A lot of us get ‘HANGRY’ when we are hungry, more so when fasting!
Did you know it is possible to fast and yet not be furious at the same time? Blame it on some wrong eating habits or wrong timing. But if we chose to eat right, fasting in the month of Ramadan can be done in a healthier manner.
A few healthy lifestyle changes and you are ready for the Hunger Games to begin!
In this age of many lavish choices, observing Ramadan has an additional ‘e’ attached and fasting leads to feasting. In the Arab World and Indian Subcontinent, an Iftar (breaking of the fast) is usually very grand and comprises of varieties of foods and desserts. It is like a ‘mini food-festival’ that takes place every day!
What is Ramadan?
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is obligatory and is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other four being, believing in one God, praying 5 times a day, giving charity and going to Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year to Muslims around the world because it is in this blessed month that the Holy Quran was revealed.
It is believed that when one fasts, it brings forth gratitude. This makes them realize the value and importance of food and water in their lives. Ideally the fasting person realizes how fortunate they are to be blessed with the basic necessities of life. In addition to this, fasting teaches self-control and strengthens the belief in God.
Turning to a Healthy Ramadan
A few years ago, an Iftar meal at our home would include traditional Ramadan dishes like Fruit Salad (loaded with 6-8 tbsp of sugar), Chickpeas/Chana Chaat, mini pizzas, loads of fried fritters like onion bhajiyas, potato and jalapeño pakodas, and yummy Bohri keema and cheese samosas.
In addition to this, there would be a few beverages like Vimto and Rose milk (all loaded with sugar) to replenish what we lost during the day. Sigh!! We enjoyed each and everything without any feeling of guilt.
I would always wonder, why was I feeling so lethargic and stuffed after the meal. Even praying after breaking the fast would feel like a task!
With time I realized small changes needed to be made towards a healthy and happy Ramadan.
Today, our Iftar is simpler. The fruit salad is made without any added sugar. Fruits have a lot of natural sugars and fibre to keep us going for the day. Fried foods like samosas or fritters are consumed once a week. We enjoy hearty soups and fresh sandwiches on most days. After breaking our fast, we feel so energetic and cheerful (v/s lethargic and moody like before.)
Break Your Fast With Light Foods
When breaking the fast (Iftar/Futoor), avoid fried, spicy and gassy foods. Having these on an empty stomach will mess with your digestive system and result in acid reflux and gas. Rather, opt for soups, stews, sandwiches, baked and steamed foods.
Hydration is Must
Keep yourself hydrated with water/infused water, buttermilk/laban/lassi, milkshakes and fruit smoothies after breaking your fast. Avoid drinks with a high sugar content like rose syrup, Roohafza, Vimto, flavored drinks and sodas. It messes with your blood sugar levels and makes you uncomfortable.
During Iftar/Futoor Eat Healthy
Think dates, fresh fruits, fruit salad, veggie salad, smoothies. Fruits/Veggies rich in water content (watermelon, cucumbers) are excellent to keep your system cool and hydrated in the summer heat.
As per family tradition, if you have to serve samosas, spring rolls, cutlets, kebabs, and other heavy foods, try grilling them OR try air frying (an air fryer is a great investment for healthy eating). It is so much better than deep frying!
And if you really need to have some fried foods, then try to fry them in olive oil. It is much lighter on your gut. Plus, your guilt will be a little less too. It is absolutely OK to indulge sometimes NOT everyday. It’s okay to have your favorite fried foods or pizzas when you break your fast but once in a while. Even I do!
Have Complete Meals
Along with proteins (meat, poultry, fish, lentils, etc.) don’t forget to include carbs (rice, brown bread, roti/flatbread) in your food. Your carbs is where you’ll get your fuel (read: energy) for the day.
Don’t Eat Heavy Before Going For The Prayers
Try not to stuff your tummy before the night prayer. It will make you feel thirsty, heavy and nauseous during the prayers.
Before Dawn-Break Eat Foods Consciously
For the meal before dawn-break (Sehri/Suhoor), avoid fried foods and junk food because they will only make you feel thirstier the next day. Fruits, eggs, oats, porridge, yogurt are perfect to keep you fueled and full. Dried fruits and nuts will give you energy for the next day too.
Eat In Healthy Portions
Remember, don’t go overboard while eating at Iftar gatherings. Your tummy doesn’t know that you have been invited to eat. All it knows is that it needs some food and water upon breaking the fast. So why not give it something healthy!
Be the change! If your family has been following the tradition of eating heavy, fried, unhealthy foods when breaking the fast, try to introduce or suggest healthier food/cooking options. A healthy lifestyle will begin with YOU!
Remember a healthy household is a happier household!! Have a blessed Ramadan you all. Share your healthy Ramadan ideas in comments below.