Last evening I was with my in-laws and we got into a heated discussion about dodging Ramadan blues, seeing how hot and summery this Ramadan is. My husband and I started fasting yesterday (Tuesday), following the Naqshbandi calender; here are a few tips we learnt/shared from our 1st day of Ramadan & past years:
Tip 1: Headaches are a byproduct of fasting. To avoid a smashing headache the 1st few days of Ramadan (I learnt this one from my dad), take 1 or 2 Panadol pills at Suhoor (Suhur) time, even though you might not need the pills at the time. This will (as my dad says) leash the headache next day and fix the caffeine-withdrawal symptoms if you are used to getting up in the morning and sipping on a few cups of coffee to kick-start your day.
Note: Don’t take Panadol for more than a few days, just the first few days when fasting is still tough. If you don’t think taking Panadol is a good idea, odds are you’re right, your body knows it doesn’t need it!
Tip 2: To keep a healthy stomach throughout the month of Ramadan, you need to eat with the best of intentions to avoid shocking your stomach. I learnt this one from Lefke (the Sufi community that lives around our Sheikh):
1) Think moist. Keep a lot of liquids in the dishes you prepare. Avoid hard foods. That’s the secret to avoiding digestion trouble; hard foods like french fries, kibbeh, samboosek, pizzas, etc, need a lot of liquid with them to keep the stomach happy. A) It’s as simple as this; don’t eat barbecues, if you want to eat meat/chicken/fish eat them within a stew plan, and not as hard and dry char-coaled/grilled stomach bombs. B) If you want to eat cheese, don’t eat it on it’s own with bread or dough, mix it up with something else as a topping to moisten it up.
2) To break your fast, start with water and dates, then with a cup of warm tea, this will ease your stomach into eating.
3) With tea in your stomach, perform Maghreb prayers, then go back to the table. This will give your stomach time to ease into the meal.
4) Dip the tip of your finger in salt and lick it off, this is Sunnah by Prophet Mohammad (after all, fasting is not a social activity, it is a ritual following the Prophet). A) Have a few spoons of soup as a starter, then gobble down liquid-filled stews with rice, bread, etc. B) Cook stews instead of hard dishes (like Kabseh, or other rice-oriented dishes). C) Rice should be secondary, as a complement to stew. D) Avoid heavy deep fried food. E) If you want to cook Fattaat (from Fatteh: bread-based pies), make them wobbly with a lot liquid in them. Fattet Magdoos for example can afford more tomato paste and liquid than usual, and can still taste yummy.
5) Eat with a plan, don’t just grab anything on the table. If there is a large variety of food in view, decide on which dishes go nicely together and eat them in a comfortable order. Don’t be bullied by your host into eating every kind of delicacy they have prepared for you, lest you’ll end up with stomach suicide!
* Have one piece of sweets after dinner, don’t indulge.
** Drinks lots of water, and go for mineral-filled drinks instead of caffeine ones, to give enough hydration to your body.
Tips for Suhoor (Suhur): At Suhoor, avoid dry foods, and go for soups and stews. Use cheese with a lot of moist (as a topping to salads for instance), so as to soften it up.
The ultimate tip: Have bread (whole grain) with everything you eat, it’s good for digestion, I don’t know how, but I tried it at Lefke and it worked. Although this might sound like a contradiction, but having dry whole-grain bread with food is better than chewy/fresh bread, granted that you are eating it with liquids, like stews, and soups.
The proper mindset for eating during Ramadan?
Think soft and fluffy. Think moist. Eat with an attitude, keep “soft and fluffy” as part of your general mood; this will help you control your food intake. Mood and eating go hand in hand, without having the proper frame of mind we all can very easily end up committing stomach suicide during Ramadan.
And don’t forget, Bism Allah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem to start with, to bless your food.