Homemade is best – that was last month’s theme. For the holiday weeks, the same applies, especially with all the summer braais we South Africans love. To ensure your braai is a heart healthy meal, you just need to make the best choices. Here are some practical tips to help you.

Chops, wors and braaivleis 

  • Lean meats like chicken breast or fillet, or pork, beef or lamb with not too much fat are best. Braai over medium-hot coals to keep it juicy and tasty and not overcook them.
  • Always trim off any visible fat or cut meat into cubes, skewer and braai as kebabs or sosaties for a leaner end result.
  • Read the label when buying processed sausage (like boerewors), as these often contain excess fat, salt and preservative. Make the best choice and enjoy moderate portions.
  • Fish is a fabulous lean protein – braai it as a delicious and healthy alternative to meat.


  • A marinade should enhance the flavour or texture of meat. Shop-bought marinades can be very high in salt, sugar and chemical preservatives, making them unhealthy and often drawing natural juices from meat.
  • Rather make your own marinade to limit the salt and sugar.
  • Use seasonings, like fresh or dried herbs, salt-free spices like cumin and coriander, and mustard, lemon juice or black pepper.
  • Try this: Mix 7,5 ml each ground coriander, paprika and dried rosemary, add 15 ml each dried thyme and origanum and 5 ml ground cumin. Stir in some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and rub onto meat or chicken.


  • All meals should be balanced – braais are no exception. When dishing up, make sure half the plate is fruit or veggies, a quarter is high-fibre carbohydrates and another quarter lean protein. Add a dash of good oils with avocado slices, nuts or olive oil.
  • Potato salad, potato bake, garlic bread and pasta salad all count as carbs. Vary the side dishes with green salad, roasted vegetables or even fresh fruit.
  • Choose one carb-based side dish and make sure the rest is made up of veggies or fruit.

Avoid rich or creamy dressings and mayonnaise. Rather make your own salad dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs or spices – perfect on any salad from a green or potato salad or platter of green veggies.

October to December could easily become the over-indulging months of the year, as we often have one work function or party after the other. Following that, it’s the festive season and then New Year. But with a few tips and guidelines, this doesn’t have to affect your waist or healthy lifestyle.

  • Keep moderation in mind, so that you can enjoy every event, without over-eating.
  • Control your portions sizes – that includes drinks, starters, mains and desserts.
  • Try to dish up only once and eat (and drink) slowly, so that you really enjoy the meal. This will leave you more satisfied, rather than just full.
  • Look for the healthier options on a menu. Rather order a salad or roasted veggies than a heavy side dish.
  • Avoid deep-fried foods and rather opt for roasted, grilled or pan-fried dishes.
  • Fill at least half your plate with veggies and salads, instead of another helping of starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and pap.
  • Variety is the spice of life. Try to eat chicken and fish, rather than just red meat or even opt for a vegetarian meal sometimes – it’s the perfect light lunch.
  • Consider the meals for the rest of your day if you know that you’re going out for supper or having a party.
  • Use a plate at a cocktail event, so that you can see how much you actually eat, and not think you’re only nibbling on a bit of this and that.
  • Have lots of self-control at a buffet and take a smaller plate. Dish up a balanced variety of what you’ll enjoy instead of having a pile of food on your plate that you just eat mindlessly.
  • Limit heavy and creamy sauces and toppings. Ask for olive oil to drizzle over veggies or add a sprinkle of nuts and seeds for extra crunch and flavour instead.
  • If you do order sauce, have it on the side, so that you can decide how much to eat.
  • Enjoy some fruit as part of your dessert and have a small portion of custard or ice cream if you really have to.
  • Don’t drink your kilojoules – remember that both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can be very high in kilojoules. Have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you drink.

Enjoy the festive months and eat responsibly.


It’s THAT time of year! Each week passes faster than the last and we all scramble to get everything done before the year is over. One result of these last few hectic weeks, is that healthy eating habits and balanced meals are easily neglected – just because we often become too busy to cook a good meal every day. If you can still manage to enjoy healthy meals, your energy levels may just help you survive the mad rush. This is enough reason to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle till the end of the year.

How do you to this? By planning a bit in advance, doubling up when you cook and shopping accordingly. Cooked mince can be used in so many creative ways, that you will always be grateful for a batch or two in the freezer. A basic tomato sauce, made from onions, fresh herbs and tinned tomatoes is equally versatile.

Turn cooked mince into a summer lasagne, layered with the prepared tomato sauce and spinach leaves instead of pasta, to make it lighter. A cottage pie with a butternut or sweet potato topping is delicious. Use mince as a quick topping on pitas, sprinkle with a bit of mozzarella and bake in the oven for a quick meal.

Meat balls and cooked chicken portions freeze very well and are perfect for supper with a healthy starch and salad on a hot day. If you just remember to take something out of the freezer in the morning, making supper is a breeze.

Busy schedules often leave us running around so much that we forget to have a healthy lunch too. Pack a few meat balls with fruit and veggies like baby tomatoes, carrot or cucumber sticks and apple with some nuts for a perfect on-the-go lunch. A filling summer meal can easily be whipped up with tinned tuna or beans and salad ingredients. Add a few boiled baby potatoes in the skin to bulk it up if you prefer.

The same applies for sweet treats and dessert ideas. A variety of delicious summer fruit and berries with dollops of plain yoghurt, seasoned with a little honey and a dash of cinnamon or a handful of nuts can be more enjoyable than a shop-bought treat.

Rather spend money on good quality ingredients to prepare your own convenience food, than being tempted to buy another expensive take-away meal. This is better for your health and more budget-friendly. Visit for many delicious and easy recipes to prepare home-cooked meals with.


And the answer is, yes – you should snack, as long as it’s on something healthy and nutritious. Let’s look at a few questions people often ask about snacking.

  1. Can snacking be part of a healthy lifestyle?

Definitely, it’s an important part of good eating habits and an easy way to prevent you from getting so hungry that you over-eat at mealtime. Snacks can ensure that you enjoy a variety of foods from all the food groups every day. Ingredients like nuts, seeds and even fruit are sometimes not included as part of a meal and then forgotten – so snack on them.

  1. When is a good time to snack?

Ideally, a meal should be satisfying enough to keep you full till the next one, but sometimes you do feel that your blood sugar levels (energy levels) start to drop. That’s a good time to nibble on something nutritious. When your blood sugar drops too low, you start feeling peckish. Preferably only snack when you are actually hungry – also determine if you may be just thirsty. A healthy snack will keep you going till the next meal and prevent a vicious cycle of unhealthy snacking on foods that are just empty-kilojoules with no nutritional value, like crisps or sweets.

  1. What should I snack on?

Choose snacks that will keep your energy levels stable and prevent them from dropping too low or spiking shortly after, only leaving you feeling hungry again. Snacks should be as natural, unrefined and unprocessed as possible. What you munch on should never contain too much sugar, salt or unhealthy fats, so stock up on good choices. Remember to read food labels if you choose to buy snacks.

A snack with lots of fibre and good oils, will keep you fuller for longer, like nuts or seeds, a spoonful of peanut butter (with no added salt or sugar) or half an avo. Fruit and veggies are also perfect to snack on. If you are making your own snacks, keep the same healthy principles in mind and never make the portion so big that it spoils your appetite at mealtime.

Keep it practical and at hand, in small portions and in transportable containers. A small bag or container of nuts can stay in your handbag, office drawer or a child’s school bag. Cut fruit to make it easy to nibble on the go.

Happy snacking!

Most of us enjoy eating and don’t just eat to ‘still’ a hunger. There are many reasons why we enjoy our food. It may be deliciously tasty; we could have a fond childhood memory of a certain dish or find comfort in a specific combination of flavours. Whatever it is, food that pleases the soul, is more often than not, food that really satisfied you in every sense of the word – physically and emotionally.

The experts call it your ‘point of satisfaction’. Once that is reached, you get that feeling of: ‘Wow, that was a fantastic meal!’ or ‘Now I really enjoyed the food’.

So the question is, what is your point of satisfaction? Is it a particular flavour of food or a specific texture? Is it a favourite ingredient or just a good combination of aromas? We often crave a salty, sweet or rich flavour as our point of satisfaction, but the exciting thing is, that you can achieve that satisfied feeling with healthy ingredients too. When the right combination of ingredients, flavours and textures are put together, you can trick your taste buds into  reaching that point of satisfaction without consuming excessive calories..

One of the principles of healthy eating, is to make sure that you cook healthy food that will fill you up, satisfy all your senses and be enjoyable. Healthy food should never be bland or boring, so making the right choices are crucial. We have to enjoy our meals otherwise half the pleasure of eating is lost.

Start with fresh ingredients with lots of flavour, add a cooking method that will enhance the aromas and season with natural options like herbs, spices, lemon, ginger and garlic. Creaminess can come from blending veggies in a soup, plain yoghurt or a dash of olive oil, without having to smother anything in sauce, dressings or heavy toppings. Don’t overcook food, especially meat and veggies and keep your plate colourful, as we all eat with our eyes first.

Bear these tips in mind the next time you cook to prepare nutritious and satisfying meals.



‘Mommy, I don’t want to eat that’… have you heard this all too many times? Don’t let these remarks deter your efforts to serve healthy food to your family. As kids develop and grow, their taste buds also mature. Some kids cannot tolerate certain textures and flavours, but trust your judgement. They need to try something at least 7-10 times before they can claim not to like a specific food. Sometimes it’s more a prejudice idea, than a true experience they refer to.

Here are a few tips that may ease the journey:

  • be the role model – you can’t expect kids to eat veggies if one of the parents avoid it like the plague
  • don’t be too vocal about your own dislikes – they pick up on this too easily
  • tell them why a certain food is good for them and keep the facts fun and creative
  • variety is an excellent way to encourage their palates to develop
  • choose a colourful range of fruit and veggies to include different nutrients in the meal
  • flavours, textures and colours must be appetising
  • remember to keep textures and flavours appropriate for their age
  • gradually introduce new foods and flavours and don’t give up after only one or two attempts
  • teach your kids from an early age the sweetness from a fruit or baby tomato as the benchmark and not that from sweeties
  • prepare food as natural as possible – don’t teach their taste buds artificial flavours from processed and pre-prepared foods. These are often overly sweet, salty or high in fat, so rather avoid or keep these for a treat
  • keep portions manageable and the size of cut-up fruit and veggies easy for them to handle
  • involve them with the choice of foods and let them help in the kitchen – kids will often eat what they prepared themselves
  • be clever with ways to hide healthy foods: add grated carrots or baby marrows and even oats to a mince mixture, fish cakes, meat balls or soup.
  • never bribe children to eat their fruit or veggies in return for a sweet treat – it cultivates a negative relationship with food, that you definitely want to avoid

Teach them healthy eating habits, it’s the best gift you can give your kids.

Eating healthily is not difficult or complicated – it can be easy, fun and exciting. Good food is not bland or boring and doesn’t have to be expensive. The golden rule for healthy eating remains moderation and variation.

The many food philosophies, opinions and diets can become a bit daunting or confusing. One way to easily apply healthy eating, is a practical plate model. This ensures balanced, healthy meals in the right portion sizes. The principle is to divide your plate into four quarters in the following way: fill two quarters with salad, non-starchy veggies and fruit and one quarter with protein. The remaining quarter should be a high-fibre, unprocessed starch (carbohydrate) for energy and fibre. Visualise a small circle in the middle of the plate to include a healthy fat, like avocado, olive oil, nuts or seeds. Healthy fats in small portions are an important part of a balanced diet.

Veggies and fruit, especially low-starch options, are typically high in antioxidants, fibre and energy. Many can be enjoyed raw or lightly cooked, making them great to include. Fresh foods look appetising and add colour and texture to your plate. Do remember that fruit can be high in natural sugars and energy, so keep the portions moderate.

The size of the palm of your hand is the guide for a portion of protein. Opt for leaner meats like chicken, fish and lean red meat cuts. Other healthy sources of protein like eggs, legumes and beans should be part of your meals on a regular basis.

Good carbohydrate (starch) choices keep you feeling full till the next meal and a starch portion should not be larger than your fist. Avoid white, refined starches like white rice, bread, pap or cereal and pasta as these mainly contribute starch and very little other nutrients. Starchy veg like potatoes also count as carbs. Rather enjoy sweet potato, butternut or brown rice as a starchy side dish.

Now choose foods that are as unprocessed and unrefined as possible. Fresh ingredients high in fibre and healthy fats and low in salt, sodium, sugar and preservatives are best. Processed and pre-prepared foods can be laden with hidden fat, salt or sugar. Cooking methods and seasonings can hugely affect the healthiness of a meal. Rather pan-fry, grill or roast food, than deep-frying it or cooking with lots of sauces and dressings. Season with fresh or dried herbs, spices, ginger, garlic and lemon and don’t overcook food – to retain the natural texture, flavour and nutrients.

A new diabetes-focussed recipe book by well-known foodie, Heleen Meyer, in partnership with Pharma Dynamics, the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSFSA) will be launched in time for National Diabetes Awareness Month this November.

Meyer, who is known for her practical, easy-to-follow recipes in the Cooking from the Heart recipe book series, says the latest edition offers people with diabetes advice on how to live the life they want to through optimal nutrition and will contribute to the overall health and well-being of everyone that chooses to follow this way of eating.

“It aims to inspire, motivate and educate the estimated 3,5 million South Africans living with diabetes, but to also create awareness among the broader public of the risk factors associated with the condition,” says Meyer.

The Cooking from the Heart recipe book series complements Pharma Dynamics’ on-going drive to promote healthy eating among the South African public and forms an integral part of its umbrella wellness campaign, called iChange4Health.

The iChange4Health initiative, which focuses on diet, physical activity, smoking cessation and alcohol use, has been specifically created for healthcare practitioners to help them motivate patients with high risk factors to make healthier lifestyle choices – promoting a preventative strategy over a curative approach.

Mariska van Aswegen, spokesperson of Pharma Dynamics says with cardiovascular disease (CVD) ranking number one on the list of diabetes-related complications, this is a must-have cookbook for anyone who wants to improve his or her heart health, and it’s great for those with either pre-diabetes or full-blown diabetes.

“Managing your diet is the key to good diabetes control. Each of the 25 recipes, that include breakfast, snack, dinner and dessert ideas, are low in saturated fat, refined carbs and salt. It also provides twists on traditional favourites, nutritional and meal planning advice, along with portion control and most importantly, tastes great,” says van Aswegen.

The recipes have been analysed by HSFSA dieticians to provide full nutritional information for every recipe. A healthy plate model and lists of alternatives to help plan a healthy meal complete the edition, giving those affected by diabetes a cookbook that promises eating can continue to be one of life’s great pleasures, as well as the most important part of a treatment plan.

Cooking from the Heart 3 will again be made available at no cost to the public, courtesy of prevention-minded pharmaceutical firm, Pharma Dynamics. Get a copy from your GP or access the recipes in the CFTH recipes tab. You can also follow the Cooking from the Heart Facebook page for handy tips on how to make healthier lifestyle choices part of your every day.