap ideas click here.

3. Swap fatty crisps for lightly salted popcorn (you could even pop your own and add your favourite savoury seasoning) or olives (olives are packed with good fats).

4. Instead of sausage rolls or other pastry covered foods, choose small pieces of freshly cooked chicken without the skin, prawns, a small handful of almonds or a small piece of cheese like a mini babybel.

5. Instead of reaching for the fizzy soft drink, go for sparkling water flavoured with a small amount of no-added sugar fruit juice.


Having read all of that…. you’re probably thinking ‘but I’ve been good for the majority of the week, I’ve trained hard and I just want a little treat’. Well go for it! Keep treats as treats, don’t let them become part of your everyday diet and you’ll be absolutely fine. Life’s too short and, quite honestly, so is the British Summer!


Enjoy everyone! Bye for now.

p.s. I’d be interested to know if anyone has any other good summer swaps…. comment below if you have. Thanks!

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