The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. File/AFP
Saleha Irfan, Senior Sub-Editor/Reporter
Let’s face it; all of us suffer from low productivity as soon as the month of Ramadan begins. It may be the caffeine withdrawal, the long fasting hours or the early wake up times.
This lack of productivity makes us lazy to do even the most basic of tasks. Whether it’s cooking, shopping or even small household chores like putting things away, we run away from it. All we want to do is sit on the sofa and browse the social media apps until it’s time for Iftar.
Why do we forget that the more we stay still, the slower the time passes? After all, a watched pot never boils.
Personally, I’ve never had these issues (please say MashAllah!). In fact, I get more done in Ramadan than in any other month of the year. One reason behind this is that I have had the same routine in Ramadan for the past five or six years. Another reason is that I thrive when I have a specific timetable to follow.
So in the spirit of Ramadan, I thought, why keep all of my tips to myself? So I decided to share all the things I do to make my Ramadan go smoothly so I can spend more time fulfilling the spiritual aspects of this Holy Month.
Without further ado, here are some of my tried and tested Ramadan hacks.
Prepping the house
First and foremost, there are some things that need to be done before the month of Ramadan actually begins. Start by making a list of all the time and energy consuming tasks that need to be done.
These tasks may range from deep cleaning the house, to sorting the junk drawers and organising your shelves. If you have curtains that need to be washed, or pantry items that need to be restocked, now is the time to do it. (My number one task this year is to clean out my wardrobe. Fun, I know!)
Not only will your house be organised by the time Ramadan rolls around, it will also keep you from struggling with major cleaning while fasting.
If, like me, you don’t like to be bombarded with bright harsh lights and prefer softer lighting in the early hours of the day, consider putting up string lights around the house. String, or fairy, lights will be easier on the eyes and, as an added benefit, will make your house look extra beautiful and homely. Hang Ramadan lanterns from the ceiling as well to welcome and get into the spirit of this blessed month.
Shopping and meals
Almost every supermarket in the country is offering excellent Ramadan deals where they have food and non-food items on great prices. That’s why this is the perfect time to stock up on those essentials, especially foodstuff with a long shelf life.
But, hold your horses. Before you go and start filling your cart, you need to sit your family down and decide on a menu. Yes, you read that right. Planning your meals in advance has a host of benefits. Firstly, it will rid you of the panic you feel when a new day starts because you have no clue of the answer to the dreaded question, “What should I cook today?”
Secondly, it will help you stick to a budget since you will be shopping in advance and know what you need which will minimise your chances of overspending or buying a lot of random items. Although, if you go for grocery shopping during fasting hours, I cannot, in good faith, guarantee that you won’t walk out with a lot of junk food. We have all been there.
Start by going through food magazines and filling in your meal calendar. Of course, this menu is not set in stone. You can always add, subtract or even move things around but it will still help you have some sort of structure in the kitchen.
Once you come to an agreement, you can get groceries for up to a week in advance, ensuring you have all the ingredients you require at home. I have a saved version which I print every year after changing the dates on it.
To save up even more cooking time, cut up the vegetables that you would need on a daily basis, or fairly regularly (onions, garlic, carrots, peas, etc.) and freeze them in small bags. You can also freeze fruits like bananas, mangoes and berries for your smoothies.
A lot of people (including yours truly) like to break their fast with a bowl of soup. Instead of cooking soup daily, make a big batch and freeze it in portions that you can take out, heat up and serve. Yes, there are sachets for soup but I think we can all agree that nothing beats homemade.
Diet and fitness
When it comes to taking care of your diet, a lot of us feel very careless in Ramadan. Fasting for the most part of the day makes us crave everything under the sun. But instead of limiting yourself to just healthy foods, aim to have less junk or fried items to break the fast with. Apply the 80-20 principle where 80 per cent of the food on your table is healthy and 20 per cent includes anything, be it junk or sweets. You could also have a cheat day where you order in for Iftar and eat whatever your heart (or stomach) desires. My meal calendar includes a day where I order in.
Where food is concerned, try to include fibre in your meals in the form of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Not only does it help in digestion, but it also aids in maintaining energy levels throughout the day.
For Suhoor, make sure to have a bowl of yogurt, boiled egg and a glass of either laban or coconut water to maintain your energy and hydration levels until Iftar time. Avoid caffeinated drinks because they will give you a high for a couple of hours and then cause you to crash.
Break your Iftar with dates, milkshake or smoothies. Avoid carbonated drinks and those high in sugar. Make sure to increase your water intake from Iftar to Suhoor. You can also opt for water-rich fruits and vegetables like cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.
If you feel like you really cannot live without fried items come Iftar time, switch to either grilling, baking or shallow frying, or invest in an air fryer. However, a word of caution, these items are still high in fats and contain very little nutritional value.
Try and get in at least 30 minutes of low impact workout four to five days a week. If you workout post Iftar, go for high intensity workout. If you have a walking track or a park nearby, go out and get some Vitamin D as well.
I hope these tips help your Ramadan go by smoothly. Ramadan Mubarak!
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Never skip the early morning meal that is Suhoor/Sehri as that is the fundamental meal your body depends for the rest of the day
“Break the fast at Iftar by eating three dates. The reason is that after many hours of fasting, the body needs a source of energy like simple sugars or carbohydrates that it can burn up fast for a quick burst of energy. This provides glucose to all cells, especially the brain and the nervous system.”
A metabolic and obesity physician in the capital explained recently the common bad habits to avoid during the fasting month. “Swap high-calorie meals with healthier home-made ones and cut down on carbohydrates. If you are medically fit, try moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking, jogging or gym for at least 150 minutes per week,” advised Healthpoint’s Head of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery, Abu Dhabi, Dr Mohammed Al Hadad.
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