By Nazima Qureshi
Planning and preparing for iftar everyday can be a daunting task, especially if you are juggling the everyday responsibilities of motherhood while fasting. However, making iftar does not have to be a labour intensive task. Consider simplifying iftar preparations by offering healthy options that are easy to make. Whether you are preparing iftar for guests or your own family, these hacks will save you time, pack in the nutrition, and wow everyone at the table.
- Lighten up your fried items. Samosas are a staple at every South Asian iftar, but the calories can add up quickly if they are deep fried. Instead, bake your samosas and other fried items. Here is how to enjoy samosas without the extra grease:
- Preheat oven to 375oF and place frozen samosas on a greased baking sheet
- Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the samosas with oil and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown
- For a browner colour, broil samosas for an additional 2-3 minutes
- Make DIY gourmet dates. Opening your fast with dates is a tradition all Muslims take part in. Give your dates a gourmet twist by removing the pit and stuffing them with your favourite nuts, such as almonds, pecans, or pistachios. Bonus: this is a kid-friendly task!
How about featuring dates for dessert? Try these coconut date balls made with only 4 ingredients!
Not only do these gourmet date options taste delicious and look fantastic, the nuts pack in more nutrition with healthy fats and protein.
- Change up your traditional fruit chaat. One of the benefits of Ramadan being in the summer is that you can enjoy seasonal fruits such as strawberries, peaches, watermelon, and mangos. These seasonal fruits are naturally sweet, which means you can skip on the sugar that is often added in traditional fruit chaat. Place the colourful fruit on a platter in neat rows or toss them in a large bowl. These juicy, seasonal fruits are packed with vitamins and have a high water content, making it an excellent way to help you stay hydrated and nourished.
- Replace your sugary beverages with refreshing fruit-infused water. Beverages prepared with syrups, juices, and pop are all very high in sugar. Instead, flavour your ice-cold water with mint leaves, lemon slices, and berries for a refreshing beverage. This can be made in advance and stored in your refrigerator. Not only is this visually appealing, it is sugar free!
- Prepare an item high in protein without spending too much time preparing it. South Asian iftars usually have elaborate spreads of foods high in carbohydrates, such as pakoras and samosas. Include a Tandoori item, without the long prep time. Marinade chicken or fish using readymade tandoori masala and bake in the oven. To make this quick, easy, and healthy tandoori dish, marinade one pound of boneless chicken or fish with 3 Tbsp plain yogurt, 2 Tbsp tandoori masala powder, and 2 tsp canola oil. Bake in preheated oven at 350F for 25-30 minutes.
- Ask your children to help you in the kitchen. I know, you may be thinking that it will be MORE work for you to get your children in the kitchen. However, getting kids in the kitchen is beneficial in so many ways! Children are more likely to eat the food they prepare, which means they are likely to try new foods (even vegetables!). This is also an opportunity to teach your children basic kitchen skills, while spending quality time with them and lightening your workload.
Depending on your child’s age, they can help with the following tasks:
- Setting the table
- Washing fruit and vegetables
- Cutting fruit and vegetables
- Mixing ingredients
- Cleaning up
- Serve iftar in smaller plates to prevent overeating. After a long day of fasting, everyone at the table is tempted to fill their plates. Regardless of the plate size, after a long fast, you want a full plate of food. Using smaller plates will mean you will take less food in one sitting. The smaller portions will stop you from overeating and help you with your energy levels, so you don’t feel sluggish as you head out for your night prayers.
These hacks will make your iftar preparations easier and healthier at the same time. Let us know how you will be making iftar healthier this Ramadan for your family by tagging us at @masalamommas and @NutritionbyNaz on Instagram and Twitter!
Nazima Qureshi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer, and Public Health Professional. She uses a non-diet approach (which always includes dessert!) to help others achieve a healthier lifestyle.
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