They say old habits die hard but it’s actually possible to teach an old dog new tricks. How? Find a good substitute to replace the bad habit and focus on a role model to motivate you.
After the publication of my healthy eating in Ramadaan column last week (“Breaking the bad food boeka tradition”, Athlone News May 23), I received good feedback from readers. One woman emailed me saying every year she intends to eat healthy but never does because she does not have the willpower.
Another woman said she wants to make healthy food but her family prefer the traditional greasy and sugary kinds.
Another woman wrote that she would be on a healthy eating plan throughout the year but when it came to Ramadaan her late husband used to love dhaltjies and “pampoen koekies” (pumpkin fritters) so she was compelled to put that on the table.
I am in a similar situation where my small, healthy plate is surrounded by my family’s traditional bad boys.
In the first week, it was tough looking at and smelling these scrumptious appetisers but I stuck to making substitute meals, including desserts, to make it a bit easier on myself as the only way to break a habit is to go cold turkey and remain consistent.
So, I made similar meals to the traditional ones but used health-friendly ingredients.
If I didn’t prepare a replacement meal I would fall into the temptation trap which is exactly what happened when I once went to boeka at my sister’s place – unarmed.
The yummy smells and colourful treats made me salivate. I imagined the samoosa looking at me from all three corners and soon it was in my mouth. It didn’t stop there because somehow the dhaltjie rolled over to my plate as well.
After a savoury snack your palette wants something sweet. The pancake stared at me and I took full advantage, gobbling it up.
Well, that experience was surprisingly unsatisfactory and I made sure I prepared my meal in future. And while it wasn’t easy to find quick replacement desserts or meals in recipe books I scanned, good ol’ Google and Facebook became my friends.
I even found a healthy pizza recipe – a cauliflower base with any nutritious topping of your choice.
I also made a sweet potato fritter – yes can you believe it – and instead of self-raising flour I used a tablespoon of rolled oats and an egg to bind the mixture before frying it in a non-stick pan brushed with coconut oil. The topping was honey instead of sugar and it tasted like the real McCoy.
I tried frying banana in coconut oil and drizzled it with honey instead of sugar and garnished it with almonds.
I started to have fun with cooking while using healthy options.
But although I was on the straight and narrow it still took a great deal of willpower and I had to find motivation by following the example of the Prophet Mugammad (peace be upon him).
I spoke to Moulana Dawood Sampson of Masjid-Us-Sabr, in Parkwood, who is also passionate about promoting healthy eating, and he told me about the prophet’s advice to his companions about the most important message of Ramadaan.
He said: “We are not just body but we are body and soul which makes us human beings. During Ramadaan we deprive the body to uplift the soul in order to rediscover our inner-self and strengthen our relationship with the Creator.
“Prophet Mugammad (peace be upon him) was reported to have said: ‘Fast and you will feel healthy’.
“We have learnt that fast is the opposite of feast and it gives the internal organs a rest.
“Fasting also heals ailments involving organs such as the liver, kidneys and colon as it flushes out toxins etc.”
He said the prophet guided his companions to break their fast on dates and he loved soup.
“It is said in modern science that one date contains seven vitamins and 11 minerals.
“Muslims are advised to eat moderately when breaking their fast, as it clears the mind and softens the heart while one thinks of the poor and hungry,” said Moulana Dawood.
“The prophet also said that if man wants to keep the body fit then he should fill one third of his belly with his food, one third with his drink and leave one third for his breathing.
“It is up to us to make a decision to look after our bodies, as we will be greatly rewarded for our good habits and punished for our bad habits.”
So, I am still a work in progress of kicking my bad habits and motivating myself every day while sharing my experiences.
Happy fasting, fellow Muslims, and please beware of sugar infused boeber on Boeber Night (the 15th of Ramadaan).
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