In Turkey, the holy month of Ramadan, or ‘Ramazan,’ is a paradoxical time of fasting during daylight hours and feasting between sunset and sunrise. While tradition states that Ramazan is a time for spirituality and training the body to do with less, people often get carried away with elaborate buffets and lavish meals.
Ramazan is one of the best times of the year to experience the best of Turkish cuisine and hospitatliy, but its also easy to get carried away and overeat.
Many people battle with the extra pounds they’ve gained when Ramazan is over. But doctors and dieticians agree, during Ramazan less is more. Eating healthy and feeling good are definitely possible if you follow a few simple guidelines.
1) Don’t Skip The Soup
The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions ‘iftar’ (EEF’-tahr), the first meal that breaks the fast each evening, one of the first things to come to mind is soup. Classic Turkish soup is almost always served as the first course along with bread, dates and olives.
In expectation of more food to come, many people opt to skip the soup. Experts advise otherwise. Turkish soups like red lentil soup, ezogelin soup and vegetable soups made with only a small amount of oil are gentle on the stomach after a day of fasting and provide much needed calories, healthy carbohydrates and nutrients. They also serve to fill you up and keep you from eating too much later in the meal.
2) Choose Low Fat Dairy Products And Unsalted Cheeses
Dairy products like milk, plain yogurt, kefir and cheese are just as important during Ramazan as they are in our everyday diets. Since Ramazan is a time to eat a lot of traditional dishes, you may find even more dairy in your diet during this time.
That’s why it’s a good idea to choose low fat and low salt versions of all your favorites.
Use skim milk in milk-based desserts and low salt cheese to make layered cheese pastry called ‘borek’ (bohr-ECK’). Also keep in mind that eating a small amount of plain yogurt or kefir each day helps achieve healthy digestion.
3) Eat Enough Protein For Brainpower And Muscle Health
Low –fat protein like skinless poultry and lean red meats, as well as eggs and vegetable proteins from legumes are essential during Ramazan. Your body needs these healthy proteins each day to aid in healing, giving you more brainpower as well as keeping you satisfied.
Processed meats like salami, sausages and even beloved Turkish ‘sucuk’ (soo-JOOK’) should only be eaten in small amounts.
4) Make Vegetables The Star Of The Table
During Ramazan, vegetable dishes and salads should be the stars of the table. Seasonal dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, chard are musts, and many colorful dishes and salads can be made from colored and green peppers, fresh herbs, cabbage, corn and carrots to name a few.
Cook your vegetables in as little water as possible. They will retain their color, texture and nutrients much better.Simple dressings of a little olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar are the best choices.
5) Replace Sugars With Fresh Fruit and Juice
Fresh fruit is the healthiest way to end your meal and cleanse your palate. Try a plate of fresh fruit in place of sugary desserts. If you choose to drink fruit juice in place of water, drink only freshly squeezed immediately after squeezing
6) Stick With Whole Grains And Oats
The quickest way to feel lethargic during Ramazan is to fill up on white bread, crackers and lots of white flour-based foods and sweets. Experts advise that you stick with whole grain breads and cereals and products made with oats. As most people are less active during Ramazan, both carbohydrates and sugars should be eaten in limited amounts.
7) The Night Should Begin And End With Water
Last but not least, it’s essential for good health to drink enough water during Ramazan. Breaking the fast with a glass of water is the norm and you should always drink water at the end of ‘sahur’ (sah-HOOR’), the last meal just before sunrise.
It’s also recommended to drink several glasses of water between your meals as well as during them.
This is especially important when Ramazan occurs during the hot summer months when the days are longest.