As the temperatures start to rise South Africans spend more time living and eating outdoors. With good weather, plenty of fresh air and enough sport to keep us entertained, the braai is a central to entertaining in summer. But stop and ponder the effect that the good old South African classic has on our health as we eat, drink and be merry.
South Africans have a particularly high incidence of genetically related abnormal cholesterol and should monitor their cholesterol levels. The problem lies in that high cholesterol levels are often only diagnosed after having already caused substantial damage to your health. Measuring your blood cholesterol levels is as simple as taking a blood sample for laboratory analysis so there is no excuse not to know your numbers.
As the temperatures start to rise South Africans spend more time living and eating outdoors. With good weather, plenty of fresh air and enough sport to keep us entertained.
Although braais tend to lead to bad food choices, there are many healthy alternatives.
Firstly, don’t fill up on unhealthy pre-braai snacks and ensure that there are healthy options such as unsalted popcorn, vegetable sticks with low fat dressings and pretzels. Meat is the main feature of the South African braai so be wise with your choices.
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 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.
Be wise with your sides, limiting carbohydrates and eat the rainbow with colourful vegetables and salads: And lastly, no meal is complete without dessert but consider healthy options like fruit kebabs to round off the meal.
The World Health Organisation ranks South Africa as one of the top 20 biggest nations of the world. To avoid health and safety issues while drinking, apply the following tips:
Having a braai exposes us to two potentially harmful elements: the sun and an open flame. We need to be sun smart throughout the year as South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in world. A few basic rules when being outdoors, combined with being responsible will ensure a safe and healthy summer.
Stay out of the sun between 10am and 3pm
Always use sunblock with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher when you are outdoors. Reapply every two hours and more often if you are swimming.
Wear a hat and white, protective clothing.
Drink plenty of water to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Children and the elderly are at higher risk so ensure they are kept cool and well hydrated.
A weekend braai is entrenched into South African culture and with the theme of everything in moderation we can continue to enjoy this summer pastime healthier and for longer.
Dr Fathima Docrat, Alexander Forbes Health Management Solutions medical advisor