Pantry Staples For Ramadan In The Age Of Coronavirus

Dates and fava beans are excellent choices.

For many Muslims around the world observing Ramadan, big lively gatherings for meal times and large dinner table spreads aren’t happening because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While virtual suhoors and iftars make it possible to share social connections, the meals themselves are often being eaten by smaller groups or enjoyed solo.

Ordering halal takeout may be a good fall-back plan for some meals (and small business support is more important than ever), but not every dish.

Toronto-based registered dietician Sana Motlelkar told HuffPost Canada that for this Ramadan, mindful eating will need to be especially important, as it’s easy to overeat when alone. Instead of focusing on feeding as many mouths as possible, it may be better to focus on making quality recipes during Ramadan — after all, there’s more time for long, slow-cooking recipes now — and slowing down your meal times too.

“If you’re not really savouring that meal when you open your fast, it’s so easy to overeat and you’re not going to enjoy it,” she said. “Slow down, savour it, and enjoy every bite.”

What people break fast with plays a big role in how their bodies will sustain themselves this month. Motlekar said she tells her clients to keep a mental checklist when they conduct their weekly or bi-weekly grocery shopping.

Ramadan meal-planning during a pandemic

Suhoor, the first meal of the day before sunrise, should include protein, fats, and complex carbs, Motelkar said. The three components release slow, steady energy throughout the day. Fibre and protein can make you feel fuller too.

Preventing dehydration with hydration-rich foods and drinks is also important, which is why she cautioned against too much coffee or tea during suhoor, as caffeine is a diuretic.

“If you eat foods with a high potassium content, that helps with hydration,” she noted.

Balanced meals are more important than ever if you're fasting this month.
Balanced meals are more important than ever if you're fasting this month.

For iftar, the meal after sunset to break the fast, she recommended high-quality proteins, healthy grains, and soups to replenish the body from the day’s fasting.

For both these meals, she encouraged paying attention to portion sizes. Someone who had a healthy active lifestyle before the pandemic and is now more sedentary won’t need to load up for energy as much as they used to.

We asked Motlekar to share what pandemic pantry staples are her favourites for iftar and suhoor:

Frozen meat is fine

Empty shelves in the meat section can be disheartening for omnivores. If you’re finding it hard to buy proteins like chicken, fish, or beef from your supermarket, Motlekar said frozen options can provide the same nutritional content.

Previous down-sides to frozen meat, such as the many hours they take to thaw, won’t be a problem now; being home means it’s easier to accommodate longer preparation times.

But that doesn’t mean you should throw any item into your shopping cart. When buying frozen, look out for freezer burn, especially on white fish.

Raw Organic Medjool Dates Ready to Eat
Raw Organic Medjool Dates Ready to Eat

Dates

Many Muslims open fasts with the dried fruit already in many households, which Motelkar applauded.

“It has a lot of potassium and quick energy [because of its sugar content],” she said. “Dates with a little water or milk can help with managing your electrolytes.”

Parfaits

Fresh fruits are usually still available in supermarkets, as are dairy products and nuts.

“The yogurt [and nuts], that’s a really good source of slow-digesting protein. Paired with bananas, which are quite rich in potassium, they really help with managing thirst and hydration.”

Homemade granola might also be a great addition; many recipes call for ingredients that may already be in your kitchen, like oats and maple syrup.

Chia pudding

Can’t help drinking your cup of joe? Pairing it with chia seeds made in an overnight pudding can replenish lost hydration. “It’s a great option with lots of soluble fibre and hydrates you really well.”

Bread

Have you joined in on quarantine baking? If you’ve got a ton of leftover carbs, you’ll be pleased to know that bread will serve you well for meal time.

Just make sure your bread is made with a quality flour: Breads made with 100 per cent whole wheat flour are packed with high-fibre content, vitamins, and minerals.

However, if you’ve run out of yeast, there are plenty of unleavened pastry alternatives, like no-yeast naan, that can serve as vehicles for your main meals.

Watch: Our pandemic baking binges are causing a yeast shortage. Story continues below.

Sourdough starters are good alternatives to yeast, or otherwise you may find luck grocery-shopping for pre-made mixes.

Canned beans were in high demand during the pandemic's first few weeks.
Canned beans were in high demand during the pandemic's first few weeks.

Beans are everything

Lentils are popular in many Muslim cultures, Motelkar noted. The canned or dried goods are also affordable non-perishables that are worth stocking up on, versatile in soups, stews, and curries; should they be out-of-stock, fava beans are also a good option for savoury chowing.

Kale salads and avocado toast are some options for the two nutrient powerhouses.
Kale salads and avocado toast are some options for the two nutrient powerhouses.

Eggs and avocado

Both solid sources of nutrients, eggs are cheap sources of protein that can be incorporated in almost any dish, while avocado provides potassium and have high amounts of fibre.