A healthy iftaar

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.

Haleem 3

1 cup Haleem with fresh cucumber and cantaloupe

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
Low-fat popcorn
Click here for more snack ideas of less than 200 kcals

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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!