Secrets I’m Stealing From the South African Diet
One of the first questions I get from people about my trip–after they ask how I managed to get my thrifty boyfriend to spring for a safari (reminded him that Candice Swanepoel is from there)–is what in the world did I eat?
Well, unlike past vacations where I faced bowls of Pad Thai for breakfast…
…South Africa actually has very healthy cuisine.
Every place we stayed had breakfast spreads featuring a plethora of fruits (sometimes fancy stuff like figs and papaya), with low-fat yogurt and granola. Normally I would say that this is still a high-sugar meal but when you’re spending your day cage diving with great whites, you can spare a few cals.
It was the lunch and dinners that really impressed me though.
Fish bar at The Codfather.
With a diet packed full of lean protein from fish and other sea creatures, it’s easy to find a dish that isn’t loaded with fat. I often chose grilled prawns as my main course…
…and calamari to start.
Unlike in the US, their calamari is always grilled, not fried. Getting lean shellfish as a starter is a great way to avoid the bread basket at dinner.
Tip: Always ask for your fish/shellfish to be grilled, with little or no oil/butter. If they must use oil… insist on extra virgin olive oil.
What surprised me the most about the SA diet was the rich variety of vegetables.
Three of my favorite veggies kept popping up in almost every meal:
butternut squash, eggplant, and beets.
I never thought to put butternut squash on a salad but this was out of this world (or country at least). Get tips to roasting your own butternut squash here. Salad from Thyme Square.
Everything was beet-infused…
Yep, even the cocktails. Using vegetable juice in a cocktail instead of fruit juice keeps the sugar content down and the sweetness up.
And beets are my main jam, so you can imagine how excited I was when they showed up, literally, in jam form.
It was actually a “tapenade” but whatev. I loved this spread so much, I asked for the recipe!
If you’re interested, follow these directions. It is the bomb. I’ll be trying to re-create it myself soon, so you can stay tuned for my version as well.
South African’s are also very fond of what they call “heath bread.” Apparently it’s whole grain, low-GI, and supposed to keep you fuller longer.
I think it worked, because for once in my life, I actually stayed full from breakfast to lunch everyday. You can find similar stuff here in the US. Just look for breads that are high in fiber, 100% whole wheat, and lacking ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
And of course, SA also had my two (not so) guilty pleasures: sushi…
…sadly it wasn’t brown rice.
Shout out to the adorable Brampton Wine Studio in Stellenbosch (the cute little university/vineyard region north of Cape Town)
They also have fab cappuccinos.
For more from my trip to South Africa, check out my list of the 5 Most Adventurous Things To Do.
And be sure to follow me on Twitter @WhitneyLEnglish