FASTING is no easy task. Abstaining from food and drink throughout the day can be challenging. But there is something that makes it bearable — Sahur. This pre-dawn meal gives us the energy we need to get through the day. But no matter how much we eat, some of us still find that our sahur isn’t enough to sustain us.
This can be attributed to a number of things. Perhaps we’re not eating the right things. Malaysians tend to put “white rice” on a pedestal when it comes to sustenance. We also seem to favour sweetened drinks, thinking that all that sugar will provide us with the energy we need. But, no matter how much white rice we eat or how much teh tarik we drink, we still get hungry relatively quickly.
Are we doing it all wrong? Are we giving our bodies the wrong fuel for the fasting month? Most definitely.
Nutritionists have made it clear that the best way to eat is to focus on foods that are high in protein, healthy fats, fibre and complex carbohydrates.This is especially true during Ramadan.
Foods that are high in protein and have healthy fats actually keep us fuller for longer. Fibre helps regulate our blood sugar levels and keep our bowel habits consistent. And complex carbohydrates digest slowly, giving us longer-lasting energy throughout the day. After all, fasting is a marathon — not a race.
If you’re now picturing meals that are labourious to prepare, don’t. These meals can be affordable and simple — they don’t all need to be quinoa or steak. The simplest thing you can do is reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates you consume during sahur.
My favourite trick for this is to replace half the amount of white rice I’d normally eat with an assortment of beans. Beans are high in protein and relatively cheap when you buy the dried variety. You can still have your regular lauk (dishes) but just ensure there’s enough fibre.
However, if beans aren’t your thing and you want some variety, think of a Western breakfast. Have some eggs, beef bacon, toast and a side of veggies. Of course, if you think this is labour-intensive and prefer something easier, why not make an “egg bake”? It’s as simple as mixing eggs with a little cheese and cream and adding in all your favourite ingredients and placing it in an oven for 30 minutes.
If you think that’s still too much effort, then consider something you’d never thought of having for sahur — a salad! This isn’t going to just be lettuce and Caesar salad dressing. You need to make it hearty with a slew of ingredients. Think of complex carbohydrates like sweet potato or garbanzo beans as a base, and add in high protein ingredients like tofu and eggs. Perhaps throw in some leafy veggies like spinach and you’re done!
If you want even more protein to keep you fuller for longer, then don’t hesitate to add meat. Canned tuna, beef bacon, even chicken rendang or daging deng deng can be added to your hearty salad to amp it up.
The best thing about making hearty salads for sahur is that you can prepare all the ingredients a week in an advance. For example, you can roast all your com¬plex carb veggies at the start of the week and refrigerate them. You can make the salad dressing and place them in jars. And everything is fresh ingredients that just require a quick wash. Simple!
If you still don’t think this is enough, add a fruit bowl. Fruits provide fibre, vitamins as well as hydration for you. Fruits such as oranges are perfect during sahur because of the high water content. What’s more, they’re refreshing enough to keep you more alert during the wee hours of the morning.
Also, don’t forget to drink water. Nutritionists suggest that we drink at least two to four cups of plain water during sahur to ensure that we get the right amount of hydration we need for the day. Sugary drinks will only serve to increase our craving for sweets through the day.
Anyway, here’s one of my hearty salads for you to try. It’s packed with protein and easy to put together. I actually eat variations of this a couple of times a week. While the base remains the same, I like to dabble with the types of protein I throw in. Give it a shot and add your own ingredients to the mix!
Sweet Potato & Bean Salad
1 Sweet Potato, skinned & cubed
½ cup Garbanzo Beans*
½ Green capsicum, diced
½ cup Cherry tomatoes, halved*
5 strips Beef bacon
4 tsp Flaked almonds, toasted
*or 1 handful
2 tbsp Greek Yoghurt
1 tsp Honey
2 tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
¼ tsp Paprika
Salt, to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 200°Celcius.
2. In a sheet pan, coat sweet potato in oil & salt. Bake until charred and soft, about 20 minutes.
3. Set aside sweet potato to cool completely.
4. Cook beef bacon in a frying pan with a little oil. Cool & tear into pieces.
5. Mix all ingredients for salad dressing until fully combined.
6. Pour in dressing into salad base and toss*
* toss salad dressing before eating.