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The summer holidays are winking, but often we pay the price after all the eating and drinking amid the merriment of the festive season.

To keep the nation in good shape these holidays, a pharmaceutical company, whose focus centres on healthy living, has developed more than 30 mouth-watering braai recipes in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, as part of the Cooking from the Heart cookbook series, that’ll keep festive season calories in check.

Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says the festive season can be a challenging time, especially for those who worked hard for their summer bodies and want to keep it that way.

“Although a little bit of holiday weight gain is expected, many get carried away and put on much more, which becomes difficult to shed in the long run.

“The key is to eat mindfully over the holidays. If you’re trying to maintain your weight, there are a few simple strategies you can follow:

  1. Fill up on vegetables first. The more colourful your plate, the healthier.
  2. Take a break between bites so your body has time to process the food.
  3. Wait at least 20 – 30 minutes before you have dessert. This gives your body time to figure out whether you’re still hungry. Listen to your body and stop when you’re full.
  4. Focus on having a good time with the people you’re with than just the food.
  5. Be aware of the amount of food you eat and adjust it based on its nutritional value and the goals of your eating plan by exercising portion control.

“Finally, don’t feel bad about treating yourself to some of your favourite festive season treats, but remember to moderate your intake. If you overindulge during one or two meals, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just get back on track the next day.

Grilling or braaiing fish, vegetables, steak and chicken with the right side dishes can also be a great way to limit your calorie intake. Braaiing meat over an open flame allows the fat to drop off the food vs frying it in oil, which adds extra fat. There’s also minimal nutritional loss when grilling or braaiing veggies,” she says.

Here’s a few healthy braai recipes from Cooking from the Heart’s special braai edition that won’t compromise your weight:



These skewers are delicious when braaied over the coals.

125 g button mushrooms, halved

3 baby marrows, thickly sliced

200 g baby tomatoes

1 green, yellow or red pepper, seeded and cut into large cubes

15 – 20 bay or fresh lemon or lime leaves (optional)

8 – 10 metal skewers or wooden kebab sticks, soaked in water for 30 minutes

¼ cup (60 ml) olive or canola oil

3 tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice

1 tbsp (15 ml) finely grated lemon rind

2 tsp (10 ml) each chopped fresh thyme, origanum and parsley

1 clove of garlic, crushed black pepper to taste

½ tsp (2,5 ml) salt

  1. Place mushrooms in a shallow dish and cover with boiling water. Soak for 8 – 10 minutes to prevent the mushrooms from breaking apart when skewered. Drain well and pat dry.
  2.  Thread mushrooms and veggies onto skewers or kebabs sticks, alternating the different veggies for a colourful end result. Add 1 – 2 bay, lemon or lime leaves in between veggies.
  3. Mix oil, lemon juice and rind, herbs and garlic together and season with pepper.
  4. Brush oil mixture onto skewers on all sides and marinate for 30 minutes. Season skewers with salt.
  5. Grill over medium to low coals or until the veggies are just cooked, but not too soft. Brush with more of the marinade, while braaiing, if necessary.
  6. The kebabs can be served with the Pea & yoghurt dip or Cottage cheese dip on pages 48 and 49. Serve with a protein-rich vegetarian dish for a balanced meal.


  1. Add pineapple to the skewers for a sweet flavour – it is delicious with pork or chicken.
  2. A pinch of cumin or paprika or a chopped chilli can be added to the oil mixture if preferred.
  3. For a different flavour add 1 tbsp (15 ml) finely grated fresh ginger or add 1 tsp (5 ml) mild mustard to the oil mixture.



¼ cup (60 ml) olive or canola oil

3 tbsp (45 ml) red grape or apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce

4 tsp (20 ml) finely grated fresh ginger

1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped, or to taste (optional)

3 tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh coriander or parsley

¼ cup (60 ml) finely chopped unsalted peanuts lemon juice and black pepper to taste


500 ml (2 cups) each shredded white and red cabbage (or more white)

1 large spinach leaf, shredded

2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

¼ cucumber, quartered and thinly sliced

1 medium pineapple, quartered and thinly sliced

1 celery stalk with the leaves, thinly sliced

½ red or green pepper, seeded, quartered and thinly sliced

  1. Dressing: Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Salad: Mix all the slaw ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss well. Allow salad to stand for 10 – 15 minutes before serving it. This will allow the salad to marinate.
  3. Serve slaw as a side dish at a braai.


  1. This dressing can be used as a marinade for fish, chicken, pork or veggies.
  2. Add toasted coconut to the dressing instead of the peanuts.
  3. Serve with steak or leftover braaied chicken in whole-wheat rolls or pitas.


3 cups (750 ml) coarse mealie meal

2 cups (500 ml) water

1½ cups (375 ml) low-fat milk

½ tsp (2,5 ml) salt

¼ cup (60 ml) olive or canola oil

1 x 410 g tin cream style sweetcorn

1 small onion, cut into thin wedges

3 tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup (60 ml) coarsely grated cheddar cheese

1 corn on the cob, kernels cut from the cob or ½ cup (125 ml) frozen whole kernel corn, rinsed

  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C. Place the mealie meal, water, milk, salt, oil and sweetcorn in a large mixing bowl. Stir well so that no dry meal is visible.
  2. Lightly grease a 20 x 27 cm oven dish with oil and spoon mealie meal mixture into dish.
  3. Arrange onion wedges on mealie meal. Mix parsley, cheese and corn and sprinkle evenly over onions.
  4. Bake for 1 hour or until the mealie meal is cooked through. Serve hot.


  1. Serve with Barbecue sauce on page 45.
  2. Bake the mealie meal mixture without the onion and cheese mixture until cooked. Mix 1 x 410 g tin onion and tomato mix with the parsley and onion wedges. Spoon onto cooked mealie meal bake, sprinkle with cheese and corn and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the tomato layer is heated through. Serve immediately.



This marinade is delicious with chicken, beef, lamb or fish and ideal for homemade sosaties.

¼ cup (60 ml) olive or canola oil

1 tbsp (15 ml) mild curry powder or to taste

½ tsp (2,5 ml) turmeric

1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin

1 tsp (5 ml) coriander seeds, crushed (see tips)

3 tbsp (45 ml) apple juice or Rooibos tea

2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice

1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon rind

2 tbsp (30 ml) finely grated fresh ginger or 1 tsp (5 ml) ground ginger black pepper to taste

  1. Mix the oil with the rest of the ingredients together in a jug. Remember to only season meat once ready to braai, with no more than 1½ tsp (7,5 ml) salt per kilogram of meat.
  2. Place the meat, fish or chicken in a bowl and pour the marinade over. Mix until well coated.
  3. Allow to marinate for 1-2 hours or overnight in the fridge. Fish should not marinate for more than 30 minutes.
  4. Braai over medium coals until cooked to your preference. Cooking time will depend on the type of meat used. Brush with any extra marinade while braaiing.
  5. Any unused marinade can be heated and served as a sauce. It is delicious served with brown rice, pap or even potatoes in the skin and the meat. Make double the marinade and refrigerate in a sterilised jar for up to two weeks.


  1. Crush the coriander seeds with a rolling pin to release more flavour.
  2. The strength of the curry powder will determine the spiciness of this marinade. Or add a finely chopped chilli for an even spicier version.
  3. Tandoori: add ½ tsp (2,5 ml) paprika to half the marinade and stir this mixture into 1 cup (250 ml) low-fat plain yoghurt. Marinate lamb or chicken in this mixture overnight and brush over the meat while braaiing.
  4. Sosaties: thread 1 kg of marinated meat onto kebab sticks. Try beef rump, sirloin or chicken fillets. Add onion, mushrooms, peppers, pineapple and fresh lemon or bay leaves for colour and flavour. Braai to your preference.


A versatile sauce, as it can be used as a marinade or sauce to accompany meat and side dishes.

2 tsp (10 ml) olive or canola oil 2 onions, finely chopped 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tbsp (30 ml) finely grated fresh ginger or 1 tsp (5 ml) ground ginger

1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander

1 x 50 g sachet tomato paste

1 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes

⅓ cup (80 ml) strong Rooibos tea, water or apple juice

¼ cup (60 ml) tomato sauce (see tips)

¼ cup (60 ml) chutney (see tips)

2 tsp (10 ml) dried mixed herbs

2 tsp (10 ml) Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice

2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated lemon rind

1 tbsp (15 ml) mild mustard or 1 tsp (5 ml) dried mustard powder black pepper to taste

  1. Heat oil over a medium heat in a saucepan. Fry onions for a few minutes until soft. Add garlic and ginger and fry for another few minutes.
  2. Stir coriander and tomato paste into onions and mix well. Add tomatoes, rinse tin with liquid and add to ingredients in saucepan.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer without lid for 10 -15 minutes or until thickened. Stir often.
  4. Season with more lemon juice and pepper if necessary.
  5. Use to marinate meat, before being braaied. Or serve as a sauce to accompany the meat and side dishes.


  1. Chakalaka: fry 1 carrot, coarsely grated and ½ red or green pepper, chopped, with the onions and add 1 tsp (5 ml) mild curry powder with the coriander.
  2. The sauce will last for 2 weeks in the fridge in an airtight container or sterilised glass jar.
  3. When buying sauces like chutney or tomato sauce, choose a good quality option that is lower in salt and sugar. Check the food labels and read page 13 for more info.
  4. When using this sauce, take care to season meat or other ingredients in the meal lightly with salt, as there are already salty seasonings in the sauce. If using it as a marinade with meat, only season meat with 1 tsp (5 ml) salt per kilogram of meat, instead of 1½ tsp (7,5 ml) salt per kilogram of meat.
  5. If you prefer a smoother barbecue sauce, blend the cooked sauce with a hand blender.


1 cup (250 ml) low-fat milk

½ x 80 g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tsp (10 ml) sugar

1 tbsp (15 ml) cornflour

1 tbsp (15 ml) cocoa powder

¼ tsp (1,2 ml) ground cinnamon or more to taste

1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla essence

2 small fruit skewers per person, made with seasonal fruit, like apple, pear, papaya, citrus, banana or strawberries

12 – 18 marshmallows, toasted over the coals, if preferred

12 – 18 tennis or Marie biscuits to dip

  1. Place milk, chocolate and sugar in a small pot. Heat over a low heat, while stirring all the time, to melt the chocolate and dissolve the sugar.
  2. Mix cornflour, cocoa and cinnamon with 2 tbsp (30 ml) water to form a smooth paste without lumps.
  3. Add some of the warm milk mixture to the paste and stir well. Stir back into the milk mixture in the pot.
  4. Stir continuously over a medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Spoon into a warm bowl.
  5. Dip fruit or some of the other suggested ingredients in the warm chocolate sauce.


  1. The sauce will thicken as it cools down. Just stir in a tablespoon of boiling water to thin it down again.
  2. The chocolate sauce can also be served with ice cream. Only use 2 tsp (10 ml) cornflour and prepare as above. The recipe will then serve 8 – 10.

For a healthier braai:

  1. Choose proteins wisely by opting for lean meats, such as fish and skinless chicken breast instead of too much red meat. If you do opt for red meat, rather buy loin or tender cuts and remove any visible fat before cooking.
  2. Marinate or rub meat with salt-free spices and lemon, which add amazing flavour and will reduce the need for salt, which heightens your risk of hypertension. Use chilli, cumin, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, thyme or rosemary for a lip-licking taste.
  3. Limit your meat intake (of any type) to 150g.
  4. Fill up your plate with grilled vegetables, salads and side dishes. In SA, we have a great selection of fruit throughout the year so be sure to add these to the braai menu. Meat and veg sosaties (kebabs) are always a hit. Add red, green or yellow peppers, butternut, baby marrows, eggplant, mushrooms and onions to the skewer and brush with healthy oil before grilling.
  5. When preparing salads or side dishes, don’t drown them in salty sauces or heavy store-bought dressings. Rather make your own healthier condiments.
  6. Opt for wholegrain breads, rolls or wraps, which provide additional fibre, instead of white carbs.
  7. Consider healthy toppings over ice cream, such as chocolate bananas or fruit salad. Grilled fruit is also delicious! The natural sugars caramelise in the high heat, which makes it extra sweet and flavourful.

The Cooking from the Heart initiative forms part of Pharma Dynamics’ overall wellness campaign, to promote healthy eating among the South African public in a practical, affordable and tasty way.

Go to to download any of the 100+ heart-healthy recipes – free of charge!

For more tips on heart-healthy cooking during the holidays, follow Cooking from the Heart author, Heleen Meyer on

Be Inspired !



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