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Have yourself a healthy South African braai!

By December 19, 2012December 8th, 2022No Comments

Horrors!  I hear you say.  The whole point of a “lekker” braai is a best quality, thick cut of red meat surrounded by a layer of luscious fat.   But maybe it’s time to take a reality check – we are not suggesting that you give up braaiing, but consider healthy options, when braaiing, which can assist in minimising conditions associated with ageing.

Braaiing is a national institution and part of our South African culture, and most of us spend hours at weekends around the braai.   We even have a National Braai Day!

Traditionally, the braai was the cooking method of the Dutch pioneers or Voortrekkers, who when travelling inland from the Cape Colony into the unknown wilderness had no choice, but to shoot fresh meat and cook it on open fires.   Today, the majority of South African men consider themselves as braai puritans and insist that the proper braai is cooked on an open wood fire.  Webers have gained popularity and gas braais are, according to some, for those unfortunate few who have not had the honour of being taught the braai fire skill which is handed down from father to son!

However, we have come a long way from the original protein-feast, when vegetables were considered to be the occasional foil-wrapped potato or onion chucked into the coals.   We have graduated to introducing interesting salads and home-baked bread.

As long as we can keep the spirit of the South African braai alive, together with the mingled smell of smoke and testosterone, we will lose nothing, but add to the gain of healthy living, if we follow these great tips for healthy braais:

Meat, chicken and fish

  • Always choose lean meat and cut off all visible fat before cooking.
  • Use skinless chicken breasts – try making your own kebabs with onions, peppers and mushrooms. Did you know that a grilled chicken breast without skin contains a third less saturated fat than with skin?
  • Live near the coast? Try fish as a healthy alternative which is rich in Omega 3 oils. Salmon is a great heart-healthy fish.
  • Read the nutrition labels and choose pre-prepared burgers and sausage with least saturated fat and salt per 100g. To be low in fat, there should be 3g of fat per 100g. Better still – make your own burgers using lean beef or ostrich mince, or a combination of both.
  • Marinating is a great way to add flavor and keep the meat moist, without adding too much fat or salt.

Side dishes

  • Those old favourites – roasted potatoes in foil – serve them with low fat cottage cheese instead of butter and mayo.
  • Cook veggie kebabs and corn-on-the-cob on the cooler part of the braai and turn occasionally.
  • Make your own low fat salad dressings using ingredients like low fat yoghourt, lemon juice and herbs, rather than buying ready-made dressings. You’ll save money too!


  • Instead of peanuts and chips, serve raw veggies as snacks.


  • Try making smoothies with fresh fruits and fat free yoghourt
  • Fruit salad with low-cal custard is a refreshing dessert after a heavy braai.

Happy braaiing!

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