When it is time to break your fast, the time-honoured way really is the best. Nutrient-rich dates contain essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium and zinc, as well as vitamins A, K and folate.
Moving on to the meal itself, following a traditional iftar menu again makes perfect sense. Make a few simple changes though and you can easily reduce the fat and calories, increase the nutritional benefits and still be left with a delicious treat.
To start with, soup is gentle on the stomach and filling, without being heavy, nourishing and just right for revitalizing a tired mind and restoring energy levels.
Brown and wild rice, oats, potatoes, lentils, kidney beans and wholegrain bread are good examples of those all-important complex carbs.
Meat and fish, meanwhile, are obvious sources of protein, but if it feels too early to eat them, or you’re following a vegetarian diet, eggs, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, cottage cheese, quinoa and tofu are also high in protein. Omega-3 rich avocados and salmon, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil are excellent choices when it comes to selecting healthy "good" fats. A combination of these foods, along with plenty of water – Holmes suggests you try to consume 1.5 to 2 litres between iftar and suhoor – will ensure that you are well set up for the day.
1 Date, oat and almond smoothie
Quick to prepare, soothing on the digestive system and with endless variations, smoothies are a great way to start the day. This date, oat and almond variety ticks all the right boxes: heart-healthy, fibre-rich oats add sustenance and fill you up, dates provide potassium, natural sweetness and a much-needed energy boost, and almond butter is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Serves 1 (easily doubled)
Blitz four pitted and chopped dates in a blender with 2 tablespoons whole oats, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 200g natural yogurt and 150ml milk. Blend well and serve over ice.
Prepare and portion up your smoothie mix the night before and store in the fridge so that it is ready to blend when needed.
2 Quinoa, spinach, crispy chickpea and pomegranate bowl
Quinoa, the wholegrain base of this particular dish, is a complete protein source (it contains all nine essential amino acids) and has a low glycaemic index – so it doesn’t cause blood sugar levels to soar. Spinach provides vitamins and minerals in abundance, pomegranate seeds are antioxidant-rich and crispy chickpeas add texture, flavour and a dose of low-fat protein.
Serves 2 (easily doubled)
Cook 120g quinoa according to pack instructions. Set a frying pan with 1 tablespoon oil over high heat. Add 400g drained canned chickpeas, season generously and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until crisp. Stir into the quinoa along with a couple of handfuls of spinach and a scattering of pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil just before serving.
Cook a big batch of grains (for example, quinoa, pearl barley or bulgur wheat) at the start of the week, and pack into individual or family-sized servings. Each portion can then be customised differently on the day: try adding sliced avocado and a poached egg; flaked hot-smoked salmon and rocket leaves or halloumi and roasted tomatoes.
3 Easy baked eggs with feta
By combining omega-3-abundant eggs, low-calorie canned tomatoes and a sprinkling of calcium-rich feta, baked eggs take only minutes to put together.
Pour 400g canned tomatoes into a baking dish or ovenproof pan. Season generously, adding a teaspoon of chilli flakes, if you like. Make four shallow indents in the surface of the tomatoes and crack an egg into each one. Crumble over 80g feta. Bake in 200C for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking.
If you prefer, divide the mixture by four and make individual baked eggs in ramekins or small dishes. Vary the mix by adding spinach and red peppers, or try sliced mushrooms, thyme and grated cheddar.
Vanilla ice cream with salted date caramel sauce
Put 225g caster sugar in a pan set over a medium heat and leave the sugar to melt without stirring. Once the sugar is a golden brown colour, add 100g of diced butter and carefully swirl the pan. Whisk in 120ml double cream, remove from the heat and stir in 1 tsp sea salt and 8 chopped dates. When you’re ready to serve, warm the sauce through and spoon over vanilla ice cream.
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