Is your summer salad making you fat?

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New year’s resolutions a distant memory; another failure chalked up on your board of self depreciation?
Side stepping bike riding or taking country walks, preferring to stay indoors snuggled in winter clothes using the unseasonally damp, cold late spring weather as an excuse?

“I’ll start once the weather warms up…” 

Now Britain is basking in the kind of summers we remember from our childhood, we’re all enjoying those energetic activities we spent all winter dreaming about…right?


My guess is that like millions of others, you’re enjoying al fresco dining, summer barbecues, a chilled white wine after a hard day at the office or a Pimms with friends at weekend and not actually hitting hiking trails at all!  AND you’re wondering why your clothes are getting tighter or secretly wishing your thighs wouldn’t rub together in the sweltering heat…

“But I’m eating salad every day…and meat…I try to avoid carbs…why wouldn’t I be losing weight?”

Which brings me to my main point:  Summer food – despite its lettuce coated exterior – can deliver more fat and overall calories than the seemingly heavy ‘meat and two veg’.

Don’t get me wrong, I love salad!  I love raw food; the crunch, the texture, the flavour, the simplicity.

Raw food has many benefits including being richer in nutrients (when eaten as soon as possible after picking or preparation), containing natural enzymes that aid digestion, plus the fact that raw, fresh produce doesn’t contain antinutrients – chemicals and compounds that rob your body of essential nutrients.iPhone pix June-July 2013 056

The link between summer food and weight gain is primarily linked to the traditional British (and probably American too) approach:  Barbecue meat portions 2-3 times bigger than required, large bowls of high fat dips scooped up onto fat laden crisps, new potatoes smothered in mayonnaise, sugar-rich dressings (yes YOU…honey and mustard fan!).  Combine this with an abundance of carbohydrate-rich over processed white bread rolls, burger baps, pasta salads alongside appetizers like sausage rolls and things-on-sticks and you have a recipe for disaster.  This is before you even add in chilled white wine, bottles of cider, cans of beer or jugs of cocktails AND a two week holiday of dietary abandonment!

“I’m on holiday, I want to relax and eat what I want…”

Here are my Top Five Tips to healthier summer dining:

  1. When barbecuing at home, instead of a buffet style meal serve each person a regular sized plate of food with one portion of protein (i.e. one chicken breast or steak, 2-3 sausages (depending on size), 1-2 mackerel), one portion of carbohydrate a similar weight to the protein – 4-6 ounces of each.  Buffets naturally encourage us to eat more than necessary; if you’re at a buffet event then ensure you fill your plate up only once and try to include half a plate of vegetables (not deep fried ones!).iPhone pix June-July 2013 069
  2. To reduce the need for mayonnaise and high fat dressings (or even low-fat dressings which contain SUGAR!), try starting with fresh meat or fish and use natural flavourings and marinades including ingredients such as olive oil, lemon and lime juice, fresh or dried herbs, dried spices, chilli peppers and natural yogurt.iPhone pix June-July 2013 006
  3. Ensure the ‘salad’ part of your meal is exactly that – just salad!  Any combination of raw, fresh vegetables or fruit is great  but should NOT include: potato salad with mayonnaise, coronation chicken (more mayo), coleslaw, sour cream based dips…  These are all acceptable items (I never tell people to avoid certain foods, just to learn which are nutritious and which ruin any chance of a healthy, lean body) however, they are accompaniments.  A dessertspoon of coleslaw to jazz up chicken breast and greens with new potatoes is delicious, but leave a whole tub on the table and the average family will devour the whole lot before mum has a chance to say, ‘that’s meant to last all weekend’!
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  4. Make as many dishes as possible from scratch, 80% of the time.  We are all victims of our own busy schedules and while the occasional ready-to-eat dish or pre-prepared ingredients won’t hurt a healthy eating plan, doing so frequently will definitely play a role in your expanding waistline or decreased health, digestion and immunity.
    iPhone pix June-July 2013 050
  5. It’s very easy to get sucked into drinking alcohol every time you eat outside on a balmy evening; as if the sun is hypnotizing us, but consider your long term health and potential for liver damage or other alcohol related diseases.  Keep alcohol to a maximum of 2-3 occasions per week, limiting to 2-3 glasses (of government guideline size).

Finally, whatever your health and fitness goals, whatever your ideal body size, shape or leanness, one thing is sure:

You must love yourself and be committed to making positive changes for yourself – not for anyone else or from peer pressure – just for you!

So go ahead, enjoy every second of this beautiful weather, but go armed with an awareness of what’s in your food and the quantity you’re eating and whether you could make a few small changes to achieve a happier, healthier you!

Until next week,


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Post Author: Lorraine Pannetier

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