Raya, also known as Eid al-Fitr, is a time of celebration for Muslims all around the world. This holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and is a time when family and friends come together to feast.
Many traditional dishes are prepared and consumed as part of the festivities, making it easy to overindulge, hence it is important to prioritise your health and wellbeing this Raya.
“Overeating during Raya can lead to weight gain, especially when consuming more calories than we are burning off. This can have long-term health consequences such as an increased risk of obesity and related health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Eating too much or consuming high-fat, high-sugar dishes can also lead to digestive problems like indigestion, bloating and constipation,” shared Dr Lim Sim Yee, consultant gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City.
Instead, she advises to look for healthier options such as grilled or baked dishes in place of fried or high-fat dishes. Opt for dishes with lean protein, whole grains and plenty of vegetables.
Controlling your portion sizes by using a smaller plate or taking smaller portions of each dish, and eating slowly can help you feel more satisfied with your food and prevent overeating.
Managing sugar intake can be challenging during the festive season, as many traditional dishes, drinks and desserts are high in sugar. Opt for water or unsweetened drinks.
You can also try to make your own drinks by infusing water with fruits and herbs. Fresh fruits can satisfy your sweet cravings without the added sugar.
“You can also try making healthier versions of traditional desserts using natural sweeteners like dates, honey, and maple syrup instead of white sugar. Reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe and add more fibre-rich ingredients like whole grains or fruits,” Dr Lim said.
Children are also prone to eating too many festive cookies and snacks, and drinking syrup-based and carbonated drinks as we go house to house visiting our family and friends. Setting a good example for our children and becoming a role model for healthy eating by making healthy choices can help them make informed choices about their food intake.
“Set limits on how much sweet or high-calorie food your child can eat each day during the festive period. Encourage them to share their treats with family and friends, rather than eating them all by themselves, and encourage them to participate in physical activities such as going for a walk or bike ride. This can help burn off excess calories and energy, and promote a healthy lifestyle,” she added.
Dr Lim also shared some tips to prepare healthier traditional dishes and make healthier food choices.
Use leaner cuts of meat such as chicken breast or lean beef, and reduce the amount of coconut milk used. You can also incorporate more vegetables such as bell peppers and broccoli to increase its nutrient density.
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Use skinless chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs, which are higher in fat, and reduce the amount of oil. Incorporate more vegetables such as carrots and spinach to increase its nutrient density, and opt of healthier substitutes to salt and sugar with herbs and spices to flavour the dish.
Use natural peanut butter instead of processed peanut butter, which may contain added salt and sugar. Reduce the amount of sugar and incorporate other nutrient-rich ingredients such as ginger and garlic to boost its health benefits.
This vegetable curry is often made with a variety of vegetables including beans, eggplant and cabbage. It is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense dish that is high in fibre and antioxidants. To make it even healthier, reduce the amount of coconut milk or opt for a lower-fat version.
A type of pickled vegetable dish often served as a side dish, acar is a low-calorie, high-fibre dish that is rich in vitamins and minerals. To make it healthier, reduce the amount of salt and sugar.
Made from compressed rice wrapped in coconut leaves, ketupat provides a good source of energy for the body. It is also low in fat and contains no cholesterol. While it is already a healthy option, you can make it healthier by pairing it with vegetable-based dishes.
Opt for a version that is made with brown rice instead of white rice, which will provide more fibre and nutrients. You can also reduce the amount of coconut milk or opt for a lower-fat option.