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Eight Tips for a Healthy Braai

There is nothing better than that smell of a braai, or barbeque for some, wafting through the air.

During the early summer evenings, I bear witness to my husbands’ excitement when his nose turns towards the smoky, sweet aromas of our neighbour’s braai, followed by his rapid disappointment when he realizes we not having one.

When one thinks of a braai, they immediately think of boerewors rolls (well-known South African sausage), fatty meat, beer and other sub-optimal food choices. The truth is, braais can swing to either the healthy side or the very unhealthy side, it just depends on how you go about them. They can be a great way to cook with minimal fat too.

Let’s face it, there is no way you are going to let this summer pass you by without making or participating in a braai; so, you may as well make sure its done in a healthy way.

1 Protein choice

Let’s start with the tip that seems to be the most obvious but is sometimes not thought through well enough. What is on the menu when it comes to your braai?

  • Choose lean proteins sources such as chicken, game meats, ostrich, beef fillet or even fish.
  • Limit the boerewors intake. Try and ask your butcher to make some for you with lean beef or chicken – this way you cut out most of the saturated fats.
  • I know it is the most delicious part of a braai but remove that visible fat from the meat or chicken. Although there is much conflicting research, the American Heart Association still recommends to follow a diet low in saturated fats, as it results in the development of high cholesterol and other chronic diseases.


2 Choose low GI starch options

  • Instead of going for starches such as mealie pap or garlic bread, pop some sweet potatoes, baby potatoes, corn on the cob and butternut onto the grill on that braai.
  • Make your own garlic bread using fresh garlic, herbs, olive oil and a sourdough bread.
  • Make a potato salad out of sweet potatoes or baby potatoes.


3 Avoid using ready-made marinades

  • Ready-made marinades and condiments are usually very high in sugar, preservatives and other ingredients which put a strain on our inflammatory and detoxification system. Flavour your food with fresh herbs, onion, lemon juice, garlic and tomatoes which will all give you that extra bioactive benefit, ‘switching on’ all your healthy gene pathways.
  • Include spices that are low in salt such as cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, chilli flakes, cumin, coriander seeds. Rub in some turmeric, adding that curcumin which will help ‘switch off’ your anti-inflammatory pathways.
  • For sweetness add a touch of raw honey, which contains flavonoids and polyphenols which have anti-proliferative, anti-cancer effects. Take care not to add to much as this not only increases the calorie content of the meat but also causes the meat to burn/char.


4 Salads, salads and MORE salads

  • Making salads a major component of your sides is a fantastic way to not only get in all those vitamins, minerals and bioactive ingredients, but it also ensures you plate-up a well-balanced meal and keep those braai calories at bay.
  • Use fresh ingredients and try to include at least one cruciferous vegetable on the plate. These contain the powerful sulforaphane which help to ‘switch on’ your inherent detoxification system in your liver.
  • See my delicious summer salads for some ideas.


5 Serve up sensible portions

  • Portion sizes are key to maintaining healthy eating habits. Remember what your plate should look like. Fill your plate with greens and salads. Dish up a healthy-sized protein portion and only one small starch portion.
  • This is where mindfulness and intuitive eating come in. It is important to assess how hungry you are before you dish up your food and during the meal. Honour your hunger and respect your fullness.


6 Watch the booze

  • Limit alcoholic beverages that have a high calorie and sugar content. Don’t drink your calories. Beers are extremely high in calories, where one beer is equivalent to 4.5 slices of bread.
  • Be wary of the mixers you use as they very quickly add up when it comes to calories. Alcohol places an extra toxin load on the liver.
  • Poor detoxification can result in weight gain, headaches and exhaustion.


7 Be prepared and make healthy pre-braai snacks

  • Avoid coming to a braai very hungry as this results in an overindulgence of pre-braai snacks.
  • Provide snacks that are nourishing such as popcorn, lean biltong, roasted spiced nuts, dips, roasted chickpeas, hummus and vegetable crudités. Keep a look out for my spiced hummus dip


Avoid charring the meat

Research shows that braaing/grilling meat at very high temperature results in the formation of heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which results in increased risk of cancer and inflammatory disorder. Advanced glycation end products form in the food when they char over a hot braai. These products increase toxin load, increase oxidative stress and inflammation and can result in chronic diseases development as well as poor aging.

  • Use a medium to low heat coal or temperature setting.
  • Try shortening the grilling time by putting smaller pieces of protein on the braai or even pre-cook them for a few minutes.
  • Put the food on the outskirts of the braai, so as to avoid the food being directly over the heat and charring.

Keep a lookout for some of my braai recipes to come.

Nourish yourself to the sunrise.

Written with love ,
Sunrise by HM

Nourished yet? Comment on what I should write about next?

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