Our body’s response to fasting

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. 

Dates-1

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!

Nutritious Suhoor

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).

Suhoor 1

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)!

Strawberrry Smoothie

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.

Ramadan Nutrition Tips

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.

Meals:

Have balanced meals that include carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats that will also provide vitamins and minerals

  1. 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
  2. Protein: good sources are chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, beans, and lentils
  3. Healthy fats: good sources are walnuts, almonds, avocados, and fish
  4. Avoid salty foods: they will make your more thirsty!

Hydration:

Hydration

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!

Karhai Chicken

Number of servings: 6          Serving size: 2 pieces of chicken          Calories: 240 calories

Ingredients: 

Shan Meathi 2

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

Directions:

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.Karhai Chicken 3 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.

200 calories or less: snack ideas

First I would like to share some tips on healthy snacking:

  • Serving size is important – calories can add up easily
  • Try to include protein – dairy, nuts, beans, etc

  • Cook and freeze a big batch of beans so they are readily available
  • If you are still hungry after the snack – munch on raw veggies
  • Eat a healthy snack between your lunch and dinner, so you don’t over eat at dinner time

cherries

2 low-fat string cheese (50 kcals each) and 1 cup of fresh fruit

¼ cup hummus and veggies (carrot/celery sticks)

Low-fat yogurt with 1 cup of fresh fruit

A small apple with 1 Tbsp of nut butter

½ cup of chickpeas mixed with 1 cup of plain non-fat yogurt

 1 whole wheat bread with 1 Tbsp of nut butter

Non-fat Greek yogurt (6 oz) with 6 almonds

½ cup non-fat cottage cheese with 1 cup of fresh fruit

1 cup of kidney beans topped with chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt

Does Mediterranean Diet work?

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).

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...

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.

Baked Tilapia for desi taste buds

Why should I eat fish? It is a good source of lean protein and contains omega 3 fatty acids – good for the heart!

What is the recommendation? Eat 2 servings of variety of fish/weektalapia 2

What do you need for this recipe?

  • 5 Tilapia pieces (~4 oz piece)
  • 2 tsp Red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp Tumeric powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Garlic paste
  • 1 large lemon

Use the lemon juice to mix the seasonings. Use more if the lemon is not juicy enough to make a seasoning paste. Pat dry the defrosted tilapia. Rub the seasoning on the fish.

Preheat the oven to 350. Place fish on baking tray lined with aluminum foil and ligtly sprayed with oil (or it will stick to the pan)

Bake for 25-30 minutes or as needed.

Calories- approx 130 calories/fish 

Protein- approx 22 g/fish

Next time I will try this recipe with other type of fish.

One healthy tip at a time!

One healthy tip at a time!

Find out ways to add physical activity to your daily routine!  Some suggestions from America on the Move include:

1. Circle around the block when you go outside to get your mail

2. Make several trips up and down the stairs doing laundry or other household chores

3. Walk during lunch break and encourage your coworkers to join you

4. Avoid elevators and escalators

5. Visit the restroom on the far side of the building

Also, check out letsmove.gov

My Plate vs. My Plate

I know it’s not easy nor is it fun to count calories – you just want to enjoy the meal! USDA came out with the My Plate few years ago and I believe it is a great guide to eating healthy. It gives a quick visual of how our plate should look to be on the right track. It teaches us to enjoy a variety of foods in proper portions!

I decided to compare USDA My Plate with my plate. This is what it means to “Eat Right,Your Way, Every Day” – enjoy your cultural foods in moderation!

myplate

My Plate 1 labeled

  • Made half my plate fruits and vegetables
  • 1/4 of the plate was karhai chicken (lean protein) – popular dish in South Asian culture
  • 1/4 plate was nan – bread common in South Asian culture
  • Dairy – I did not have it at lunch but I did at breakfast

What one change would I try to make next time?

  • Make my bread whole grain

Theme for National Nutrition Month 2013 is “Eat Right,Your Way, Every Day

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