Ramadan is the month of fasting, Quran, extra good deeds and worship for Muslims. In the United States, with Ramadan occurring in summer for last few years and with this year as well we have long days of fasting. With the “Iftar” or breaking of fast at around 9 pm and the night prayers starting soon after 10 pm we rush through the eating process. By reaching home around midnight and waking up before 5 am for “Suhoor” or breakfast, many get sleep deprived. Yet, the month is enjoyed by us and the spiritual attainment and self-purification we reach during the month is amazing.
The act of depriving ourselves of food and other worldly distractions give us the ability to connect with ourselves and thus the potential to connect to God in a deeper sense. If this is not happening to you due to physical discomforts and mental fog, maybe, it is time to look at what you really are eating. Eating too much or not eating the right foods make us sluggish throughout the day. The low energy keeps us disconnected from the spiritual purpose of the holy month.
With 15-16 hours of no food and water, if not properly planned, we could end up cooking and eating not so healthy dishes.
Don’t we all watch the cooking channels and browse the online recipe blogs and try new recipes for Ramadan more than any other month? Our Facebook pages are filled with what our friends made for Iftar, and we drool over all those Instagram food pictures. There is nothing wrong with trying out new recipes and indulging in sugary and fried foods occasionally in Ramadan. After all, for many of us, Ramadan creates beautiful memories due to great tasting food in addition to communal meals and spiritual elevation. You don’t have to make drastic changes this year. Make some of the gradual changes given below, and in a few years, you will have the perfect, healthy, Ramadan.
These are some tips to make your Ramadan healthy:
1. Plan for the whole month or on a weekly basis what you will be preparing for Ramadan and stick with that.
2. No matter what you have, keep a salad and eat it first or eat it along with your food.
3. Don’t drink sugar for this Ramadan. The traditional Rose milk or the bottled drinks you drink every day for Ramadan are loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, and food colorings. Make your own fresh juices or lemonade with unrefined sugar or stevia. If you need something packaged, go for coconut water as it helps your body to replenish the lost electrolytes.
4. Make breakfast healthy. Smoothies, Smoothie bowls, and Avocado toast are all popular healthy choices. Pasture-raised organic eggs keep you full for many hours. Other breakfast ideas are full-fat yogurt with berries, hummus with pita bread or vegetables, and whole grain porridge with fruit.
5. Frying is okay on some days, but some foods like samosas and spring rolls can be baked. An air fryer is a great investment.
6. We all know that white flour, white salt, and white sugar are not good for us. If the recipe calls for white flour, replace some part of it with wheat or spelt flours. Replace white sugar with unrefined sugars like jaggery, agave, dates or date sugar, coconut sugar, honey, fruits or apple sauce. Replace table salt with sea salt, Himalayan or Celtic salts to get all the minerals. Keep in mind that sugar in any forms including the healing honey in Islamic culture in excess can give you blood sugar problems.
7. Sneak vegetables into anything you make - spinach or other greens to your pakoras, peas to your rice, ground carrots to your pasta, mushrooms to your meat dishes, etc.
8. Do not live on processed or packaged foods in Ramadan. This is the time to nourish your body with nutrient rich home-made whole foods preferably organic after long hours of depletion. Packaged foods are devoid of nutrients and filled with many harmful ingredients our body can’t process. If you feed your body with nourishing foods, it gives the body sustainable energy to carry you throughout the day.
9. For iftar, do not make appetizer every day. If you have to have appetizers, only make 1-3 pieces per person so even if you want to have more there will not be any left. If you eat more than that, keep in mind that your appetizer is not an appetizer anymore and is the main course.
10. If you cannot live without desserts in Ramadan, plan for low sugar or fruit based desserts.
11. If you have the habit of eating after night prayers or just before going to bed, save your fruit based dessert for that. No two servings of dessert during Ramadan.
12. If you suffer from constipation during Ramadan, you will have to make a conscious effort of consuming fiber-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Indigestion issues can be resolved by not overeating. Headaches due to not having caffeine can be reduced by limiting or eliminating caffeine a month before Ramadan.
13. Carry a water bottle and sip water throughout the night prayers. If you suffer from indigestion consider some teas like CCF tea made by boiling water with equal amounts of Coriander seeds, Fennel seeds and Cumin seeds (1 tsp each)
14. Practice mindful eating. Chew your food properly and slow down.
15. Last but not least remember the following verses of Quran regarding food quantity and quality (eating pure).
“Eat and drink, but not in EXCESS.”
“O people of faith, eat from the PURE provisions we have given you.”