Summer is often a great motivator for changing our eating habits and trying to get into shape. But instead of going on a diet, why not  consider making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle which you can adopt throughout the summer and beyond.  Here qualified nurse & nutitionist Sue Bedford provides her top tips.

1.  Aim to eat a minimum of 5, but preferably 8 to 10 fruits and vegetables a day.

2.  Choose “negative calorie” vegetables which use up more calories to digest than the number of calories they contain.  Examples are broccoli, carrots, celery, lettuce, asparagus, cauliflower, chilli peppers, cucumbers, garlic, onions, spinach, turnip.

3.  Fruit is best eaten in the morning – for example, a fruit smoothie for breakfast, or as a snack between meals.  Negative calorie fruits include apples, tangerines, papayas, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, grapefruit, lemons, mangos, oranges.

4.  Include some raw vegetables in your diet each day, such as a side salad or crudités but avoid high sugar and fat dressings or dips.

5.  NEVER cook vegetables in a microwave as it destroys most of the nutrients and can be harmful to health.  Steaming is the best cooking method.

6.  Unless you have an allergy to them, nuts and seeds make an ideal snack instead of crisps or chocolate.  They are best eaten raw and a handful is not as fattening as you may think.

7.  Choose lean cuts of meat but only eat a small portion.  It’s not necessary to eat meat every day.

8.  Eat at least one portion of oily fish a week such as salmon, tuna or mackerel.

9.  Use a smaller plate.  Psychologically, you will feel more satisfied eating from a full, small plate than a half empty, large plate.

10.  Go easy on the dairy products.  They can be quite fattening and are not essential for health.  Green, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds are a far superior source of calcium.

11.  Natural, pro-biotic yogurt can help aid digestion by providing millions of good bacteria to the gut but avoid yogurts with fruit, sugar or artificial sweeteners.

12.  Keep processed foods to a minimum, especially starchy carbohydrates, as they are high in calories and soon leave you craving for more.

13.  Avoid “white” foods such as white bread, pasta, rice and sugar.  Instead, use the wholemeal or brown versions.

14.  Avoid all artificial sweeteners as they are harmful to health and actually stimulate your appetite!  Xylitol, a natural sweetener, is a safer alternative with few calories.

15.  Drink at least 2 litres of fluid a day, ideally water.

16.  If you feel hungry between meals, try a glass of water, first. Thirst lets us know we are dehydrated but sometimes we mistake it for hunger.

17.  Keep caffeinated drinks to a minimum as they can be dehydrating.

18.  Alcohol is high in calories, so limit the amount you drink.

19.  Avoid fizzy drinks full of empty calories.  Even the diet versions are bad and will make you want to eat more!

20.  To make up the shortfall in nutrients in our food today, take a broad-spectrum multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.  Liquid versions are usually best for absorption.

21.  Take a probiotic supplement with billions of “good” bacteria (acidophilus and bifidus) to aid digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gut.

22.  Take fish oil, either in capsules or as a liquid for omega 3 fatty acids.

23.  If you are deficient in Vitamin D, your ability to lose weight will be harder.  A supplement with Vitamin D3 can help raise your levels.  Most people in the UK are deficient during the winter months.

24.  If you need help to curb your appetite, Hoodia, a cactus-like herb, can suppress hunger pangs and help you feel full after eating a smaller amount of food.

25.  Avoid eating after 7pm.  Any carbohydrates not used as energy will be stored as fat.

26.  Get active.  No need to sign up for the gym.  A brisk walk, running up and down stairs, parking further away from your destination, doing housework  . . . can all help burn extra calories and keep you fit and healthy.

27.  Finally, some people struggle with weight control due to an underlying medical condition.  The most common are Hypothyroidism (underactive Thyroid Gland), Insulin Resistance (Pre-Diabetes/Type 2 Diabetes), or a Food Intolerance.  If you suspect you may have a problem, consult a health practitioner for a health check.

To request a free E-Book from Pulse Health Screening called “Choosing a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle”, go to www.pulsescreening.co.uk/EBook.

Sue Bedford is a mum of 4, and runs 2 businesses from home. Pulse Health Screening offers health assessments and a wide range of tests and services in the Beds, Bucks and Herts area, most of which are unavailable in the NHS. Sue also has a diploma course in nutrition and runs a website called Healthy Choices offering nutrition & lifestyle advice along with a range of toxin-free, personal care and household products.