Buka Puasa is a precious time during Ramadan, where Muslims and non-Muslims alike gather to break fast together after abstaining from dawn until dusk. Especially in Malaysia, where our identity is so inspired by the love of food and entertaining guests, every buka puasa feels like a special occasion!
After a day of fasting, it’s hard not to overindulge when the Malaysian menu is packed with delicious dishes. However, much of what makes our favourite foods so good – such as the fats and carbohydrates that we crave after a long day – is also what makes them bad. Ironically, many Malaysians actually put on weight during Holy Month – it’s not difficult to eat a day’s worth of calories in a single sitting.
Unfortunately, it’s a sad fact that Malaysia now has the highest rate of obesity in Southeast Asia. Ramadan, a time to reflect and reset, offers us the best time to be calorie-conscious and create new habits. All it takes is a few simple twists on traditions to make healthier choices
Cravings for carbohydrates are hard to ignore after a day of deprivation. But, avoid piling your plate with sugary treats – when you are famished, your body will convert these straight into fat. Slow down and start with a cold soup or salad. Eat more wholegrains; your body takes longer to digest these, regulating blood sugar levels. Proteins and mineral-rich foods, such as bananas, yoghurts, spinach and beans should be included instead.
Roast lamb, beef rendang, ayam golek; meat is essential to any buka puasa feast, as much for the minerals as the mouth-watering taste! Lamb is rich in protein, iron and zinc, and beef contains essential vitamins too. However, red meat is also full of saturated fats and carries a higher risk of heart disease. So, what’s an alternative? Well, more and more Malaysians are making the decision to go meat-free. In fact, with over 1000 veggie-friendly restaurants and a large religious population who avoid eating meat, Malaysia was recently named the 3rd most vegetarian-friendly country in the world! Broccoli, beans, tofu and lentils pack a serious protein punch and are a delicious alternative.
Ramadan and rotis go hand-in-hand, but please, makan in moderation! Roti is dense in empty calories and fat. Instead, try chapatti, which has ten times less fat content and 1/5 the calories! Or, try wholemeal pitta bread and some homemade hummus – the delicious Middle Eastern dip is easier to make than you might think!
Some quick top tips:
- Dates are a great way to start and finish the evening meal, providing an excellent dessert option compared to the calorie-rich kuih.
- Coconut milk is a classic ingredient and full of vitamins – but also full of cholesterol and saturated fat. Swap for regular milk where possible!
- Stay away from sugary soda drinks and avoid teh tarik (we know, it’s tough); coffee and teas are diuretics and can lead to increased dehydration. Stick to water and natural fruit juices.
- Choose boiled vegetables over fried, as these contain zero oil! And keep it colourful – different coloured fruits and vegetables provide necessary nutrients for defence against illness.
Doing some light exercise while fasting is a great way to keep blood circulating and boosts our body’s fat burning processes. However, avoid high intensity exercise and drink plenty of water between iftar and suhur (coconut water is especially good as it contains essential electrolytes)
A Ramadan buffet or bazaar is a rewarding way to break fast, with a variety sure to satisfy any type of cravings – and saves doing the cooking and cleaning after a big buka puasa at home!
- Local bazaars at TTDI and Telawi Bangsar, where you’ll find an awesome atmosphere and certain specialities such as spiced tofu which are only available during Holy Month.
- For a five-star feast, try out a buffet at some of the best five-star hotels in the city, featuring local and international favourites. Charcoal at Saujana Hotel KL even offers a Japanese section, featuring the freshest sushi, sashimi and seafood; and for sheer indulgence, the Sheraton Imperial KL’s Ramadan spread offers over 200 dishes from across all of Asia lined up along a 120m long buffet table!