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Low-Carb Diets

From Paleo to Atkins to Banting, we have long blamed carbs for making us unhealthy.  It is true that cutting down any big food group like carbohydrates or fat from the diet, can lead to weight loss due to lower caloric intake. The conclusion is however that this food preference exists and is popular

For those clients, looking for lighter meals, an occasional low-carb or carb free meal may be an attractive offering when eating out.  When following a low-carb lifestyle, one should ensure that this does not compromise health in the long-term.  For instance, a low-carb meal option should ideally include heart-healthy fats (like vegetable oils, avocado, seeds and nuts) as well as low-fat milk products to make this way of eating balanced.

Tips for developing low-carb dishes


  • Low carbohydrate vegetables like baby marrow, cauliflower, carrots.
  • Healthy fats like vegetable oils, avocado, nuts and seeds
  • Lean meats such chicken without skin, lean red meat
  • Spices and herbs, lemon, garlic, leeks



  • Carbohydrate rich foods and carbohydrate rich vegetables such as potatoes, bread, flour, rice and pasta.
  • Saturated fats such as coconut, lard and cream
  • Fatty and processed meats such as bacon, fatty pork, sausages, etc.
  • Sugar, Honey, Maple Syrup and other sugary food items


  • Make pizza bases with cauliflower,
  • Serve cauliflower rice instead of normal rice or cauliflower mash instead normal mash,
  • Baby marrow makes great noodles,
  • Serve lettuce as burger buns.

Low GI Diets

Originally developed for people with diabetes, some people also promote low GI (glycaemic index) foods for weight loss.  The theory is that foods that are digested more slowly increase blood sugar levels steadily (and circulating insulin steadily) and may help people eat less.   International expert bodies therefore advise to replace refined carbohydrates including those found in food items like sugar, white rice, pap and white bread, with more complex ones that are richer in fibre, like whole grain pasta or bread.

A low GI by itself does not automatically offer health benefits. For instance, oats has a higher GI than chocolate but that does not necessarily automatically mean that chocolate is more nutritious.   It follows that a low GI diet should also fall within general healthy way of eating.

How to put it into practice

The GI value of a food item can only be declared once a product has been analysed in a laboratory.   Generally, only foods, which contain carbohydrates, will have a GI value.  The classification of the GI of different foods is below:

  • Low GI < 55
  • Intermediate GI 55- 69
  • High GI > 70

For more information on the GI of different products, refer to the South African Glycaemic Index and Load Guide (GIFSA 2012).

Tips for developing dishes that have more low GI foods


  • Include durum wheat pasta, pearled wheat, boiled barley, basmati rice, whole mielies/ corn.
  • More seed loaf bread, low GI breads, any other bread made with lots of oats, whole kernels, crushed wheat or oat bran
  • Sweet potatoes
  • More legumes like dried beans, peas, lentils, pea dhal, baked beans,  canned beans in sauces
  • Spices and herbs, lemon, garlic, leeks


  • White rice, freshly cooked pap
  • Normal brown or white bread
  • Common potatoes
  • Sugar, Honey, Maple Syrup and other sugary food items

Gluten Free Diets

Currently in vogue, the gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein, gluten. Gluten is in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and a cross-grain between wheat and rye called triticale. Common sources of gluten include bread, pasta and sauces like gravy. A product is classified as gluten-free by law when it contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million) gluten.

Although some people follow a gluten free diet as a trend, it is primarily used to treat coeliac disease, an auto-immune disease in which gluten causes inflammation of the small intestines. It is also useful for those people who have sensitivity to gluten.

Developing gluten-free dishes can be frustrating for chefs. With time, patience and creativity, you will find that there are many delicious foods and ingredients that are gluten-free. You will also find that there are many common pantry substitutes for gluten-containing foods that you need to make your dishes gluten-free. Here are some tips to get you on your way.


Tips for developing gluten free dishes

TO HAVE MORE OF (See Info Below)

  • Grains and starches such as amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn and maize meal, gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean), potatoes, sweet potatoes, millet, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca
  • Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
  • Fresh eggs; fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Unprocessed fruits and vegetables and most dairy products
  • Uncontaminated vegetable oils and unprocessed nuts and seeds


  • Barley (malt, malt flavouring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley), rye and wheat (including pasta and cous-cous).  Products that contain any of these grains will also have gluten.
  • Reusing oil that has been used to cook foods containing gluten.

Additional Tips

  • Read labels. By law, any packaged product should tell you when it contains gluten.
  • Avoid cross-contamination between gluten containing & gluten free dishes when using prep boards, knives and other utensils.



Lower Salt Diets

With the introduction of the new Salt Regulations in South Africa, there is a lot of interest in how to make restaurant meals lower in salt.  Local research has shown that a typical restaurant meal in South Africa can contain as much as three times the recommended amount of 5g salt per day.

South African manufactured food products now have lower amounts of salt (from July 2016). It is now up to chefs and home cooks to also help make South Africa healthier.

With most of us eating more salt than is good for us, a lower salt diet is a healthy eating diet that most us should be following. The concern when cutting down salt intake is taste. However, chefs are experts at coming up with ways to extract the most flavour from every day dishes.

Great Taste, Less Salt!

Great Taste, Less Salt!

A Tips and Tricks Guide straight from our Chefs

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