One of the toughest things about staying healthy during Ramadan and Eid in the Middle East is that the region's hospitality and generosity makes it difficult – seemingly impossible – to say "no" to more food. After all, we've been trained to think that it's rude to refuse your host as they continue to heap on spoonful after spoonful of rich food. However, you can try a new work-around or two to help you resist those particularly insistent hosts.
First, always offer to do the serving around the table to ensure that you serve yourself – then, you will have more control over your portion size. If someone else insists on serving you, ask for just a small amount at first, saying that you want to have room in your stomach to taste every delicious dish on the table. Finally, bring a Tupperware food storage container with you – if your hostess keeps piling food on your plate, you can simply take it home at the end of the night to savour it later, instead of stuffing yourself or wasting the rest of your meal.
a stroll with your family
During this special season, spending quality time with your family and loved ones is paramount. Why not combine this quality time with a healthy post-iftar activity? Take a walk around the neighbourhood with your family after eating dinner – if it's too hot, you can even head over to your local mall.
Medical studies show that walking after eating a big meal offers a multitude of benefits, such as helping you digest your food better and decreasing your blood sugar to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Walking after a big meal also settles the stomach and prevents the "food coma" and discomfort that occurs after eating too much. You'll burn about 100 calories for every 30 minutes, too.
Build a colourful plate
During the Holy Month, homes and restaurants are filled with lavish spreads of food. When you're hungry and tired after a long day, it's understandable that you may not feel motivated to scour healthy recipes or find yourself piling on heaps of whatever's available without carefully considering what goes on your plate. There's an easy rule of thumb that will help you remember to diversify your iftar to ensure that you're getting enough nutrients and not filling up on unhealthy bulk: fill your plate with colourful food! We're not talking about Skittles, of course – make sure your rainbow plate is piled on with fresh produce like eggplant, berries, peppers, spinach, squash, mango, broccoli, and more, for a dinner that is beautiful and balanced.
Get moving with active games
Part of the fun of Ramadan and Eid is staying up late and enjoying fun nighttime activities with your family and friends. Too often, these are sedentary activities like playing board games and listening to live performances. Instead of sitting around, break the cycle by injecting active games into your nightly schedule. Play an indoor game of balloon volleyball, teach your kids to crab-walk, try making the entire alphabet using only body shapes, play musical chairs, or throw a basketball around. If you have access to the beach or a pool, go for an evening swim or play a game of Marco Polo. Not only will you feel better and keep off the excess weight from all the extra calories consumed, but also make special memories with your loved ones.
Give your body long-lasting fuel
One of the biggest contributing factors to weight gain during Ramadan and Eid is that many people are eating sugary or starchy foods that cause blood sugar and energy to spike, leaving you hungry throughout the day and causing overeating in the evenings. There are many reasons for this: some people are too tired to prepare healthier meals, or others want to get in the spirit of the Holy Month by preparing lots of traditional Middle Eastern sweets and sugary drinks, such as tamerind and
qamr ed-din. Make your food work for you throughout the day by using healthy recipes for snacks that give you lots of energy.
Salmon omelette: Omega-3 fatty acids are great for energy and muscle-building; eggs aid metabolic function.
Sauté a salmon fillet, onion, and bell pepper and set aside. Beat two eggs and spread across the skillet until the eggs are fully cooked. Spoon in the salmon and veggie mixture, sprinkle with chopped herbs, and fold.
Lamb over lentil and spinach salad: Spinach is packed with brain-boosters and calcium, and lentils offer protein and complex carbs.
Rub lamb racks with herbs and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Combine cooked lentils and chopped tomatoes, and drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. Serve the lamb over the salad.
Dark chocolate and walnut parfait: Natural cacao boosts energy and walnuts are packed with more omega-3 than any other nut.
Combine three teaspoons of cornstarch and Splenda and two teaspoons of dark unsweetened cocoa powder in a saucepan. Add two cups of low-fat milk; stir and boil. Add vanilla and bittersweet chocolate chips to taste. Layer in a glass with chopped walnuts.