Ramadan is barely a month away and I am panicking. I have full plans of eating healthier this Ramadan and it really helped to demonstrate some healthier recipes to reenforce my resolve this past weekend. My dear friend Sameera hosted a talk and cooking demonstration in honor of the fast approaching month and I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of ladies on using this month as a means to jumpstart our road to a healthier lifestyle. After the talk we had fun making a couple of recipes. I offered these as alternatives to old, unhealthy favorites. Like Watermelon Juice in place of Rooh Afza and Granola Bites for sahoor.
We often use fasting during the day as an excuse to overeat at night and end up nullifying the benefits that Ramadan is meant to bring us. That is why I spoke about why it is important that we use this month to detoxify our bodies as well as our souls.
a little background
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is the month where Muslims all around the world fast from dawn to dusk. It is not only food that one forgoes during those hours but also sexual relations, as well as any negative feelings or emotions. Basically, it is a test of patience. It is a time where one focuses on the spiritual needs of ones body and denies his physical needs. Read my post to learn more about fasting and it’s benefits.
Here are my suggestions on a healthier ramadan:
Meal prepping is becoming extremely popular these days with more and more people jumping on the health and wellness band wagon. Prepping is half the battle won when it comes to avoiding processed junk. Prepping ahead will save you from running out to the grocery store and grabbing the first thing you see. Remember, when you shop hungry, you risk buying more than you need and that too, whatever you can get your hands on. Some of the best things to meal prep are chutneys, samosas, smoothie ingredients, granola bites ( excellent for sahoor, the pre dawn meal, or just as a pick me up before perhaps dashing off to taraweeh, the voluntary night prayer).
make suhoor a priority
There are many people who can’t seem to stomach a pre dawn meal but if we want to eat healthier come iftar time, it is essential to nourish our bodies at sahoor. This will ensure a productive day and help prevent blood sugar dips and fatigue. If that isn’t motivation enough, just remember, it’s sunnah!
The Prophet (pbuh) has said:
Take suhoor as there is blessing in it
Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
Foods such as dates, honey, barley and squash are all considered super foods today. These were some of the foods recommended by the Prophet (pbuh) over 1400 years ago for good reason. Whole, nutrient dense foods will give us the energy we need to last the fourteen plus hours of fasting we have here in North America. Eating nutritiously will also prevent the gorging session we are likely to indulge in at iftar. Make sure to include fiber rich foods such as oatmeal, barley, apples and avocados to name a few, at suhoor. Fiber rich foods are known to keep you feeling full longer.
avoid fried foods
This may be extremely challenging to those of us that originate from the Indian Sub Continent as Ramadan is considered a free pass to eat as many Pakoras (gram flour fritters) and Samosas as our hearts desire. However, it is these fried foods that increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A study conducted by Leah Cahill of Harvard School of Public Health and An Pan of the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health concluded that the risk increased as the frequency of the fried food consumption increased. For example, participants who ate fried foods 4-6 times per week had an increased risk of 39% as compared to 55% increase in those who ate fried foods all 7 days of the week. Now imagine what it does to the body if we eat fried foods every single day for a whole month.
Hydration is very important and one should aim for at least 10 glasses of fluid a day. Although best, water need not be the only source. Milk, soups, vegetables and fruits are also great sources. Limit coffee and tea as they contain caffeine which dehydrates the body.
Shireen Hakim, RD suggests 2 cups at sahoor, 2 at iftar, 2 after Maghreb, a water bottle at taraweeh and 2 cups before bed.
give green tea a try
This may sound contradictory because there is caffeine in green tea, but the pros far outweigh the cons. To have it after iftar can be extremely helpful. Green tea contains Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which, according to a study from Japan suggests, may offset the signs of mental and physical fatigue. EGCG has also been shown to improve insulin use in the body to prevent sugar spikes and crashes that lead to irritability and cravings for unhealthy foods.
try not to overeat
This may be by far the toughest step but we must remember that gluttony is discouraged in our deen. The Prophet (pbuh) has said,
It is enough for the son of Adam to have just morsels that he can keep his back upright with. But if he must then 1/3 for food, 1/3 for water, 1/3 for air
Granted that after a whole day of fasting it is almost impossible to stop yourself from gorging at iftar but remember that the disadvantages of doing that are many. Bloating, lethargy and acid reflux being the most immediate. Make a conscious effort to listen to your body and stop at the first sign of fullness especially when eating out and at parties.
So there you have it. I hope you find benefit in following these tips during Ramadan and can make it the most productive and healthy one yet. I pray that the healthy eating we do in this blessed month gives us the jumpstart we need to live a healthier and more balanced lifestyle long after Ramadan has passed.
Share this article with friends and family, you will be doing your good deed for the day!
Try my recipe for Watermelon Juice, a great alternative to sugary drinks filled with artificial flavoring and dyes such as Red 40.