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The healthy BRAAI

This year we’re all about eating healthy. All the time. Yip … even when we braai. We’ve found some tasty recipes that will keep those calories in check.

It’s the year of eating healthy. Need help? We did … and we found it in the Cooking from the Heart cookbook series, where we also found some simple strategies you can follow if you’re trying to maintain your weight.

Fill up on vegetables first. The more colourful your plate, the healthier.

Take a break between bites so your body has time to process the food.

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Wait at least 20 to 30 minutes before you have dessert. This gives your body time to figure out whether you’re still hungry. Listen to your body and stop when you’re full.

Focus on having a good time with the people you’re with than just the food.

Be aware of the amount of food you eat and adjust it based on its nutritional value and the goals of your eating plan by exercising portion control.

Let’s hear it for the braai. Grilling or braaiing fish, vegetables, steak and chicken is a great way to limit your calorie intake. Braaiing meat over an open flame allows the fat to drop off the food vs frying it in oil, which adds extra fat. There’s also minimal nutritional loss when grilling or braaiing veggies.

Finally, don’t feel bad about treating yourself to some of your favourite treats, but remember to moderate your intake. If you overindulge during one or two meals, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just get back on track the next day.

The Cooking from the Heart cookbook series, with a strong focus on healthy living, is collection of recipes developed by Pharma Dynamics in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA. Details: cookingfromtheheart.co.za

COLOURFUL SLAW WITH GINGER & PEANUTS

This slaw is a great side dish at a braai, but can easily be served as a salad for a light lunch.

Dressing: ¼ cup (60 ml) olive or canola oil; 3 tbsp (45 ml) red grape or apple cider vinegar; 2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce; 4 tsp (20 ml) finely grated fresh ginger; 1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped, or to taste (optional); 3 tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh coriander or parsley; ¼ cup (60 ml) finely chopped unsalted peanuts lemon juice and black pepper to taste

To make: Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

Salad: 500 ml (2 cups) each shredded white and red cabbage (or more white); 1 large spinach leaf, shredded; 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated; ¼ cucumber, quartered and thinly sliced; 1 medium pineapple, quartered and thinly sliced; 1 celery stalk with the leaves, thinly sliced; ½ red or green pepper, seeded, quartered and thinly sliced

To make: Mix all the slaw ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss well. Allow salad to stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving it. This will allow the salad to marinate.

Tips: This dressing can be used as a marinade for fish, chicken, pork or veggies. Add toasted coconut to the dressing instead of the peanuts. Serve with steak or leftover braaied chicken in whole-wheat rolls or pitas.

VEGGIE SKEWERS

These skewers are delicious when braaied over the coals.

You’ll need: 125 g button mushrooms, halved; 3 baby marrows, thickly sliced; 200 g baby tomatoes, 1 green, yellow or red pepper, seeded and cut into large cubes; 15 to 20 bay or fresh lemon or lime leaves (optional); 8 to 10 metal skewers or wooden kebab sticks, soaked in water for 30 minutes; ¼ cup (60 ml) olive or canola oil; 3 tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice; 1 tbsp (15 ml) finely grated lemon rind; 2 tsp (10 ml) each chopped fresh thyme, origanum and parsley; 1 clove of garlic, crushed black pepper to taste; ½ tsp (2,5 ml) salt

To make: Place mushrooms in a shallow dish and cover with boiling water. Soak for 8 to 10 minutes to prevent the mushrooms from breaking apart when skewered. Drain well and pat dry. Thread mushrooms and veggies onto skewers or kebabs sticks, alternating the different veggies for a colourful end result. Add 1 to 2 bay, lemon or lime leaves in between veggies. Mix oil, lemon juice and rind, herbs and garlic together and season with pepper. Brush oil mixture onto skewers on all sides and marinate for 30 minutes. Season skewers with salt.  Grill over medium to low coals or until the veggies are just cooked, but not too soft. Brush with more of the marinade, while braaiing, if necessary. The kebabs can be served with a pea and yoghurt or cottage cheese dip. Serve with a protein-rich vegetarian dish for a balanced meal.

Tips: Add pineapple to the skewers for a sweet flavour – it is delicious with pork or chicken.

A pinch of cumin or paprika or a chopped chilli can be added to the oil mixture if preferred.

For a different flavour add 1 tbsp (15 ml) finely grated fresh ginger or add 1 tsp (5 ml) mild mustard to the oil mixture.

Tips for a healthier braai:

  1. Choose proteins wisely by opting for lean meats, such as fish and skinless chicken breast instead of too much red meat. If you do opt for red meat, rather buy loin or tender cuts and remove any visible fat before cooking.
  2. Marinate or rub meat with salt-free spices and lemon, which add amazing flavour and will reduce the need for salt, which heightens your risk of hypertension. Use chilli, cumin, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, thyme or rosemary for a lip-licking taste.
  3. Limit your meat intake (of any type) to 150g.
  4. Fill up your plate with grilled vegetables, salads and side dishes. In SA, we have a great selection of fruit throughout the year so be sure to add these to the braai menu. Meat and veg sosaties (kebabs) are always a hit. Add red, green or yellow peppers, butternut, baby marrows, eggplant, mushrooms and onions to the skewer and brush with healthy oil before grilling.
  5. When preparing salads or side dishes, don’t drown them in salty sauces or heavy store-bought dressings. Rather make your own healthier condiments.
  6. Opt for wholegrain breads, rolls or wraps, which provide additional fibre, instead of white carbs.
  7. Consider healthy toppings over ice cream, such as chocolate bananas or fruit salad. Grilled fruit is also delicious! The natural sugars caramelise in the high heat, which makes it extra sweet and flavourful.
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