Ramadan Kareem dear ones! As the Holy month of Ramadan approaches, there is one prime thought on all our minds. FOOD. What are we going to prepare every evening, what snacks should we freeze for the days to come, how many packs of oil should we store on our shelves, custard or jelly, milkshake or fruit juice… and it goes on.
From what I have learnt, in simple words, fasting is an act to “PURIFY” ourselves in all aspects of our life – health, spiritual beliefs, patience, and much more. Its meaning is something deep!
Because my best knowledge about Ramadan lies in the field of staying healthy, for now I am writing on that. I am hoping in the years to come I will be enlightened enough to write on more significant virtues and purpose of this holy month.
In a place like Dubai this holy month is full of warmth and there is a spirit of sharing and caring all over the nation. And I must say religion is not a barrier here. No one goes hungry after the Iftar, rich or poor, Muslim or not, there is love for all. (It is always that way in UAE, but it is just more during Ramadan.)
The scene at our supermarkets is rather funny. The shopping behavior looks crazy, thanks to the special offers on the seasonal favorites. We aren’t supposed to indulge on extravagant feasts after breaking our fast but everyone who is bulking their shopping carts isn’t buying it all for himself. We know so many households that send out food to mosques, friends and relatives, labor camps, etc. and that is a wonderful thing to do.
I had requests from some Muslim sisters about how to maintain a healthy diet this month, and thus this post. You will find hundreds of such posts on newspapers and magazines and all over the internet… but seriously, it makes a difference when you actually follow it than just read.
Things you must at least try to do this year. If you cannot follow the coming 3 paragraphs, don’t read further than that.
A great majority of our people make fasting look like it is more about the food and less about fasting. STOP the entire family’s mindset that the dining table should have a 100 varieties of dishes. And for that change the thought that Ramadan is about staying hungry throughout the day. Read and understand why you are fasting for a month, it is NOT to understand the plight of the poor, because all Muslims rich or poor have to fast if they are healthy. Women, men or workers who do the cooking part have better things to do that toiling in the kitchen the whole day. Make the change, your family will only eat what you serve. It might make them fussy for a couple of days but as the month passes by they will feel like themselves and not exhausted after all that eating.
Stop the deep fried foods and sugary treats. Throughout this month you will read this all over the internet, on magazines, the television and everywhere. And you know it too. Imagine on a normal day they say you need a specific portion of fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, good carbohydrates like whole grains, healthy proteins and good liquids and you just feed yourself with a lot of oil, flour and sugar on an empty stomach. The very thought is gross. Just think of that while you decide what to cook for the day.
Let Iftar parties not ruin it for you. The spread is sure to have both good food and unhealthy food. Don’t set your eyes on the bad stuff. Think of your stomach and your health. A tempting bite or two wont hurt, because we need to settle our inner cravings. But if you are someone who has these big gatherings almost everyday of the month, then you my friend, need to develop some serious self control! Samosas and chicken fritters are like the Pringles tagline – Once you pop you can’t stop. So know when to say enough. The oilier food you pick the less space you have left for the good food. And personally a lot of such foods simply makes you drowsy and so lethargic by the time for Taraweeh prayer. Not motivating!
Because Ramadan fell right before my engagement and wedding ceremonies last couple of years, I learnt how to have a well balanced meal during Ramadan. Of course some days we would make a plate of the junk snack but I personally refrained from having any of those.
Here is a list of different options and combinations I have had for breakfast and dinners during Ramadan from the last couple of years. I shall post some of the best tried and favorite Ramadan recipes on the blog real soon.
Breakfast options: Its difficult to eat at that hour but as much as possible keep it filling and clean. We need a mix of complex carbs, healthy proteins, and good sugar for the day.
Whole omelettes made in little olive oil with some multigrain toast
Omelette/boiled egg wrap sandwich – in a wholewheat roti, or any multigrain wrap (NOT FLOUR/MAIDA) filled with fresh vegetables of your choice
Brown rice with a non-spicy curd based curry, or just curd if you like that. Avoid dal and other similar gas creating food.
Bananas and some dates are a must every morning, these alone can source energy for the whole day.
A glass of fresh milk – and please avoid your coffee for this month as much as you can.
A healthy milkshake with your choice of sweet fruits like dates, banana, mango, berries, but only sweetened with good quality honey.
Oats with honey, muesli, chia seed pudding
A handful of good nuts like walnuts, almonds and dry fruits like figs, apricots, prunes etc.
Iftar dinner options: We need more good meals and less snacking options
Choose one pot meals. Try a dish that has good carbs, lean proteins and veggies together. Some suggestions are:
Marinate your chicken or fish well in advance and at the time of iftar just push it into the oven, or you can even lightly pan fry it with very less vegetable oil.
Buy skinless chicken, lean meats and easy to prepare fish like salmon, cod fish, tuna etc.
You can even make nice curry but with less oil. This is easy, delicious and will go well with any flatbreads.
Have some form of yogurt on the side – the best option is a raita – you can season it nicely, add some chopped cucumber and onions, yum.
Salads are a must, if you hate salads like me use a healthy dressing like balsamic vinegar, lemon juice etc.
Avoid oily and super salty pickles, fried papadom etc.
At the time of iftar
No matter how much we want to stay away from the yummy junk snacks, deep inside we also know Ramadan is incomplete without it. There are still ways to do it without drenching it in all that oil.
You can always bake your pastries – brush them with a little olive oil and bake it till crisp.
Go for other delicious options like grilled sandwiches or mini savory wraps that do not require the deep frying.
There are also several steamed dishes, momos, mini masala idlys, etc.
SOUPS are essential during Ramadan! Not only does it fill us easily but also helps us hydrate in a way. NOT the creamy ones, but nutritious ones like Lentil soup for example. As much as possible have a soup on your iftar table.
For drinks, it is ideal instant energy giving fresh juices, lemonade on some days, avocado banana and honey shake, mango juice – but all fresh not the packaged ones.
The highlighted lines are some of the top MUST FOLLOW tips! It is tried and tested and helps amazingly!
I will soon do a post on some of the the recipes I have in hand that could be helpful during Ramadan.
My Bottom line: Let us have a month where we spend more time in our Ibaadat and think a little lesser about food! Have a blessed month you all!
Disclaimer: I am in no ways a professional nutritionist and all that I have listed on this post are tips from what my family and I follow. What I have listed might not suit everyone and in that case please seek professional diet help.