Have a Slim Summer!

Summer is a great time for healthy eating. Nature’s summer larder is just perfect for al fresco spreads and barbecue parties. However, extra calories can be lurking in those salad dressings, picnic hampers and cool ice creams to spoil any healthy intentions. So, how can you enjoy what summer has to offer without piling on the pounds?

Who doesn’t like soft and creamy ice-cream? Whether bought at the local corner shop, from an ice cream van, or at a fashionable parlour on the Italian Riviera, it's one of life’s small luxuries. In Britain, we eat a staggering 100 million each year. But will giving into temptation blow all your good intentions for losing weight during the summer months? Without a doubt, ice creams are high in fat and sugar, and that’s without the addition of a toffee sauce, a sprinkling of nuts or a chocolate flake! If buying ice cream from the supermarket, checking the food label is paramount if you want to monitor your weight. Or, even better, have a go at making your own.

Mass produced ice cream doesn’t exactly do what it says on the tin, as there is a distinct lack of cream! The Food Standards Agency requires ‘dairy ice cream’ to have a minimum of 2.5% milk protein and an additional minimum of 5% dairy fat. But this is not the case with anything labelled simply ‘ice cream’. Here, the product is merely required to contain 2.5 per cent milk protein and 5 per cent of any kind of fat. Partially reconstituted skimmed milk is one source, and another is whey solids. Whey is the liquid left over when milk is turned into cheese, and it is produced in vast quantities by the dairy industry. Also ice cream is sold by volume, not weight, so a way of making it go further is to whip as much air into the mixture as possible before freezing it into plastic tubs.

Raspberry rip-off?

Food producers can use pictures of fruit on the label or tub, only if the ice cream actually has some real fruit (as opposed to synthetic flavouring) in it. Anything marked, for instance, ‘raspberry-flavoured’ ice cream has probably never seen a raspberry in its life!

Below are just some examples of ice creams that may be low in fat, but are high in sugar! (All per 100g)

Carte D’Or Vanilla Light
Calories 140
Sugar 21g
Fat 4.5g
Haagen-Dazs Vanilla
Calories 225
Sugar 17g
Fat 15.3g

Walls Vanilla
Calories 84
Sugar 9.6g
Fat 4.1g

Summer is the time to savour and enjoy healthy, low calorie salads.  However, smother your lettuce, cucumber and tomato in a high-fat, shop-bought dressing and you might be better off with a burger in a bun! So, what are all the best-dressed salads wearing this summer?

Surprisingly, shop-bought dressings should be treated with caution as they are often high in fat and sugar. Definitely a good idea to check the food label!  Water is often listed as the main ingredient. Then it is ‘bulked’ out with cheap starch, usually modified maize, which thickens the dressing. A range of colourings are used to ‘pink up’ the Thousand Island dressing or give the so-called honey mustard dressing a yellow hue. The ingredients are homogenised (given a uniform consistency), then emulsifiers and stabilisers are used to give it a ‘texture’. Flavourings and salt are added to create a ‘taste’. Mmm, lovely!

So, why spoil all those delicious, fresh salad ingredients with a fatty, sugary coating? You can easily make some great dressings at home. For a good base vinaigrette dressing add 4 parts olive oil, 1 part white wine vinegar (or balsamic), 1 teaspoon of mustard and salt & pepper to taste in a screw-top jar. Shake vigorously before drizzling over your salad. You could also add chopped garlic or fresh herbs for flavouring.

And be adventurous with salad ingredients - there’s far more to the traditional lettuce, cucumber and tomato! For example, to enjoy a delicious, moist salad without the need for a dressing, you can use a low fat tub of coleslaw as a base and stir in your favourite ingredients such as chopped avocado, celery, cherry tomatoes or nuts. Or try serving something hot with your favourite salad, such as fresh tuna or salmon steak, pan-fried chicken strips or stir-fried steak.

See below for comparisons of shop-bought dressings with their calorie and fat content.
(All per 100g)

Sainbury’s Classic French Dressing
Calories 473
Sugar 2.1g
Fat 49.6g
Hellmann’s Classic French Dressing
Calories 297
Sugar 5.5g
Fat 25.9g

Aldi Classic French Dressing
Calories 33
Sugar 6.7g
Fat 0.3g

The biggest danger for dieters at a barbecue is all-day eating. Rather than having one meal for lunch or dinner, barbecues can spread out for hours and you can end up consuming more food than you would for two ordinary meals.

Traditional barbecue fare usually consists of sausages and beefburgers. But these can be fatty meats, and the calories are bumped up with a roll or bun. Try more lean cuts of meat, such as chicken or pork, delicious made into a kebabs with onions, peppers and courgettes. This cuts down on the fat and adds to the nutrients you are eating. If eating chicken drumsticks from the barbie, cook them with the skin on but then remove before eating as chicken skin adds an extra 68 calories per 100g and nearly 9g of fat!

Here's how you can enjoy a healthy, delicious barbecue without the calories!
(All per 100g)

Beef burger in a bun
Calories 246
Fat 13g

Chicken kebab
Calories 153
Fat 8g

When the sun is shining it brings to mind relaxed, outdoor eating and the great summertime tradition of enjoying a picnic. Typical picnic foods can be high in calories though when you think of sausage rolls, pork pies, potato salads and French bread. But you can still make this a great day out without notching up the calories. A little planning with the food means you can make good, healthy, nutritious choices.

Pack some crudités, such as carrot sticks, asparagus tips, baby sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and celery sticks, which are ideal for picnics. Pack a low calorie dip and you've got the perfect starter! 

Use wholemeal bread, rolls, pittas or tortilla wraps. For sandwiches, spread butter or margarine sparingly and fill with lean ham, chicken, salmon or tuna, with plenty of salad ingredients.

And with so many summer fruits available it's easy to create a splendid fresh fruit salad with peaches, mangoes, strawberries, grapes, kiwi fruit – the list is endless!

It's easy to pack a healthy picnic hamper for a delicious al fresco meal. Just avoid the pastries!
(All per 100g)

Sausage rolls
Calories 363
Fat 21g
Pork pies
Calories 385
Fat 26g

Wholemeal wrap with chicken salad
Calories 239
Fat 4g
Crudités with houmous dip
Calories 95
Fat 6g