With the start of Ramadan on July 9, Muslims around the world are taking part in a fasting ritual that will last for 30 days.
During this time, Muslims don't eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours. And while the focus of the religious holiday isn't necessarily food, it's a time to be grateful for what you have.
"We spend this time breaking bad habits that have formed throughout the year by focusing on good habits we'll try to maintain after Ramadan ends," says Salima Jivraj, founder of Halal Foodie, a Toronto-based community site.
When it comes to breaking your fast, sometimes after an eight or 15-hour day, Jivraj says what you eat depends on your ethnic background and preferred tastes. While dates are the only religious tradition — the Prophet Muhammad used to eat dates to break his fast— most household dinner tables look very different.
And fasting, especially during long hot summer months, also comes with risks. While some physicians say dehydration can be common during this time around the world, Jivraj says overeating is also a concern.
"It’s recommended from religious traditions to ease into eating when you break your fast. Unfortunately, many of us don’t follow this and overeat," she says. "It’s ideal to break your fast with light, healthy foods, then go for prayer, then come back to eat a nutritious meal."
So what do Muslims eat during Ramadan? Here are 10 favourite foods to break a fast:
Because the Prophet Muhammad used to eat dates to break his fast, Muslims often eat them to break their fast as well, says Salima Jivraj, founder of Halal Foodie, a Toronto-based community site for foodies. "These tiny fruits are packed with nutrition, which make them ideal as a fast opener. You can eat them fresh, dried or stuffed with nuts."
Flatbread is also popular and ranges in variety from Middle Eastern pitas, Indian rotis and parathas, Pakistani naan and Malaysian roti canai.
Easy-to-make soups are also a good way to get the much-needed nutritional benefits of vegetables, meats and grains. Harira soup or stew is a common Moroccan dish for Ramadan.
Besides dates, any fruit is a great option for breaking a fast, Jivraj says. A popular South Asian dish is fruit chaat, which is essentially a spiced fruit salad. "Eating plain hydrating fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe are also really beneficial during long summer fasts."
Tabbouleh, a finely chopped parsley, tomato and onion salad, is light, nutritious and popular in Arab culture.
Sawine is a common dessert eaten during Ramadan. This sweet Trinidadian-style vermicelli dish is made with milk and often nuts.
Deep-fried fritters are also popular, and again, range from country to country. Pakoras (pictured here) are popular in South Asia, while pisang goreng, or banana fritters, are found in Indonesian cuisine.
Hummus is popular in Middle Eastern culture and doesn't contain cholesterol or saturated fats.
Falooda is possibly the most common Ramadan drink for South Asians. It's made with rooh afza (a type of non-alcoholic concentrated rose syrup) mixed in ice water. It can also be topped with tapioca or jelly to create the perfect summer drink.
Other Savoury Foods
Besides fritters, other savory foods include the ever-popular samosa and even bite-sized spring rolls.