Although braais tend to conjure up images of boerewors rolls, beers and bad food choices, there are loads of simple swops that you can make to keep your braai tasty and your jeans comfy. Here are my top tips for healthy braais:
Best bets for braai snacks:
- Oven-baked pretzels
- Lightly salted popcorn
- Game or lean biltong
- Raw, unsalted nuts
- Roasted, spicy chickpeas
- Vegetable crudités and dip e.g. celery, snap peas, baby carrots, baby corn, cucumber, baby tomato, etc. with hummus or cottage cheese or baba ghanoush or guacamole or butter bean dip or salsa
Meat, the main feature of the South African braai:
- Choose lean proteins e.g. chicken, fish, game meats or ostrich. Save the boerewors, fatty steaks and chops for treats.
- Remove any visible fat from meat or skin from chicken before putting on the braai.
- Use a low fat marinade (check the label) or a homemade marinade to tenderise and flavour your meat.
- Be sensible about servings – keep your meat portion to a quarter of your plate or roughly a fist-sized portion.
- You can add bold flavours without adding too many calories or grams of fat. A little sweetness is good, but more is not better. Adding a small amount of a sweet ingredient (like fruit juice, honey, brown sugar or molasses) to the marinade or grilling sauce can be a good thing. It adds flavour and helps to balance other bold spices in the marinade. But too much sweetness can encourage the meat to burn on the braai.
Homemade meat marinade recipe: Combine 150ml tomato sauce, 50ml honey, 15ml mixed herbs, 50ml vinegar, 25ml mild mustard and a dash of Tabasco sauce and mix thoroughly.
Be wise with your sides, carbohydrates to go for:
- Wholegrain breads.
- Make your own garlic bread: use fresh garlic, fresh herbs, wholegrain breads and light margarine.
- Seeded rolls.
- Sweet potato or baby potatoes in foil, baked in the coals.
- Corn on the cob wrapped in foil and placed on the grill.
- Potato salad: Made with baby potatoes and a mix of half mayonnaise with half plain yoghurt. Try these delicious potato salad recipes: Vintage Side Dish Potato Salad or Mediterranean Potato Salad.
- Couscous and roasted vegetable salad.
Eat the rainbow with colourful vegetables and salads:
- Colourful vegetable kebabs – roasted on the braai or raw.
- Butternut baked in foil on the coals – fill with fat-free cottage cheese.
- Roasted vegetables – drizzle with olive oil and add balsamic vinegar or rosemary or garlic for flavour.
- Tossed salads with a low fat dressing or a vinaigrette.
- Coleslaw: Made with half mayonnaise and half plain yoghurt.
- Beetroot salad.
- Carrot and pineapple salad.
- Grill whole large mushrooms e.g. portabellas or small mushrooms strung onto skewers.
- Grill eggplant slices, zucchini slices or asparagus spears on the braai.
- Aim to fill half your plate with salads or vegetables.
- Limit high calorie salad extras e.g. mayonnaise, cream cheese, bacon bits, blue cheese, croutons and high fat salad dressings.
- Choose a vinaigrette dressing (see recipe) or sweet chili sauce dressing.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe: Mix the following in a blender for 30 seconds (store in a jar for 1-2 weeks): 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons water (more or less depending on the consistency you want), 2 tablespoons honey (can be replaced with agave or brown sugar), ¼ teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper. From here you can make wonderful flavored vinaigrette by adding herbs like rosemary and basil or fruit like mango or strawberry.
And to drink …
- The guideline for sensible alcohol intake for men is maximum 1 – 3 units per day and for women 1 – 2 units per day (1 unit = 120ml wine; 340ml beer; 25ml spirits). The extra energy that alcohol contributes to your diet can, over time, contribute towards weight gain. Choose light beer, light cider and light wine. Have single tots of spirits. Have a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink.
- For alcohol alternatives try fruit infused still or sparkling water, diet fizzy drinks, diluted fruit juice or try these great fruit juice sparklers from Martha Stewart:
Spiced pomegranate sparkler: In a saucepan heat the 1 cup pomegranate juice to near boiling, add 1 cinnamon stick and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely (at least 1 hour). Remove the cinnamon stick. Divide the spiced juice into 2 glasses, top up with sparkling water, stir and add ice. Garnish with frozen cranberries and serve.
Cranberry-grapefruit sparkler: Combine 1 cup cranberry juice, 1 cup grapefruit juice, 1 cup sparkling water and the juice of ½ a lime and divide into 2 glasses, stir, add ice and serve with a slice of lime.
Last but not least, what about dessert..?
- Grilled fruit kebabs: try pineapple, peaches, nectarines, plums, kiwi, banana, apricot, apple or pear on the braai…
- Homemade popsicles
- Fruit crumble
I hope you have an absolutely wonderful long weekend with family and friends!