Festive foods: What to have for a healthy, delicious Eid breakfast

The body takes time to adjust after fasting, the right way to approach this is by gradually easing back

Racha Adib
Racha Adib - Special to Al Arabiya English
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The end of Ramadan is traditionally marked with an enthusiastic family feast starting from breakfast all the way up to lunch. Eid is a time of celebration and joy and like any joyous occasion, we tend to celebrate with food.

However, returning to pre-Ramadan eating habits can cause a shock to your body’s digestive system and may trigger undesirable side effects. Imagine that after a month of fasting you go from having nothing all day to a full blown food marathon. It’s only normal to experience undesirable side effects such as indigestion, heartburn, and the dreaded weight gain. Because the body takes time to adjust after fasting, the right way to approach this is by gradually easing back into your normal lifestyle habits one step at a time.

Now that you can finally go back to enjoying breakfast, keep in mind that the first few days after Ramadan your body will not handle the same amounts it was used to having. Let’s evaluate various breakfast options and what you can do to improve them.

It’s one of those comfort foods you crave in the mornings, probably because it’s so rich in carbs. But they’re also rich in calories. One average manousheh ranges between 600-800 calories, equivalent to breakfast and lunch combined. If you choose a cheese manousheh, you pack in unhealthy saturated fat. And if that weren’t enough, it also adds very little in terms of nutrition. But don’t despair, there’s something you can do about it.

Choose a thin crust manousheh, and select wholegrain dough when available. That way you’ve already reduced the carbs and packed in some fiber. Pick zaatar over cheese and add low fat labneh to your manousheh for a protein punch and veggies for some additional fiber and vitamins.

This meal is quite a hearty option as is. It’s composed of fava beans, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic and is often eaten with bread. Fava beans are a great source of plant-based protein which means they contain very little fat. In 1 cup of fava beans there are 187 calories and 9 grams of fiber. Choose whole grain bread and make sure to add in some chopped tomatoes, onions, and parsley to the mix. Although healthy, go easy on olive oil because it’s equivalent to the calories in butter and contains an average 45 calories per teaspoon.

Eggs have been long vilified due to their high content in cholesterol. While it is true eggs do contain a lot of cholesterol - 200mg per egg - a solid body of findings has found that cholesterol in food does not have a large impact on blood cholesterol levels. Recent research has found that moderate eggs consumption, up to one a day, does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals. They actually contain nutrients that may help lower risk of heart disease such as protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate.

What has a larger impact on blood cholesterol levels is butter. Instead of frying eggs in butter, use healthier cooking methods such as boiling, baking, or frying in water. Use a non-stick skillet which requires very little to no oil when frying. Top your eggs with some heart healthy olive oil and combine with veggies and wholegrain bread.

Your options are endless – halloumi, feta cheese, cheddar, cream cheese or labneh – but they vary very much in calories and fat content. A good rule of thumb is to avoid yellow cheese and cream cheese because they’re naturally higher in fat. Halloumi cheese is an exception to that rule and although it’s white is also high in saturated fat and calories. A 30 gram serving of halloumi packs in 105 calories and 8 grams of fat comparable to that of cheddar. Stick to naturally low fat dairy such as feta cheese, goat cheese, and labneh.

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