Improving our eating habits is no piece of cake. But the approach of the holy month makes for an opportune time to shake tired routines. Fatimah Jackson-Best shows you how.
Shopping for food during Ramadan can be challenging, especially when your stomach is growling in anticipation of iftar. But buying the right food is just as important as eating the right food to have a successful month of fasting. Remember, the point isn’t to use Ramadan as a crash-diet for the month, or to go on a month-long health kick only to later revert to bad habits. Every decision we make with food is a part of healthy living, and it starts at the grocery store or farmers market, depending on where you prefer to do your shopping. Here, I’ll be sharing a few tips and tricks that are useful for Ramadan and beyond, for newcomers and old pros alike.
I love shopping at farmers markets here in Barbados. Most items are fresh, locally grown and – most importantly – in season! Right now mangos are on every vendor’s table and they come in more varieties than I can eat. Get to know which fruits and veggies are in season by asking your local vendors, who can help you find the freshest produce. You may be amazed at the familiar and unfamiliar fruits and veggies being grown in your country or city.
Many items in farmers markets are also organic, which means they haven’t been genetically modified or tampered with. It was this kind of food that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and our ancestors ate, and it is definitely more nutritious than what we may find in a box or vacuum-sealed bag. So don’t be afraid of a little bit of dirt on your produce! That means it just came out the ground where it was taking its natural time to grow to perfection.
Find your nearest farmers market and make a morning out of it with a friend or loved one. Once you get home, look for recipes to whip up with the fresh produce you’ve bought, and invite guests over for iftar to increase your blessings and your knowledge around the kitchen. Nothing feels better than giving hungry people a meal, and you can tell everyone that you supported local farmers too!
Grocery stores can also be great places to buy nutritious and delicious food for your iftar and sahur meals. I like to follow two rules that ease my excursions to big chain grocery stores:
1. Make a list before you go to help you stay organised and on track. If you have a few meals in mind, list out the ingredients before you go and stick to it. Lists will cut down your time in the grocery store and help you to avoid buying things you don’t need.
2. Shop in the outside aisles of the store. This will direct you to the places where fruits, vegetables, dairy items, meats, eggs and other real food with expiration dates are kept. Think about your local grocery store: where are the chocolate bars, soda and boxes of cereal? They are usually in the middle aisles and closest to the cash registers. Resist the urge to go down these aisles of empty calories and work your way around the outskirts of the grocery store first.
Once you’ve loaded up your cart with apples, bananas, lettuce, sweet potatoes, eggs, fish, chicken and yogurt, you can check out the aisles with beans, canned vegetables and seasonings. After that, your cart may be too full for any bags of chips or bottles of soda. And that’s no tragedy. These items bear little resemblance to real food; they will neither fuel you nor fill you up.
During Ramadan it is important to choose foods that help us to sustain our strength and keep us feeling full while we fast. We may feel inclined to moan and groan at the summer heat that many of us have to endure. Instead, stay positive! It is a gift from Allah that Ramadan begins during the growing season when we have access to large varieties of fruits and veggies. Trips to the market and grocery store can be both fun and healthy, so get out there and start exploring even before the holy month starts. Practice makes perfect!