Eating Healthily over Ramadan

This year Ramadan falls in the summer months and for those living in the Northern hemisphere it will be a long fast day. In order to have sustainable energy during the month of Ramadan it’s time to reflect over your current diet and lifestyle and consider some minor changes you can make to introduce healthy foods.

The mistake most people make is they think they can eat anything they want at sunset when they break the fast.

Pre-Dawn Meal

Do you find yourself skipping the pre-dawn meal, as you don’t want to eat too early in the morning or need your beauty sleep?

It’s essential to start the day with a balanced meal, which is both filling and provides a gradual release of energy. Avoid simple carbohydrates; think white foods like white bread, white rice or rotis. Instead consider including complex carbohydrates like whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat toast, etc) with a healthy choice of protein and fat like eggs, yogurt, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese. Do drink lots of water and also include hydrating fruits like oranges, grapefruits, watermelons, coconut water, etc.

Iftar:

When breaking the fast enjoy 1 or 2 dates, but not too many as these are high in sugar; one Medjool date has 16 grams of sugar (source: USDA Food Content).

Remember the evening meal should be a meal and is NOT a feast; so avoid piling the plate up too high or going for extra helpings as you will suffer from indigestion later.

Below are some suggestions on how to make some small changes to your meals that will make a big difference to your energy levels and waistline:

Unhealthy Foods Eaten Healthier Option
Fried foods like samosas, pakodas, bhajias, etc. Masala chips (please see recipe below)

Kale chips

Chaat (made with tomatoes, chickpeas, coriander leaves, onions, etc)

Fried sweet cooling foods like rasmalai, gulab jamun, rasgulla, etc. Kheer (rice pudding made with reduced sugar)

Savia (vermicelli made with reduced sugar)

Tapioca

Yogurt with fresh fruit

Sweet foods like barfi or other mithai Nut & Fruit Bar (please see recipe below)

Date & seed energy balls

Piece of fresh fruit

Fruit smoothie

Sodas and soft drinks Water should be your main drink

Fresh fruit & vegetable juices

Coconut water

Oily foods like curries (where you visibly see the oil settling and forming a layer above.) Use less oil or ghee when cooking, don’t worry, it will still taste good and you will feel lighter for it.

Use tomato based curries instead of cream ones.

Try roasting or grilling your meat so they can cook in their natural fats, e.g. chicken or lamb

Steamed or BBQ fish with sauce

Overcooked greasy vegetables Have a variety of vegetables and cook these gently or pan fry lightly so you can taste their fresh flavors.

Vegetables are the main missing food group for most people and I cannot emphasize that these should be a significant part of your meal, have them steamed, stir-fried, raw, in soups, etc.

Adding pre-packaged masalas that may contain MSG and other additives? Use fresh spices

You don’t need to give up your favorite unhealthy foods, but have them in small portions and eat them occasionally. Most importantly leave the feasting for the end of Ramadan, Eid.

Having read this article I hope you are inspired to make some changes this Ramadan.  

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Try these recipes.

Nut & Seed Bar

½ cup cashewnuts

½ cup almonds

½ cup dried fruits

1 ½ cup puffed rice

½ cup pumpkin/sunflower seeds

½ cup shredded coconut

½ cup honey (or less if you don’t want it sweet)

½ cup almond or cashew nut butter

100 grams dark chocolate

Blend all the dry ingredients so there are no large pieces. Start with the nuts, then add in the dried fruit and the seeds and coconut last. In a pan heat the nut butter and honey until it melts and is a liquid. Mix all the dry ingredients into this mixture until fully coated. Line a baking tray with paper and spoon the mixture on. Use a spatula to flatten so it’s all the same level.

Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over some hot water. Spoon this over the mixture and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Cut into pieces and serve. This should be stored in the refrigerator or the chocolate will melt.

Sweet Potato Chips

2 sweet potatoes

1 tsp olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Tomato Sauce:

1 tomato, blanched and skin removed

1 small clove of garlic

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1 red chili (or to taste)

Sea salt to taste

Blend all the ingredients for the sauce until it is smooth.

Cut the sweet potatoes into thin strips and coat with olive (or coconut) oil and sea salt. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 20 minutes, turning them over half way through. Pour 3-4 tbsp of the sauce onto the chips when nearly cooked and bake for another 2-3 minutes. Serve hot.

This article was written for Fuchsia Magazine