I do have some posts here in the pipeline so stay tuned.
Some ongoing stomach problems made it hard for me to fast last year, and while my issues have gotten worse, I’m more optimistic about having a better Ramadan this year. Every year I dole out some top food tips. Some of these may be repeats (it is my 14th Ramadan after all), some may not.
- Stop caffeine now if you haven’t already. Start tapering ASAP. Ramadan days are long this year and your headache plus the heat will be the absolute suck.
- Make sure going into Ramadan you are as hydrated as you can be. Here in Switzerland the days are going to be around 16 hours long. You need to already have a good water situation going to compensate for the fact that some nights you would rather sleep/pray than pee due to chugging liters of water. Also, better hydration=less headaches in the early days.
- I’ve said this many years but it always bears repeating: even if you are breaking fast with friends or at the mosque, do not hold someone else responsible for your food because you never know what is going to happen. One Ramadan i was commuting Geneva to Lausanne, and I didn’t break fast in Geneva at maghrib because I was like “oh I’ll be home in an hour, it’s all good.” Then the train got stuck. I didn’t get home for almost five hours. Good thing I had a thermos and some dates on me. I always have a travel mug and some tea bags or instant soup and always dates on me. Also, even if you go to the masjid, have your little thermos of tea and your dates on you. Let people raid the buffet table, get your food when things are calm. Plus, due to the questionable behavior of certain believers when it comes to buffets and masajid, you aren’t even guaranteed food a lot of times because auntie put some biryani in her purse to take home. Be prepared.
- If you live alone, there are days you will not be feeling cooking or running the gauntlet at the masjid. In these cases, some easy staple foods are your friends. I make sure i have a lot of instant soup (hydration) and some raw veggies I can just chop and eat (cucumbers and celery are also great hydraters). My Forever Alone Ramadan Fridge is full of yogurt, veggies, precooked rice or couscous grains (more on that below), and flavored waters or teas (more also below). Have a good stash going at home for stuff that doesn’t take a million years to cook.
- Sundays generally are my cooking days but in Ramadan i shift that to Saturday, because on Sunday I need to be focused on resting, sleeping and getting my game on for work. On Saturday, I usually cook whatever i want to do dish wise for the week and freeze it. I also make a big pot of chorba to nurse on until Monday or Tuesday. I also make and freeze couple of single servings of saffron rice or couscous grains. That way if I actually eat meat (more on that below) I have a quick side, and if I am not feeling like anything that day, I don’t have to wait for rice to cook. I try on Wednesday or Thursday to make beans or lentils to see me through until Friday because they don’t freeze well.
- I see so many people who are casual vegetarians (like myself, i’m not denying the permissibility of meat but I don’t digest it well) suddenly go crazy and want meat every day for Ramadan. That’s not exactly how the salaf did it. Don’t change your habits to much other than trying to eat lighter. You don’t have to eat like a king just because it is Ramadan. Of course, if you are generally a big carnivore, I’m not saying change your ways, but if you’re like me,don’t drink the kool-aid about how in Ramadan it isn’t iftar if you haven’t eaten the animal products of a small farm.
- I sadly know a lot about stomach issues over the past year and so I speak with authority that you need to baby your stomach in Ramadan. This is another reason not to go all out on the meat or pastries. The cool thing about fasting is that it gives your digestive system a break; don’t attack it with a ton of fatty, sugary, greasy food that it will take until the next iftar to process and digest. Think bland, small portions, and wait a bit between servings. That said, even if you take a quick nap, wake up for iftar. It’s still important. Your sleep brain will tell you “oh it’s only two hours, you got this” and your fasting brain at asr will ask you why you didn’t have breakfast.
- 16-hour days. In the summer. You’ll need a lot of liquid at night. I find drinking straight water gets boring, so I make a lot of cold-pressed tea, herbal tea and infusions in nalgene bottles. The cool thing about cold-pressed is you just put it in the fridge and forget it until the next day. I’ve got five bottles, so I usually make enough for the first half of the week then just reuse my bottle each night with a new batch. I won’t post a recipe because it really is that simple: throw some tea into a nalgene bottle, add a pinch of sugar if you want, pour water over it, leave it in the fridge until it gets cold, and strain it when you want to drink it. That way, you aren’t drinking soda or processed stuff that can irritate your stomach, and you’re hydrating. When i’m really lazy, I stick a few sprigs of mint into an Evian bottle and leave it. Delicious.
- For a lot of us under 40, this will be our first middle-of-summer Ramadan. Don’t overextend yourself with invitations. As in years past, I only “go out” (mosque, friends) one night a week. Spend a few days seeing how your body reacts to fasting. Pencil in time to be introspective and pray.
- Finally, clean your house and shop for groceries now like you’re nesting. You will only have the time, energy and desire to do the bare minimum one Ramadan rolls around, and the nighttime should be your time, not “do stupid stuff i don’t want to do like clean” time. I’ve stocked up on cat litter and started some deep cleaning. The week before Ramadan and then on the following Saturdays, I organize my work outfits for the week to minimize thinking before I wake up and maximize my ability to get a few more winks in.