We all know its tough to stay trim in winter when the days are cold and comfort food beckons. But experts believe the mood-boosting effects of sunshine make it easier to stay in control of your food intake (a theory borne out by a 2013 San Diego State University study showing Google searches on disordered eating were lowest in summer). Serious weight-control motivation can be easier to come by in summer too, with women rating wearing a bikini as a bigger threat to their confidence than baring all in the bedroom, according to a 2012 study.

So with the summer season giving you a helping hand, it would be mad not to seize the advantage, and slim down with less effort. Here are seven ways to do just that.

A MEDITERRANEAN DIET APPEALS

Eating a healthy Mediterranean diet feels ‘right’ when you’ve got weather to match – it’s easier to forgo the stodge and eat lighter when the sun’s shining. As well as making it easier to manage your weight, a diet based around fish, colourful veg, nuts and olive oil will also lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Top Seasonal Hacks

  • Swap to feta – perfect for salads, this tasty cheese has only 100 calories in a 40g chunk, compared with 166 calories in the same-sized portion of English Cheddar.
  • Go Greek for breakfast. A 150g portion of 0% Greek yoghurt has the same number of calories as a boiled egg (around 85), but twice as much appetite-curbing protein. Harvard researchers examined the eating habits of 120,000 people for 20 years and found that yoghurt was one of the best foods for shedding pounds: over time, people who ate more of the protein- packed food lost pounds without trying.
  • Swap wintery pulse dishes such as baked beans on toast or chilli con carne for lighter ones such as a butter bean, tuna and tomato salad or a chickpea, red onion and mint salad. Pulses provide a stomach- filling combo of protein and fibre.

 YOUR CARB CRAVINGS SUBSIDE

During winter, low light levels can affect serotonin levels in the brain, which may increase the urge for carby snacks, says dietician Dr Sarah Schenker. ‘When sunshine levels increase in summer, cravings for pasta, bread and sugary snacks may not be as strong.’

Top Seasonal Hacks

  • Capitalise on your need for less carbohydrate by enjoying lower-calorie open sandwiches (just one slice of bread) with sunshiny toppings. A slice of rye lends itself to smashed avocado, with sliced tomato and fresh basil leaves. You’ll save around 100 calories. 
  • Switch to spiralised veg – now mainstream in supermarkets – in place of noodles. Or, as a half-way house, try Waitrose new Quinoa and Spiralised Vegetable Burst (£2.69 for 300g), which provides some high-quality carbs (for energy), but with good levels of protein and a serving of your five-a-day. 
  • Go for chilled potatoes in a summery salad. The resistant starch in them – which only forms when cooked potatoes cool down – can’t be fully absorbed, thereby lowering the calories you get from them. This type of starch also releases energy more slowly, which helps keep you fuller for longer.

FRESH FIGS ARE IN SEASON

Another waistline-friendly taste of summer, fresh figs are available from M&S, for around £3 for five (marksandspencer.com). Two figs contain less than 50 calories but a similar amount of fibre as a slice of wholemeal bread, so they make a sweet and satisfying summer snack or dessert.

Top Seasonal Hacks

  • Make a satiating smoothie by whizzing up 2 fresh figs, 50g raspberries and a nectarine with some ice (just 132 calories).
  • Add some protein by wrapping halved figs in lean Serrano ham – a couple make a low-calorie yet appetite-curbing snack.
  • For a simple dessert that counts as one of your five-a-day, grill honey-drizzled figs until soft and caramelised and serve with a little mascarpone.

 YOU’RE THIRSTIER

Warmer weather forces us to drink more, which can help in curbing your appetite, keeping your weight in check (as long as what you drink is calorie free). A study in the journal Obesity found a large glass of water before each meal helped dieters shed an extra 4lb over 12 weeks.

Top Seasonal Hacks

  • Add loads of ice to your water – you’ll burn a few extra calories bringing it up to body temperature!
  • Ditch milk for lemon in your tea – it’s so refreshing, and lighter on calories, too.
  • Spritz wine and fruit juice with fizzy water to dilute calories and make drinks longer- lasting and more thirst-quenching.

BERRIES ARE CHEAP AND PLENTIFUL

Berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are a slimmer’s friend, with only around 5g sugar per 100g, compared with twice this or more in most other fruit. As an added bonus, they’re also a rich source of skin-friendly vitamin C and anthocyanins – perfect to give you a summer glow.

Top Seasonal Hacks

  • Swap your mid-morning banana snack for a bowl of berries – saving around 70 calories.
  • For a lighter, healthier chocolate fix, enjoy strawberries dipped in a little melted chocolate, or raspberries sprinkled with a teaspoon of good-quality drinking chocolate powder (such as Green & Black’s Organic) or raw organic cacao powder.
  • For a less sugary alternative to summer ice cream, blitz 300g of raspberries,150g of strawberries and 2 tbsp of icing sugar with 200ml of water and freeze into lolly moulds.

 YOU CAN BREAK OUT THE BARBECUE

Eating al fresco isn’t just fun; it can actually be a chance to enjoy healthy, non-fattening food. ‘Grilling is a great way to cook meat without additional fat. Plus, some of the fat in the meat will sizzle away,’ says registered dietician Helen Bond. Forget fatty sausages, though!

Top Seasonal Hacks

  • Marinate lean meat such as chicken or steak to keep it succulent and tasty without the need for sauces. A marinade of oil, vinegar and herbs will also reduce the formation of harmful carcinogens when you flame grill.
  • Make low-fat garlic mushrooms – take a large square of tinfoil, spray with cooking oil, add sliced mushrooms, seasoning and a clove of crushed garlic and wrap. Cook the parcel on the BBQ for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Grill fresh sardines – they’re cheaper and lower in calories than burgers and are a great source of heart-healthy omega-3. Rub scaled and gutted sardines with lemon zest and chili flakes, then grill for four minutes each side.

 YOUR APPETITE IS SMALLER

One theory is that our hunger naturally lessens when the outside temperature is closer to body temperature and we need fewer calories to keep us warm: in a 2013 study, people who worked out in a hot environment (30°C) ate less afterwards than those who exercised in a cooler setting (10°C), which seems to bear out an appetite-curbing effect of heat.

Top Seasonal Hacks

  • Work with your reduced hunger by actively cutting your portion size – it’s still easy to eat more than you actually want if you put winter-sized portions on your plate.
  • Order two starters rather than a starter plus main if you’re eating out. It will vary depending on the you dishes you choose, but on average you’ll save at least 300 calories.
  • At summer buffets and barbecues, fill your plate the first time round with everything you want to eat – it’s safer than going back several times for just one item as it’s harder to track how much you’ve eaten with multiple trips.

 Healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard, we promise. The seven simple diet hacks above will see the pounds fall away.