With Ramadan fast approaching (exciting right?), I know a lot of my members are getting worried about how to Food Optimise during this special month. I joined Slimming World back in 2011 and have food optimised successfully over the years and especially during Ramadan so I can reassure you that you will also will be able to. The days are long and can be hot but eating the right foods can help immensely.
Certainly we must not forget what Ramadan is really about, fasting is intended to bring us closer to God and to remind us of the suffering of those less fortunate. So I hope this guide is useful in reducing the preparation work in meal planning and helps you focus on the spiritual activities during this special month.
When I joined SW in January 2011 I had already lost some weight by the time it came round to my first ‘SW’ Ramadan. My taste buds had changed so much and I put in so much hard work to lose the weight that I did not want to undo any of it. I had learned enough about eating well and felt the benefits of healthy eating, and now more than ever, that is what Ramadan should be about. Fuelling your body with the right food that will make you feel good too. You don’t have to go without your favourites but you will need to learn self-control.
Suhoor (the pre-dawn meal)
Food Optimising has been developed to help us stay fuller for longer, so Free Foods are ideal for Suhoor. Free Foods that are high in protein – like lean halal meat and eggs – are the very best at keeping us satisfied for longer, followed by food like rice, beans and grains. Healthy Extras like wholemeal bread and cereals are also a great option. Here are some examples:
- Omelette filled with halved cherry tomatoes and 45g grated light cheddar cheese (heA choice)
- Fat free yogurt topped with 2 x hifi bars (heB choice)
- Porridge (your Healthy Extra choice of rolled oats and milk) piled high with sliced bananas and mixed berries (my favourite choice)
- Two slices of wholemeal toast with boiled eggs, baked beans and mushrooms
- Scrambled eggs with vegetarians sausages
As the reminder above says, please do not skip Suhoor. It’s important to fuel your body just before dawn to be ready for the long day ahead.
Iftaar (meal after breaking fast)
This is often a sociable time, with family and friends coming together to share a meal – and there are lots of ways to make it a Food Optimising-friendly occasion!
It’s recommended that this meal, like Suhoor, should be well-balanced, containing foods from each food group, such as fruits, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish and dairy products. And not just a plateful of samosas and spring rolls (or was that just me before SW?). Those kind of fatty foods are not good for us after a long day (around 18 hours) of abstaining from food. It is important to have a balanced meal to give you the right energy and fuel.
I have created a 7 day planner to give you some ideas for Suhoor and Iftaar meals to help you get you started. This is what I will be following the first week of Ramadan, I know a lot of the food I eat is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I have tried to incorporate a variety. Download the full version here.
Iftaar away from Home
If you’re attending iftaar at a family or friend’s house, where you’re not doing the cooking (lucky you!), look out for options that are packed with Free Food like tomato-based sauces, vegetables, lean cuts of meat and fish, plain rice, pasta and grains. Try to stay away from the fried food and the sugar-laden desserts! Take a Slimming World friendly meal to share that you will be able to enjoy too. Most of the time I find whatever I take finishes quicker! If your strategy is just to enjoy whatever it is on offer (as you do not want to offend the host) then that is okay too! It is not the end of the world if you go over your syns for one night or more. But if you do want to lose weight throughout Ramadan you will have to make some changes. Food optimising is for life and Ramadan comes around every year, if you start making the changes right now to eat well this Ramadan, you will be able to carry on doing so in the future too.
Dates & Fried Foods
It is Sunnah to open your fast with the eating of 3 dates, as prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did. Fresh dates aren’t Free Food, they are around 1.5 syns each (for small/medium sized dates), so remember to keep count of how many you eat. I usually just have the 1 date followed by water and fresh fruit, and then dinner is a Slimming World friendly meal. I like Khodary dates from Saudi Arabia, just the plain variety but if you eat dates with almonds (or even chocolate) then add additional syns. Larger dates for example Medjool dates may be as much as 3 syns each.
Fried snacks, especially Pakoras, Samosas, Spring Rolls and Kebabs are often the staple diet during Ramadan iftaar meals for many families, as nice as these foods are they offer little benefit during the long fasting days. I have not made any fried food in Ramadan since becoming a SW member and it makes life so much easier and you feel better in yourself by eating a healthy meal. We threw away our deep fat fryer many years ago and don’t miss it! We replaced it with an Actifry! I use the Tefal Actifry to make the most perfect, syn free, SW chips. You can also make kebabs in it too.
Stay to Group
Don’t use Ramadan as an excuse to miss Group for 4 weeks, it’s in Group you will find more ideas and strategies to help you through Ramadan. Even if you feel you’re the only one (like I was) in your group fasting you can still get support, ideas and inspiration by continuing to attend Group and staying for Image Therapy. Yes you will be tired, yes you need to prepare meals and do all the usual work you have to whilst fasting – yet life doesn’t stop during Ramadan so neither should attending Group.
Strategy 1: Keep counting and use Syns flexibly
Eat plenty of Free Food and decide each day how many Syns you’ll allocate today. You may decide to give yourself 30 to 50 Syns a day, every day, or you may decide to have one day at 15 and another at 50. The key here is to keep counting and estimating as realistically as possible. Throw in a few extra Syns each time you eat something you haven’t prepared yourself (as innocent as they might look!). Any weight gain will be drastically reduced and you may even get away without a gain at all!
Strategy 2: Stick with Food Optimising and keep flexibility of Syns to a minimum
Keep with your usual weight-losing strategy and stay with Food Optimising (this is much easier to do when you’re cooking for yourself, friends and family). Enjoy the feeling of achieving another first for you. Be prepared to allow yourself up to 20 or 30 Syns on a special day, and just keep counting. This is the strategy I followed and worked best for consistent weight loss during Ramadan.
Strategy 3: Forget Food Optimising
Maybe you should just have a great time, eat and drink anything and everything right? Know that you’ll gain weight but that you’ll go back to your group, get straight back to Food Optimising and lose it all in a couple of weeks. Really? a couple of weeks, more like Months! As a strategy I highly recommend you DO NOT use this one. It’s the worst option by far, it’s unhealthy and makes it very difficult to get back on track.
Ramadan is an opportunity to be extraordinarily healthy – don’t waste it.
“Eat of the good things which We have provided for you.” (2:172)
So, what are your plans for your weight loss this Ramadan? What do you struggle with? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Comment below, let me know if I can help with anything and feel free to share any of your favourite SW friendly Ramadan treats x