With the blessed month of Ramadan quickly approaching, we need to be prepared for the long days of fasting. Every year, many of us start to panic and run out of ideas on how to keep our selves hydrated, full, and functioning while we tackle our busy routines and schedules as we fast the long hours in Ramadan. Suhoor is the key! Every Muslim who fasts should not skip this very important pre-dawn meal. And most importantly, suhoor should be a healthy, well-balanced meal, as it will be the primary source of strength and nutrition for our body throughout the day.
Personally, I have always struggled with waking up to eat before dawn during Ramadan. My daily Ramadan routine consists of setting my alarm about 20 minutes before Fajr, which allows enough time for me to brew myself a cup of coffee and take an Advil to prevent the inevitable caffeine withdrawals I suffer from during the day. I think many of us don’t take on suhoor because we simply don’t want to make anything to eat that early in the morning. A good way to approach this is by preparing suhoor the night before. I have some tips which may be helpful and hopefully you’ll feel encouraged to try them out this year.
Yogurt parfaits are easy to prepare. Choose your preferred flavor and kind of yogurt, top it with your favorite grains, oats, fruits, and nuts. Yogurt is known for being rich in calcium, but it is also an excellent source of B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and protein. This makes it a great choice for suhoor as it will aid your metabolism and blood pressure regulation, promotes good bone health, and keeps you feeling full, of course. Adding some of the suggested healthy toppings such as nuts and fruits to your yogurt, will provide you with extra fiber, protein , omega-3 fatty acids, many vitamins and antioxidants, and it will also be a balanced and delicious healthy snack for your suhoor.
Another simple thing you can prepare in advance is a smoothie. Blend your favorite fruits and veggies together and customize your own signature smoothie. Be creative and try to include nuts for protein and fiber, dairy for an extra boost of calcium, at least one kind of vegetable, and at least two fruit items to create variety and allow yourself to take in as much as you can from different food groups to maintain good health. Be sure to choose colorful fruits and vegetables. Think of it like eating the rainbow.
Fruits and vegetables are color-coded for our benefit subhanAllah, and each color family serves to fight against diseases and protect our bodies. The red group contains lycopene, which promotes a healthy heart, urinary tract health, cancer prevention, as well as memory. The orange/yellow group promotes healthy immune system, eye health as well as heart health. This group is high in vitamin C, beta carotene, and detoxifies our body from harmful environmental factors. The green color group are rich in iron, calcuim, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium, and are excellent for heart, liver, and lung health as well as reducing risks of cancer. The blue/purple group are also rich in antioxidants, folate, potassium, and vitamin C, and they aid in preventing wrinkles, act as anti inflammatory for the body as well as overall support of immune system. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent way to supplement the body with lots of vitamins and nutrients, and given that we fast around 16 hours or more each day, we need to make sure to keep well balanced and healthy diet during Ramadan. Smoothies are a great way to provide ourselves with a delicious way of keeping up with our daily recommended nutrition. Here are few of my favorite smoothie recipes that will only take few minutes to prepare and taste absolutely delicious:
- 3 Cups Carrot juice
- 3-4 Strawberries
- 1 Banana
- 1/4 Cup Blueberries
- 2 Tbsp Honey
- Handful of baby spinach or kale
- 3 Cups Almond milk
- 3-4 dates
- 2 bananas
- Handful of walnuts or almonds to use for topping
- 3 Cups Carrot juice
- 2 Cup Mangoes chunks
- 1 Banana
- 1/4 Cup blueberries
Not a fan of smoothies? Try preparing yourself a salad.
Grab your favorite greens and top them with at least 2-3 fruit or veggie items. Remember, the more color in your salad, the more nutritious and packed with vitamins it will be. Make your salads colorful, with variety of texture and taste by adding your favorite nuts and grains to it. Here are few ideas for salads, but you can be creative and come up with your own personal favorite combo.
- Baby spinach
- Sweet potatoes cubed
- Shredded carrots
- Crumbled feta
- With your favorite dressing. My personal favorite is raspberry dressing
- Topped with balsamic glaze or raspberry dressing
You can definitely make this a more hearty suhoor and add grilled chicken strips from the previous night’s iftar or have hard boiled eggs on the side with the salad for protein. If you are not into leafy salads, you can make fruit salad. Chop up your favorite fruits and have them ready in a container. One fruit you can’t go wrong with is watermelon. It is perfect to keep your body hydrated and its very filling.
Traditionally, in Ramadan, I put together plates of unsalted raw nuts with dried fruits and keep them in the kitchen and family room area for my family members to have. My platters include, but are not limited to, cashews, walnuts, almonds, dates, and apricots. They make a great handy snack from the time we break our fast to the time we go to sleep. Dates are an excellent source of potassium, fiber, copper, and magnesium, just to name a few. The benefits of dates are endless. They promote great digestive health, they are a natural anti inflammatory, and are excellent for heart health and lowering blood pressure. Apricots are very significant and important as well. They are a familiar fruit in many Muslim households all year long and especially in Ramadan. Besides the fact that they are absolutely delicious, it takes the guilt out when you get to know their amazing benefits. They also happen to be an excellent source of potassium which is key to regulating fluid balance. They are also rich in iron and copper which can help with production of hemoglobin. Combining dates and apricots with some healthy nuts creates a rich and tasty snack that is also excellent for your health. These tasty snacks allow us to make healthy choices and will help maintain our energy the next day too.
Remember to drink plenty of water and fluids. Many of us go for the energy electrolyte drinks, but those are filled with artificial everything and do our bodies more harm than good. We can replenish and hydrate our bodies by replacing those sugary drinks with coconut water and chia seeds. Raw Coconut water is packed with potassium and electrolytes! Adding a tablespoon of chia takes it to the next level. Chia seeds are a superfood rich in omega-3, protein, fiber, and hold 9 times its weight in water which will keep your body from dehydration
I hope some of these tips will be beneficial. The most important thing to remember is choose healthy, have variety, and stay hydrated! If all else fails and suhoor is still hard to tackle, grab yourself a plate of dates and a cold glass of milk. It doesn’t get any more basic than that. Dates are sunnah of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and they will provide your body with an incredible source of energy to help carry out the day while fasting. Wishing you all a healthy and peaceful blessed month of Ramadan and may Allah (swt) accept our fasting.