Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our brain. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend 45-65% of the calories from carbohydrates. If we deprive ourselves of this essential nutrient, we won’t have the proper energy for our daily routine. Lack of carbs in the diet can make us feel tired, weak and light-headed.
When it comes to eating carbohydrates, here are two simple tips:
A. Eat the right type of carbohydrate: There are two types of carbs: simple and complex
Simple: white bread, refined rice or pasta, milk, candies, sodas
Complex: vegetables, some fruits, whole-grain, legumes (peas and beans), brown rice
Complex carbohydrates are a good source of dietary fiber and fiber is important for a healthy digestive system. Soluble fiber also helps lower cholesterol and slow the digestive system making us feel full. The feeling of fullness will prevent us from overeating. Simple carbs do not have fiber and are processed quickly in our bodies. But not all simple carbs are bad. For example, milk is a source of protein and carbohydrate and provides calcium that is necessary for strong bones.
B. Eat in proper portions:
Carbohydrates should be part of every meal in the form of whole grain bread, brown rice, fruit, and chickpeas, but in proper portions. Check out the link below to learn more about appropriate portion sizes.
After fasting for more than 12 hours, I am ready to eat! Here are some tips that I keep in mind especially at an iftaar party:
Pick up the healthy options: Most likely we will be eating our traditional/cultural foods. When it comes to our traditional foods, not all of them are unhealthy. Cholay (chickpeas), fruit chat, daal (lentils), haleem (lentils and meat) are some great food choices. Cholay, daal, and haleem have protein and carbs and usually not cooked with much oil (Click here to check out my nutrient analysis of homemade daal).
Go easy: Items like samosas and pakoray are deep-fried so don’t eat too many. I love these foods and it would be wrong to ask anyone to avoid their favorite foods. The key is to enjoy them in moderation.
Avoid eye-contact: With the dessert I mean… If you keep staring at the dessert…your mouth will start watering and you are more likely to fail at resisting your urge, and going to end up eating it. Tell yourself you are satisfied and just don’t make eye contact! Busy yourself with a good conversation or better yet head out for prayer.
Remember: Vegetables are very low in calories so you can eat a lot of them!
What about Tandoori Naan?
Just 1 Deep brand Tandoori Naan has 250 kcals! If you eat 2 Chapli Kabobs with 1 naan that will put you over 500 kcals. A better option would be to choose a whole wheat tortilla instead of a naan.
Bottom Line is to eat what you enjoy in moderation. Try to include fruit and some veggies with your dinner to balance your meal, as well as get fiber and nutrients into your body. Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
Mindful Eating Tip
“As the size of our dishes increase, so does the amount we scoop onto them. They cause us to serve ourselves more because they make the food look small…The smaller the serving dish, the less you take, and the less you eat” Brian Wansink
After Taraweeh late night healthy snack ideas:
Low-fat frozen yogurt
2 cups of watermelon
Cup of milk with an apple
100% fruit juice popsicle stick
Click here for more snack ideas of less than 200 kcals
Let’s use our laptops as an example to understand how our bodies process what we eat for suhoor and, through it, we can understand how important eating suhoor is for our bodies while we fast. When our laptops are connected to an outlet, it has an instant source of energy. When the laptop batteries are charged, we can use our laptops for the next few hours.
Similarly, the glucose we consume at suhoor is the instant and main source of energy for our body. Carbohydrates (ex. bread and fruit) are broken down into glucose and used as energy as well as stored for later use. When glucose stores are full, excess glucose will be converted to fat and stored away (that is why it is important to limit the carbs at each meal so they don’t get converted into excess fat). Excess fat and protein in our meal are also stored until needed for energy.
During fasting: The body will use stored glucose to slowly release glucose for energy into the body in the next 12 hours. Some fat and protein is also used for energy but it is mostly glucose. When glucose stores are empty, our body mostly uses fat.
Now that we understand the physiological response of our body to the food we eat -> realize that you want to eat enough carbs to provide our body and brain with sufficient energy but not too much as we want to tap into our fat reserves and use some fat for energy. That is why it is important to eat a balanced meal!
No matter how sleepy you are, don’t skip suhoor (morning meal consumed in Ramadan). Eating breakfast will sustain you enough to be able to perform daily activities without feeling lethargic, having headaches, or feeling irritable. Eat a balanced suhoor that includes a variety of food groups, such as complex carbohydrates (ex. whole wheat), protein (ex. egg), and dairy (ex. milk).
Here are some breakfast ideas: each meal is less than 360 calories
1) 1 large egg cooked in minimum oil with chopped tomatoes and green peppers, 2 slices of whole wheat toast, and 1 cup of skim milk or 100% fruit juice
2) 1 large egg (cooked in minimum oil) wrapped in a 6 in. whole wheat tortilla with 2 Tbsp of salsa, 1/2 cup of skim milk with Cheerios
3) 1/2 cup of oat meal with 1 cup of skim milk and 1 medium apple
4) 2 whole grain waffles with 1 tbsp nut butter (ex. peanut butter) and 1 cup of skim milk
5) 1 hard-boiled eggs with 1 tbsp of nut butter, 1 slice of toast and 1 cup of skim milk
6) 1 slice of whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp nut butter, 1 cup of skim milk and 1 serving of fruit
I love smoothies and I will definitely be making smoothies at suhoor for my family! It will provide calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Potassium, and some monounsaturated fats (healthy fats)!
Blend together 1 cup of frozen strawberries, ½ medium banana, 1 cup of skim milk, ½ cup plain non-fat or low-fat yogurt, and 1 tbsp of almonds. Alternatively, you can try it with any of your favorite fruits!
For parents with picky eaters: if you have children who refuse to eat anything else besides cereal, try this smoothie. You can even make it the night before!
Also, try my breakfast smoothie recipe (about 280 calories per serving)! Don’t make this the night before as it will get too thick by suhoor time.
With only few days left until Ramadan, It is important to know how to eat healthy and meet our body’s needs while fasting for more than 12 hours.
Have balanced meals that include carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats that will also provide vitamins and minerals
Carbohydrates: choose “complex” carbs which will provide soluble fiber that will slow stomach emptying and help you feel fuller longer. Good sources are oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, apples, and kidney beans
Protein: good sources are chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, beans, and lentils
Healthy fats: good sources are walnuts, almonds, avocados, and fish
Between iftaar and suhoor try to drink plenty of water. Stay away from sugary drinks. You don’t have to completely avoid traditional drinks at iftaar, but enjoy them in small portions and limit them to 2-3 times a week. If you are craving a sweet drink, I would recommend these refreshing drinks:
100% fruit juice
100% coconut water
100% homemade smoothie
Read the label to make sure you pick up 100% fruit juice with no added sugar.
How much water should I drink? Aim to drink a minimum of 3 water bottles (1500 ml) between Iftaar and Suhoor. Since it’s summer, it wouldn’t be a stretch to shoot for even 5 bottles!
In my next few posts, I will discuss healthy eats at Suhoor and Iftaar!
Number of servings: 6 Serving size: 2 pieces of chicken Calories: 240 calories
1 whole chicken
8 medium sized tomatoes (cubed)
1 cup oil
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp (turmeric powder)
2 Tbsp cayenne pepper flakes
½ tsp red chili powder 5-6 green chili (split into half and remove the seeds)
2 Tbsp plain low fat yogurt
11/2 tsp fenugreek leaves (Qasuri Methi)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1. Heat the oil and add garlic, ginger, and chicken. Cook the chicken on high heat until it turns white.
2. Add cayenne pepper flakes, red chili powder, turmeric powder, and tomatoes. Cook until there is very little water remaining in the pan.
3. Add yogurt and cook till water dries up and oil has surfaced.
4. Add fenugreek leaves (qasuri methi) and green chilies.
5. Add 1 tsp salt or as desired. 6. Optional: add ground gram masala
7. Garnish with cilantro
Note: the calories are based on the estimate that 5.3% of the corn oil was absorbed and rest was burned. Absorption depends on the heat, type of oil, and food that is being cooked. Information is based on this research article.
People of Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy have healthy hearts and low rate of cardiovascular disease which is because of the Mediterranean eating pattern.
What is Mediterranean Diet?
The focus is on intake of fresh homemade meals consisting of: whole grain breads and pasta, fish instead of red meat, grilled and steamed food instead of fried, beans and soybeans, non fat or low fat dairy products and use of olive oil which contains monounsaturated fat. It encourages whole grains, fruits and vegetables that provide fiber, and fiber improves motility and satiety. Refined sugars and high calorie processed foods are prohibited.
Ancel Keys, a nutrition expert, writes that the “heart of the diet is that it’s mainly vegetarian, includes far less meat and dairy than American and Northern European diets, and uses fruit for dessert” (Harvard Health Letter, 2008).
Does it work?
Mediterranean diet works because it is not considered a strict diet but more like a lifestyle modification and the person can enjoy different variety of foods.
Is Weight-loss likely?
This is not a low carbohydrate or a low protein diet. It is a balance of nutrients to ensure health, weight loss and satisfaction because there is no elimination of major food groups but only saturated fat, trans fat and processed foods are discouraged.