With the summer holidays just around the corner, this is usually the time that many of would be thinking about getting in shape for imminent beach holidays or the prospect of showing off a trim body in a favourite sundress or pair of shorts. Of course, this year is likely to be a very different experience for all of us, but that is not a reason that we shouldn’t aim to look and feel our best by making some healthy changes to our usual diet and exercise habits.
Here are some simple yet effective tips to get rid of those unwanted winter pounds, tone loose muscles and get your skin glowing ready to be on show as soon as the sun comes out.
Each season’s produce is designed by nature to support out bodies in making the transition from one season to another. During colder months when we may need more energy, so the available vegetables are heavier in carbs, but as we move into summer, we are able to stay hydrated and cool by eating water dense berries, cucumbers and leafy salads.
Eating fruit and veg which is in season tastes better so it’s more likely to satisfy that sweet craving that usually has you reaching for the chocolate. Because it has been allowed to ripen naturally and been picked at the right time it is packed with freshness and flavour. Think of the perfect bowl of summer strawberries – juicy, sweet and vibrant in colour!
Seasonal foods are picked at the peak of freshness and have a higher nutritional content than produce which is out of season. This will provide your body with a whole host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to benefit your health and wellbeing.
Eating seasonally also has the feel good factor as it promotes mindful eating and really gets you thinking about what you are putting into your body. As well as that it helps to support your local producers and smaller shops and businesses that need our help in these difficult times.
Go low GI
While it goes without saying that sugar is a no no, there is no need to ditch all carbs, just choose more carefully. Foods with a low GI (glycaemic index) are more slowly digested and absorbed causing a slower and smaller rise in blood sugar levels compared to higher GI foods such as sugar and white bread. This can help to control your appetite and prevent hunger pangs between meals. A low Gi diet can also help to balance your mood as you feel more in control and energised throughout the day.
Aim to include the following low GI foods in your diet
- chickpeas and beans
- nuts and seeds
- quinoa, buckwheat, brown Basmati rice, oats and barley
- summer berries, apricots, peaches and nectarines
Big up the protein
Make sure you include a good portion of protein in all your meals (not just dinner). This might mean an egg or yogurt at breakfast, fish or hummus for lunch and chicken or tofu for dinner. A higher protein intake can help regulate appetite and aid weight loss by increasing satiety, in other words help to keep you feel fuller for longer.
A higher protein intake may also help to maintain or increase the body’s fat-free mass as protein has a stimulatory effect on muscle protein growth, favouring the retention of lean muscle mass and improving metabolic rate.
Avoid anything low fat
Healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids are essential for good health. Foods such as olive oil, avocados, oily fish and nuts and seeds are packed full of healthy oils and should be a staple part of our diets. Don’t be put off by the calorie content on the label, research shows people who include healthy fats in their diets are more successful that those who adopt low fat diets, probably because they enjoy their food more and are more satisfied. Foods rich in healthy fats provide beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin K and substances that have powerful anti-inflammatory properties all of which can benefit skin and achieve that glow factor.
Boost your gut health
Research is increasing showing that a healthy gut is linked to healthy weight and good mental health. The gut is connected to the brain via the vegas nerve and therefore could influence factors such as mood and appetite. While it’s very early days, it does seem that boosting a diverse and healthy range of bacteria in your gut could have real benefits. Rather than focus on probiotics (foods, drinks and supplements containing friendly bacteria) put your efforts into eating foods that stimulate the good bacteria you already have. These foods are known as prebiotics and include kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.
Hopefully, we will see the temperature rise this summer, but with that comes the need for maintaining optimum hydration. Good hydration keeps skin looking and feeling smooth and plumped. When we are hydrated we lose water through the skin surface which creates a dewy appearance, once you become dehydrated the body conserves water reducing the amount that is lost through the skin, this leads to skin looking dry, rough and wrinkly. Staying hydrated can also help regulate appetite. It is a common mistake to confuse feelings of mild hunger with mild thirst. This can lead to unnecessary snacking and taking in unwanted calories instead of taking in more water.
The long summer days are the perfect time to start exercising outside. You may miss the atmosphere of a class or feel limited in what you can achieve, but there are proven health benefits to exercising in the fresh air compared with an artificially lit and stuffy studio. You can keep your vitamin D levels topped up, as just 20 minutes exposure each day of the arms or legs to the sun during the summer months is enough to build up your stores. If you are going out for a longer run or cycle think about going earlier or later in the day when the sun is weaker.
Training outside (especially in parks and forests) may benefit your immune system as research has found that breathing in small amounts of airborne plant chemicals improves your immune responses by 50%.
Training outside also allows you to find somewhere quiet to maintain social distancing rules, as well as vary your surroundings to keep you motivated. For instance, you are more likely to run for longer if you are exploring a new route than you would on a treadmill.
Chargrilled asparagus and goat’s cheese
300g asparagus tips
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250g goat’s cheese
Handful of fresh Basil leaves
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
Make the dressing by placing 3 tbsp of the olive oil into a bowl and add the cider vinegar, whisk together and season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
Place the asparagus tips in a bowl and drizzle with the remaining olive oiland season well. Toss to coat. Meanwhile heat a griddle pan and when hot add the asparagus and leave for a few minutes until they start to char, turn and gently char on the other side.
Transfer the asparagus onto a serving dish, crumble on the cheese, drizzle with the dressing and scatter with the Basil leaves.
Broadbean and artichoke salad
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side
250g jar of artichoke hearts
150g broad beans
50g green pitted olives
1 cucumber, diced
Juice from a lemon
Large handful of mint, roughly torn
Large handful of parsley leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp of honey
Prepare your broad beans by shelling and adding to a pan of boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes and then drain and set aside.
Roughly chop the artichokes and place them on a serving dish along with the broad beans, cucumber and olives.
Place the oil, lemon juice, half the mint and parsley and the honey in a jar and shake well. Drizzle over the salad and scatter on the remaining mint and parsley leaves.
Vine tomatoes with chicken and spicy chickpeas
3 tbsp harissa paste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
4 skinless chicken breasts, diced
500g cherry tomatoes on the vine, halved
400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
50g feta cheese
100g green beans
Place the paste, oil and honey in a bow, season with a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Then add the chicken, chickpeas and half the tomatoes. Allow to marinate overnight or for 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5 and place the marinated mixture in to a roasting dish and bake for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the green beans in a pan of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
Serve everything together with the rest of the tomatoes and the crumble the feta on top.
5 minute jog to warm up
25 jumping squats
8 minute run, at the end of each minute do 5 burpees
2 minute walk
4 minute run, for each minute, jog the first 30 seconds and increase the pace the remaining 30 seconds
Finish with 25 jumping squats and 10 burpees
2 minute jog to cool down
Warm up with a 5 minute jog, do 20 jumping jacks at the end of each minute
1 minute wall sit
15 press ups
1 minute press up hold
1 minute lunge hold each leg
25 sit ups
1 minute plank
Stretch to finish