Summer Food Habits for Good Health

With sunshine lifting your spirits and fresh produce in the fridge, healthy living seems easy in the summer. Whether you want to lose weight, get fitter or simply enjoy a healthier lifestyle, the summer is a great time to start. Everything seems possible when the sun shines and the days are long, but here are ten healthy habits that you'll want to carry on with even when the days get shorter.

1 Eat Summer Fruits

Blueberries and raspberries are full of nutrients: packed with vitamin C, zinc, antioxidants and folate, they're also low on the Glycaemic Index and in calories. Make the most of them while they're in season, and, afterwards, stock up on Shearways Frozen Summer Fruits (£1.88/500g). Try them in smoothies or stirred into natural yogurt with a tablespoon or two of muesli.

2 Remember Breakfast

What could be nicer on a sunny morning than spending a few relaxing minutes in the garden with a bowl of cereal? Researchers have found that people who have breakfast every day are a third less likely to be obese than those who habitually skip it. In winter, you'll have to warm up from the inside; try porridge with raisins and cinnamon, topped with a swirl of maple syrup.

3 Go for a Swim

It's much easier to contemplate stripping down to your cossie on warm days, but swimming is good exercise all year round. It's great for strength and flexibility, and is kinder to joints than running or aerobics. Just 15 minutes of slow breaststroke will burn more than 100 calories.

4 Cut the Alcohol

For a woman, a gin and tonic followed by a couple of glasses of wine with dinner technically could constitute a 'binge'. In the light of such information, it's worth considering the vast range of juices, cordials and smoothies now available. In winter, heat cloudy apple juice with cinnamon and nutmeg for a punch, or experiment with the many herbal and fruit teas on the market.

5 Use the Barbecue

As long as you cook everything properly and don't overdo the oily marinades, barbecuing is healthy fun. Marinate chicken breasts in lemon zest and juice, and fresh thyme. Cook them on a barbecue, then cut them into strips and scatter over lightly dressed leaves. If you have a gas barbecue, there's no reason not to use it in all seasons (when it isn't raining) but on chilly days a griddle pan indoors will give the same effect.

6 Use the Sun

There's nothing more relaxing than lying in the sun (with proper protection, of course). The feeling of sun on skin provides a delicious sense of wellbeing and a boost of vitamin D. Try to store up that feeling to use it during winter, when stress and darkness threaten your mood. If you're among the two per cent of northern Europeans who suffer seriously from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), you may need help from your doctor, but for a mild case of winter blues, think back to that sunny place and remember how good it felt.

7 Cook Less

Heating fruit and veg can deplete their vitamin content by between five and 25 per cent, depending on the food and method used (there are exceptions, though: steamed carrots, say, offer more betacarotene than raw). So make the most of summer's produce by enjoying some of it raw. Courgettes and fennel are delicious sliced thinly and tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. In winter, simply replace summer foods with seasonal produce such as chicory, red cabbage and celeriac.

8 Get Walking

Whether it's giving the dog more of a run or getting off the bus early, upping your paces pays dividends. Walking at a moderate rate (3.5mph) for 15 minutes will burn 90 calories and constitute half of the 30 minutes of daily exercise most people should aim for. Try eating earlier in the evening; you'll be able to enjoy a walk after. In winter, you could convert this to a session in the living room in front of an exercise video.

9 Enjoy Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain high levels of vitamins A and C, as well as lycopene, which is thought to combat cancer. So, while they're ripe, enjoy them in salads with basil and olive oil, or diced and mixed with chopped olives and anchovies as a dressing for grilled fish or chicken. But the good news is that lycopene is even more potent in cooked and canned tomatoes, so wintry pasta sauces, stews and even pizza toppings can provide a valuable nutritional boost.

10 Eat More Meals

In hot weather, one tends to be less tempted by huge, filling meals, so get into the habit of eating little and often. Many nutritionists feel that eating four or five smaller meals a day is better than two or three larger ones, as this helps to regulate blood sugar, which is good for concentration and energy levels.

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