Tips For A Healthy And Nutritious Ramadan
AS the holy month of Ramadan fast approaches, many are preparing copious amounts of sweet and savory dishes for the ‘feast’ to break the fast, which is iftaar. Pantries and freezers are being packed, stocked and loaded with various delicacies which will adorn Muslim homes across the world. Tables will be laden with an abundance of dishes, making up for the day spent in abstinence.
Though we want to experience our traditions, it would be wise to contemplate the true meaning of fasting and Ramadhan. Allah The Almighty has given us every month of the year in which we eat, drink and over indulge. He asks us for one month of sacrifice, for His sake (but for our benefit). The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Allah said: ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…’” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
Allah asks us to abstain not only from food and drink but worldly desires (for a prescribed time daily). He asks us to increase in our ibadah and to draw closer to Him through our practices and affairs. The whole day our digestive system has time to heal, recover and work more efficiently, then at iftaar it is overloaded with deep fried, sugary foods and carbonated drinks. In the end, is this what the Almighty desires from us? Let this Ramadan not only be spiritually rewarding, but also physically.
For many, more significance is given to the iftaar meals. For some, eating continues for many hours into the night. Very often, the suhoor meal is neglected or ends up being the leftovers from iftaar. It is narrated in the Sunnah that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ advised “Whoever wants to fast, let him eat suhoor” (Al Bukhari, Muslim).
You would not take on a marathon without preparation, right? So don't avoid suhoor and say "I’m not hungry at that time" or "I really can’t eat that early". You cannot drive your car without fuel so don't expect your body to run on fumes without dire consequences.
The hadeeth indicates that there is much benefit to eating the suhoor, spiritually, physically, in this world and the next. In the hadeeth, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also said: “Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing and verily that which separates between our fast and the fast of the people of the book is eating before dawn”. (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
Start your fast with a healthy suhoor, as part of your ibadah. Let’s make this Ramadan not only spiritually rewarding, but physically too. Below are some tips toward a cleaner Ramadan for you and your family. You can still enjoy traditional foods, by remembering to eat in moderation and never till capacity.
Ramadan Tips For A Healthier Suhoor
Try to avoid or reduce the following:
Forget traditional boxed cereals, as they are often loaded with refined sugars that will result in sugar spikes and a feeling of hunger early during the day.
Try to avoid eating left over delicacies from iftaar. These would normally be deep fried or highly sweetened. This will add very little nutritious value and your body will be yearning for food all day.
Reduce the consumption of carbonated drinks and fruit juice. The sugars in liquids are very easily absorbed and cause sudden sugar spikes and dips. This causes a high amount of insulin to be secreted into the bloodstream trying to shuttle the sugar to the cells.
Glutinous wheat bread, rolls, pastries, muffins, scones, rotis, parathas, chapatis etc, both white and brown varieties, are converted into large amounts of sugar. They will make you feel full quickly but will not keep you feeling full for long as the sugar burns off easily.
Include the following ingredients:
Eggs are a wonderfully nutritious option and can be prepared in a variety of ways, catering for individuals or families. The meal can be packed with veggies like mushrooms – tomatoes – capsicums and herbs.
Organ meats are a rich source of beneficial nutrients and can easily be used as a filling in sandwiches, buns or wraps. Some good options include, chicken / ox / beef / sheep’s liver – kidneys – heart – gizzards.
Nut and seed granola served with Greek yoghurt, full cream yoghurt or coconut milk adds a good amount of healthy fats, protein and fiber which will keep you satiated for longer hours
Include some fresh fruit like avocado, pears, bananas or berries. These fruits can be eaten in a salad or as a smoothie.
Smoothies can be made rich in nutrients by using variations of coconut milk – chia seeds - sunflower seeds - pumpkin seeds - hemp seeds – protein powder – peanut butter and or fresh fruits. Avoid adding refined sugar to your smoothies. If you do want to add sweetness, opt for dates, date syrup, pure honey or pure maple syrup.
If you prefer something warm and comforting, then try steel cut or rolled oats cooked in coconut milk. Spice up this porridge with some cinnamon or pumpkin spice.
Invest in baking some good quality gluten-free bread (see my homemade nut and seed bread recipe) which is not only low in carbohydrates and sugars, but rich in nutrients. Baking bread with nuts, seeds and eggs will not only keep you feeling full for longer but will also benefit you more than eating breads fortified synthetically.
Caashifa Adams is a South African from Cape Town, working as a Lecturer at the King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences in Al Ahsa Saudi Arabia. Her social media pages were created to share recipes she uses in her way of eating. That is, 80% low carb, 20% free combined with intermittent and Sunnah fasting. The pages have now progressed to becoming a sharing place of her sights and sounds as well as even off plan recipes she uses for her family. With this way of eating, she has reversed insulin resistance and PCOS. She is off all chronic medication and maintains good blood glucose control. She tries to combine good food with good nutrition by creating delicious dishes which are easy to make. You can find her on Facebook or Instagram (Caashifa)