Make healthy living your goal when braaing over coals. Supplied
While many can’t resist smokey meat hot off the coals, the mealie cobs and salads that often make up a meal, South Africans are encouraged to make Heritage Day, aka Braai Day, a “healthier” event given the rise in lifestyle diseases such as heart disease.

Wilmi Hudsonberg, the spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, advised choosing 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.

“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.”

Pick n Pay dietitian, Juliet Fearnhead, provided some tips for healthy sides and veggies.

Wrap sweet potato and butternut in foil and toss them into the coals - these vegetables are loaded with fibre and, vitamins B and C.

Pre-boil mealies until just tender then place on the braai until charred on the outside, and sprinkle with chilli flakes. Take a bunch of trimmed asparagus, toss with a little olive or canola oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pop on the braai for 2-3 minutes. Asparagus is a nutrient-packed vegetable.

It is a very good source of fibre, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium

Add vegetables to kebabs - peppers, mushrooms, baby marrows and brinjals marinated in lemon juice and balsamic vinegar work perfectly.

Remember to pre-soak wooden skewer sticks for 30 minutes to stop the ends from burning.

When making a potato salad or coleslaw, use a little light mayonnaise with added fat free plain yoghurt for the bulk to make a creamy texture without adding excess energy and fat to the salad.

Tossed green salads are great - add spears of asparagus and steamed broccolini for extra nutrition, and dress with lemon juice and vinegar.

Slice brinjals and baby marrows length ways, brush with a little oil and cook on the braai.

For the vegetarians, fill red peppers or butternut with fresh herbs, reduced-fat feta cheese and spring onions. Wrap in foil and toss in the coals.

For dessert, bananas in their skins on the braai are delicious. Fruit salad or fruit kebabs served with fat free cottage cheese blended with a touch of vanilla essence.