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Kay's House of Treats: Preparing for Ramadan - Meal Organization & Healthy Eating Tips

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Preparing for Ramadan - Meal Organization & Healthy Eating Tips

Please 'like' me on Facebook to keep updated with new posts, tips & tricks, or to ask me any questions: Kay's House of Treats 

It's going to be Ramazan in about a week Alhamdulillah! 

For my readers who are non-Muslims, Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. Everyday during this month, Muslims around the world spend the daylight hours in a complete fast by abstaining from food & drink from sunrise (suhoor/sehri) to sunset (iftar). Not only do Muslims have to fast, but they also have to stay away from any sinful behavior or speech and spend more time in prayer. Ramadan teaches Muslims to practise self-discipline & develop empathy for those who are less unfortunate. 

Unfortunately, we are so focused on cooking in this month & the preparation of lavish meals for Sehri & Iftar that we forget about the real objective of this month - pray, ask for forgiveness and trying to do good deeds.What I am going to be doing is sharing some tips that will help you make the most of this month - healthy eating tips so that you remain fresh & organizing tips so you spend less time in kitchen and more time in prayer.

1. Meal Planning
Don't wait for the first roza to start your meal organization. First of all, make a list
 of all the dishes that you want to make during Ramadan, dividing it into Sehri, Iftar & Dinner options. Include your favourite tried & tested recipes, along with any other recipes that you want to try this year. The second step is to organize the list into a weekly or fortnightly plan, noting down the meals that you plan to make daily. There will be unexpected surprises or changes in whatever plan you are making, but at least it will help you prepare in advance. The third step is to organize your grocery list - whatever staples & produce is required. If you are ordering food from outside (especially frozen items), make a note of the quantity required.
Menu Planners available here for your reference:

2. Storing Food in the Freezer
Prepare meals in advance for Sehri, Iftar & Dinner. This way you can ensure your
family is eating healthy home-made food, but you will all also save time by cooking & storing in bulk. Secondly, food stored in the freezer will always be a good back-up options for days when you are running late and don't have time to make a meal from scratch.
P.s. I will be doing a separate post on freezer cooking (recipes & methods to freeze) in detail.

3. Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet is even more essential during Ramadan. We are fasting from sunrise to sunset, and it is necessary to refrain from over-indulging and eat food that will give us much needed nutrition. Feeling weak the next day after having a heavy iftar & skipping dinner is not because you are fasting but because you haven't eaten properly!

Our diet should include food from all major food groups - bread or cereals, milk & dairy products, meat, fish or other protein, fruits and vegetables and fat & sugars. It is okay to indulge once in a while but food with high sugar content or fatty food should be avoided as it digests slowly and makes one feel thirsty during the day. 

Eating fibre-rich food or complex carbohydrates is recommended especially during Sehri as they are digested slowly and provide much needed energy during the day. This includes food like oats, bread (wholewheat or bran/multi-grain preferred), beans (chickpeas, red beans/rajma, black eyed peas/lobia) & fruits and vegetables (especially green vegetables). It is customary to break the fast with dates not only because it is Sunnah but also because it provides instant energy. 

4. Keeping Your Body Hydrated

Almost all of us are guilty of drinking 3-4 glasses of water, juices or carbonated drinks at Iftar then feeling way too bloated to have anything else! In actuality we should consume 8-10 glasses of liquid from iftar to sehri properly spaced out so our body is hydrated.

Secondly, the Rs. 5 off carbonated drink advertisements that are oh so tempting during Ramadan - ignore them! Carbonated drinks are high in sugar & caffeine content and will not provide the hydration our body requires. Instead make smoothies/milkshakes/lassis for Sehri & Iftar. Eat fresh fruit or vegetables with high water content like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, melons & oranges. Let's also not forget 'Laal Sherbet' which is a must in every household at Iftar time. While it is considered to healthy, try to avoid adding sugar, or drink with milk.

5. Healthy Cooking Methods

I will be the first to admit it here - while I might talk all about eating healthy, but I love having fried items in Ramadan. I also know that for a lot of people, it isn't considered a proper iftar if there are no pakora's on the table!

BUT there are ways to have the food you enjoy and still maintain a good diet (albeit slightly less nutritious).
  1. Use healthy cooking methods like shallow frying, grilling or baking. Shallow-fry pakora's & bake/grill samosa's & rolls.
  2. Don't eat fried items from outside - there is no guarantee about the kind of oil used so its ALWAYS best to fry at home
  3. Use kitchen towel/tissue paper for soaking up excess oil - do not use newspaper as the ink contains lead which is toxic.
  4. Limit the amount of fried items at Iftar; only keep 1-2 items at a time so the cravings are indulged without going over-board
  5. Organize the rest of the meal in reference to the items served at iftar. If serving a heavy iftar with fried items, make sure that the rest of the items are healthy like salads, fruit chat (no sugar), beans (cholay, lobia or rajmah), dahi baray etc. Alternatively, serve a light iftar with 2-3 basic items and then a family style dinner meal like Pizza, Singaporean Rice, Biryani, or similar one-pot/casserole style dish. 
6. Eating Out
One week before Ramadan and you will start getting flooded with all the Sehri & Iftar deals.  I personally have a major grudge against the 'all you can eat' deals because there is SO much food wasted by people, and they all start during Ramadan when we should be most careful about food wastage. So go out or order food from outside but make sure that it does not promote negative behaviour - make sure you don't neglect your prayers outside; don't get upset if the waiter/server is rushed or there is a slight delay as he is also probably fasting; in fact, giving him additional tip will only make the extra effort that he's putting in during this month worth it; and most importantly don't waste food! 

O children of Adam! Attend to your embellishments at every time of prayer, and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.
Reference: Surah al-A’araaf 7:31
Sayyidina Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “When one of you eats his meal and a morsel falls down, he must pick it up and remove the doubtful portion and eat the rest. He must not leave it for the devil.”
Reference: Jami’ Tirmidhi, authenticated by al-Albani

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