Your fridge is stocked with steak, ribs and marinated chicken and your invites have been sent out. It’s a warm sunny weekend and you’re not going to miss out on an afternoon of braaing and socialising. Fortunately, we have come a long way since the days of greasy wors, burnt chops, pap and limp salads – the modern braai can be a healthy gourmet experience.
You can still manage your health, lose weight, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, have lots of energy while enjoying your favourite barbeques!
Be sure to read these tips before you dust off that grill …
1. Before eating at a braai, have a small snack beforehand. It will help curb your appetite and help you minimize overindulging on the high fat snacks such as nuts, biltong, crackers, crisps and dips that are often available before the main meal is served.
2. Alternatively, light the fire early or get the grill going so you do not get too hungry and snack too much while waiting!
3. There is often too much emphasis placed on meat at a braai – the portions eaten are too big, and can be fatty. Try leaner meats and why not experiment with fish?
4. Kebabs are a great way of making a small portion of meat go further – add onion, peppers, mushroom or dried fruit between the chunks of meat so that each kebab contains a smaller amount of meat. Soak the wooden skewers overnight in water to prevent them from burning.
5. Go for leaner cuts of protein such as fillet, lean beef, pork, ostrich or skinless chicken.
6. Cut the Fat – trim all visible fat off meat before cooking it.
7. Another sharp idea is to let flavour infuse your meat by adding fresh herbs to the coals, rather than slathering on oily marinades.
8. Leave butter and margarine out wherever possible. Just one heaped teaspoon packs on 10 grams of fat. Lemon juice and fresh garlic are fantastic flavourers.
9. Go for lower fat sauce condiment options such as mustards, tomato sauce, sweet chilli, etc. Why not make a home made tomato, onion and basil sauce to serve with the food?
10. To help manage your blood pressure and look after your heart, lose the salt – Use fresh herbs and spices to enhance flavour instead of salt or salt-based meat flavourings.
11. Boerewors and sausage is typically high in fat and cholesterol – ask your butcher to make leaner wors using game or ostrich meat with as little fat as possible.
12. Marinate – add bold flavours without adding too many kilojoules or fat grams. Use liquids such as fruit juices, lemon juice, wine or low sodium meat or vegetable stock to marinate and add new flavour infusions. Try these ingredients to make delicious easy cost effective marinades for your meat, poultry or fish. Almost any combination to your preference of the following ingredients: Soya sauce, sweet chili sauce, red wine, mustard, finely chopped pineapple, honey, lemon juice and any fresh herbs e.g.: coriander.
TIP: Use pineapple (fresh or from tin) as a natural tenderizer for meat. It contains an enzyme called bromelain which assists with protein digestion.
13. Tip: Have large resealable plastic bag, will marinate!
One of the easiest ways to marinate meat, chicken, fish or vegetables is to place them inside a large, resealable plastic bag. Set the bag in a medium sized bowl, then drizzle the marinade over the food. Seal the bag, eliminating any excess air. The food should be surrounded by the marinade. Keep marinating in the refrigerator until you’re ready to grill.
14. Instead of the traditional meat braai, try a fish braai – it is healthier and a delicious alternative.
15. Fish recipe idea: Simply Salmon
Salmon makes a great alternative to meat. Place a whole fillet onto a sheet of foil large enough to make a parcel. Slice half a lemon and layer over the top of the salmon, squeeze the other half over the fish, season and wrap the foil to make a make a generous parcel. Cook on the braai for about 10 minutes – depending on thickness of the fish fillet. This is delicious served with natural, low fat yoghurt, large mixed salad and crusty health bread.
16. On the Side – One of the best things about a braai is the variety of foods on offer – so don’t limit this simply to what you cook on the grill. A bit of pre-planning will ensure a healthy choice of accompaniments, steer clear of mayonnaise based salads such as coleslaw and potato salad as these are laced with fat.
17. Add as much colour as possible by including salad based options to the braai such as beetroot salad, carrot salad, sweet potato salad with a light mayonnaise, three-bean salad and mixed green salad. Three-bean salad not only adds heaps of fibre but also lowers the GI of the meal, keeping your energy levels up for longer, while a garden salad fills you up without filling you out.
18. Add vegetables such as butternut, onions, sweet potato, corn on the cob and pumpkin to your braai. They are delicious and will help you to cut back on the portions of protein and carbohydrates on your plate.
19. A few other ideas to boost veggies at your braai:
Mushrooms with garlic.
Grilled Asparagus spears. Just trim off the white end and grill the spears whole.
Make a paste with crushed ginger, chilli, sesame seeds, olive oil and raw honey. Spread this paste on corn-on-the-cob and braai, turning until golden brown all over.
Cut butternut in half – remove pips. Fill with fat free smooth cottage cheese and a dash of nutmeg and brown sugar. Wrap in foil and braai on coals.
Make veggie kebabs or wrap in foil and bake in the coals. Marinating vegetables will help them caramelize better when they’re grilled, and it’s the caramelization that brings the best flavors. Just submerge the vegetables in marinade for about an hour before putting them on the grill. If you don’t have that kind of prep time, just coat the vegetables ever so lightly with a little olive oil or canola oil.
Tip: If using wooden skewers don’t forget to pre-soak them for 30 minutes to avoid the ends burning whilst cooking.
20. Go for the healthier starch options by choosing lower GI (slow release) choices such as sweet potato, barley, low GI bread. Instead of the usual white rolls use wholewheat pita bread quarters or small wedges of rye bread. Heat on the warm grid. Once heated, remove from grid and spread with a low fat dip such as hummus or chunky fat free cottage cheese.
21. Go easy on the beer, cider and other alcoholic beverages. Many people underestimate the number of kilojoules in alcoholic beverages. Have a glass of water in-between drinks.
22. Serve large jugs of water infused with herbs (mint or lavender) and fruit (lemon wedges, orange slices, chopped strawberries etc.).
23. Keep dessert fruit based for a perfect end to a deliciously healthy meal such as
Cut paw paw, peaches or pears in half, removing all seeds/pips. Braai for a few minutes on each side and serve with fat free vanilla yoghurt or low fat custard.
Bananas wrapped in foil with a little melted dark chocolate are my favourite and simply decadent.