So, in my head summer is a time when I will be eating light fresh salads, staying hydrated with lots of water and tucking into huge slices of Watermelon on the reg.

I will end the summer with clear skin and abundant energy.

In reality, summer always ends up a time of weather so hot and sticky that I’m not hungry, until I end up ravenous and buy a burger I didn’t really want. It’s a time of impromptu visits to pub beer gardens, of football games that mean you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen so you order a pizza and of street markets selling a variety of delicious sticky treats.

Now, all those things are awesome, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on them as they’re a huge part of enjoying life, but I also don’t want my energy levels to suffer, my skin to be dull and gross and my clothes to stop fitting me.

Maintaining a balance over the summer can be tricky. It’s not like Christmas when it’s only a week and you can indulge in all the Christmas treats. If you take that attitude for 8 weeks over the summer you’ll probably end up feeling less than your best.

So, how do you keep a balanced diet without being a boring Billy No Mates who stays at home sipping ice water while all their friends are sipping Prosecco on a roof terrace?

Well, today I bring you MY top tips for achieving that magic balance this summer.

Is It Worth It?

For me, eating a fancy gourmet ice cream on the beach on a sunny day is totally worth it. Eating a Magnum in the city centre just because I’m hot, not so much, so I’ll drag out the willpower and pick a sorbet or something instead.

What’s worth it or not will be different for everyone, if eating a Magnum on a bench in the city makes summer for you, then do it, but maybe for you, the mayonnaise loaded potato salad at the barbecue is something you could live without.

This one boils down to just being a bit more mindful about what you eat and not just eating it out of habit.

Consider Simple Swaps

Personally, I think anyone who tells you to eat carrots when you have a craving for crisps should be forced to eat nothing but carrots for the rest of their lives.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t simple swaps you can make to keep a balanced diet without compromising on taste. It all comes down to considering why you are eating something, and whether there’s a substitute that won’t feel like a total let down.

Food isn’t just a fuel, it’s good for the soul and it’s part of our social lives. I love eating strawberries and cream while I watch Wimbledon, but I realised I was only eating strawberries and cream because it’s a *thing*. Actually, I think strawberries and low-fat creme fraiche, or Greek yoghurt, taste just as good.

There was a large football tournament earlier this summer, not sure if you noticed? I enjoy having a beer while I watch football, it’s part of the social ritual, but actually, if I’m drinking a bog standard lager I can’t really tell the difference between Bud Light and regular Budweiser, but the light version is lower in calories and alcohol.

I’ve also found fat free greek yoghurt a “can’t tell the difference” alternative to mayonnaise when making potato or pasta salads.

Keep a balanced diet by thinking about what traditional summer options are high fat or low in nutrients, and considering if there’s something else that can swap out that tastes just as good.

Keep Your Energy Up

I find that in summer planning my regular meals around lean meats, fresh fish and lots of veggies is far easier than in Winter when I’m craving stodge and have a desperate urge to grate cheese over everything.

Meal planning is key for me all year to keep a balanced diet, and if I plan energy dense, light and fresh meals,  it leaves much more wiggle room for impulsive summer treats that are totally worth it. Fresh summer veg, lean meats and fish are high in vitamins and minerals as well, that can help keep your energy up.

B vitamins are particular vitamins to think about. They help your body convert the food you eat into energy. Taking a vitamin B supplement that contains the full B-vitamin complex, like Alive! Vitamin B-Complex Soft Jells can help support normal energy levels and reduce tiredness and fatigue. I’ve been taking these for the last month and they have a delicious cherry flavour and are suitable for vegetarians. They cost £14.99 from Holland & Barret, or you can get them on offer for £9.99 from Natures Way at the moment.

Alive! are also offering all my readers free shipping worth £3.50 on any single packs of Alive! Soft Jells till 31st August 2018. Simply order through this link, and use the code FREESHIP at checkout.

Keeping your energy levels up by stuffing your regular meals with fruit and veg and getting enough Vitamin B can also help you stay more active over the summer, as it can help fight the fatigue that so often comes with hot weather.

Stay Hydrated

OH SHUT UP GEM. I hear you cry. I often bang on about staying hydrated, but it’s so important, especially in the summer, and also much harder than you think.

I keep a pint of water by my bed that I drink as soon as I wake up and through the night, and I keep water by me all day. At a minimum, I aim to drink a pint at lunchtime, and another pint with dinner, and also drink a further pint after a workout.

Staying hydrated will help keep your energy levels up, and it will also help your body cope with an afternoon glass of Pimms.

If you can’t stand plain water then try drinking sugar-free squash. I love keeping my Big Bottle Co water bottle filled so I know I’m drinking enough throughout the day, or you could go hi-tech and try a smart water bottle which syncs with fitness trackers to tell you how much you are drinking throughout the day.

Learn to Love the BBQ

Barbecues get a bad rep for being unhealthy, but actually, there’s nothing unhealthy about grilling your food, duh huh.

I really do hate labelling food as healthy or unhealthy, but what we normally mean is low in nutrients and/or high in fat.

The thing we have a tendency to do at a BBQ, or at least I do, is insist on eating one of EVERYTHING. If you were putting your dinner together you probably wouldn’t have a cheeseburger, a sausage, and a chicken breast on one plate teamed with some pasta, potatoes, and crisps.

I recently read somewhere telling me to swap out a cheeseburger in a bun for a low-fat turkey burger on a whole wheat thin. To which I say a firm…..

Instead, I try and think of my barbecue as I would a meal. I will have that cheeseburger, because they are nice, and then I will pick myself a carbohydrate serving, which might be potato salad, because it is also nice, or it might be rice salad, depending on what mood I am in. I then also opt for veg. I like to take veg kebabs to a barbecue with peppers and onions, or often hosts will have carrot sticks (or sometimes cucumber, I am not a huge cucumber fan, but maybe you are). I also like to put green salad on my plate – partly because I feel sorry for it because everyone always has a green salad when they have a barbecue and no one eats it and then it gets thrown away. I feel sad for salad.

Make the Most of the Healthy Summer Traditions

Barbeques, and beer, and cream teas, and Pimms with sugary lemonade, and ice creams are all essential parts of summer as far as I’m concerned, but there are other summer traditions that you can make the most of all summer long and you can feel positively angelic.

Think Mediterranean style grilled fish, salsa, fresh fruit platters and lots of watermelon. Summer is full of nutritious, energy dense fresh foods, and making the most of them isn’t really a hardship.

Keep balance in mind, and it is possible to have a summer to remember and arrive in Autumn feeling happy and healthy.