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Fasting for Ramadan at Rutgers? Fill up or break fast with these ideas for suhoor or iftar

Smoothies or smoothie bowls are just one suhoor idea to fill up pre-fast this Ramadan. – Photo by Jannis Brandt / Unsplash

Between keeping up with prayers, schoolwork and a (somewhat) normal sleep schedule, fasting on campus proves to be challenging. And after 14 or more hours of fasting, the last thing you want to think about is what to make for a meal.

Spending money on takeout might be super tempting, but over the course of 30 days, it'll quickly add up. Plus, many restaurant options tend to be high in calories, fat, oil and sodium — all of which can lead to a post-iftar crash due to a sharp blood sugar spike, causing bloating or even more fatigue.

As students with hectic schedules, we need every bit of energy we can get. The key to staying full is having a balanced meal high in protein and low on processed carbs and refined sugars. 

Luckily, there are many easy-to-make options that fit both. If you’re on a budget, tight on time and don’t want to spend Ramadan starving, I’ve got you covered.

Here are some easy suhoor and iftar ideas that will keep you full all month long: 

Suhoor No. 1: Protein smoothie

If you’re the kind of person who hates eating super early in the morning, making a smoothie is a great alternative to having a bland protein bar or skipping the meal altogether.

There are many high-protein smoothie recipes out there, but my personal favorite combination is this: 1 cup of frozen berries (you can get a berry medley from Costco or Trader Joe’s), one banana, a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt, a handful of spinach, 1 teaspoon of honey and a few splashes almond milk.

I also like to add a scoop of Gold Standard vanilla whey protein as well as this masks the flavor of the spinach, along with a few dashes of cinnamon for a metabolism boost.

A lot of suhoor smoothie recipes also call for additions like dates, peanut butter, oats or flax seeds as well. Not only are these great sources of healthy fats, sugars and additional protein, but these foods also contain “slow-release” carbohydrates that will allow you to sustain energy throughout the day.

Of course, you can also opt to use the above recipe as a base for a smoothie bowl (just use less milk and blend for longer to achieve a creamier texture) and customize it in whatever way you like.

Avoid blending your smoothie with juices or anything high in added sugar — these might make you experience a sharp “crash” in your blood sugar, leaving you hungry, fatigued or unable to concentrate.

Iftar No. 1: Check out the Center for Islamic Life (CILRU) for free iftar

If you live on campus, you’re in luck: CILRU is offering iftar every single day this month! 

All food is halal and is provided at no cost. There will also be dates and water available for everyone to break their fast.

Most days, iftar is offered at the CILRU house on the College Avenue campus at 122 College Avenue, but there are some days that iftar will be served elsewhere, so be sure to follow the official CILRU Facebook page for updates. 

Suhoor No. 2: Eggs with hummus or avocado toast

Eggs are a timeless breakfast staple and what I personally love to make to get through fasting.

I opt to make either a sunny-side-up or scrambled egg (as they take the least time to cook) and season with salt, black pepper and chili flakes. If you want to take your eggs to the next level, try frying your eggs in pesto or in a bit of chili oil (you can thank me later).

I also like to add a side of sauteed spinach, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms to my scramble for my daily dose of veggies and top my eggs off with feta cheese and hot sauce.

For an additional (and tasty) source of more protein, I enjoy my eggs with a side of whole-wheat toast slathered in roasted red pepper hummus from Trader Joe’s. You can also opt for the classic avocado toast with Trader Joe's famous “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning on top — both options are equally delicious and nutrient-packed.

Iftar No. 2: Chickpea salad

If you want to avoid cooking at all costs, making a high-protein salad like this Desi-styled “chaat” chickpea salad or this Mediterranean salad are great options. The chickpeas will ensure that you're hitting your daily protein needs as well as add some much-needed fiber after a day on an empty stomach.

The beauty of the salad is really in its simplicity: Each recipe only requires a few ingredients and doesn't require any cooking equipment other than a knife and cutting board. Plus, they’re easily customizable — you can add avocado, quinoa, rotisserie chicken or boiled eggs to make for a heartier meal.

If you’re not in the mood to slice produce, make sure to stock up on pre-sliced options from the grocery store, and if you’re feeling extra lazy, you can even order them from your phone with Amazon groceries.

Suhoor No. 3: Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a classic breakfast food and for good reason — not only is it a “slow-release” food with complex carbohydrates, but it also has a lot of fiber, which can help ease post-iftar bloat.

I like to boil my oats in a 1 to 1 ratio of almond milk to water, and season with brown sugar, a pinch of salt and lots of cinnamon powder.

For toppings, I usually opt for fresh strawberries and blueberries (frozen works just as well), peanut butter and banana slices for additional calories and healthy fats.

If you’re not a fan of oats, fruits with peanut butter on top of greek yogurt (trust me) with a drizzle of honey is also a great option with lots of protein.

Iftar No. 3: Use your dining hall swipes or opt for semi-cooked meals

If you have a meal plan, the dining hall will be allowing fasting students to take home food in takeout boxes for a swipe, so be sure to stock up when you go. If you eat halal only, no worries: Be sure to speak with the staff about your options.

But for those of us who live off-campus, cooking will become inevitable at some point, so try to make your life as easy as possible with partially cooked or frozen meals.

A go-to lazy meal for me is having frozen pasta on hand with ready-made sauce that I season with chili flakes and garlic. For protein, you can add pre-cooked frozen shrimp (which takes approximately 2 minutes to defrost in the microwave) and some cheese on top.

Alternatively, you can dress up day-old rice with soy sauce and scrambled egg for fried rice, or make instant ramen healthier and more filling with an egg and some spinach or bok choy.

Finding the motivation to figure out meals while fasting can be tough, but with a bit of planning and creativity, it’s definitely possible!

Be sure to stay posted on events throughout the month hosted by local Muslim organizations — they’ll likely offer free food there too, so you can stay full without breaking the bank, all Ramadan long.

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