Curried Butternut Squash Soup (And a Video Demonstration)

HealthđŸ’ȘWellness

*Note: Video demonstration to prepare this soup is included. (I’m the one in green.) Please just don’t cringe/get distracted by my semi-motherly voice, as you learn how to make this delicious soup*
-Amna ❀

Let’s talk about winter squash, shall we?
That great little pear-shaped fruit (yes, it is a fruit due to the seeds) that’s related to pumpkins.
Butternut squash. A nutrient powerhouse indeed

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This winter squash is one of the most nutrient-rich foods that you can find.

  • Full of minerals (such as potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium) {Source}
  • Rich in B-complex vitamins (like folate, vitamin B1, B2, and B6) {Source}
  • Rich in Vitamin C (essential for the immune system)
  • Great source of dietary fiber and a relatively low calorie squash (so great for weight reduction and for GI-related issues)
  • As shown from the orange-yellow color of the squash, rich in the biologically-active compound beta-carotene (also found in carrots), a powerful antioxidant to fight cancers, heart diseases, and degenerative neurological diseases {Source}
  • One of the highest sources of Vitamin A (which is converted from the beta-carotene, once inside the body), providing about 350% of daily intake. Vitamin A is essential for the maintenance of our skin,eyes, and hair {Source}

This one was seasoned with chili powder, garam masala, and salt and then roasted.... mmmmm!

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In short, a serving of butternut squash will provide for you  vitamins and minerals that the body can actually absorb, in contrast to the multi-vitamins tablets and supplements that we all tend to take.

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Last year, I was working with my local farmers’ market, Hub City Farmers’ Market and we had a cooking demonstration series for their YouTube channel called “Cooking with HCFM”. The goals were to provide easy, affordable, and nutritious recipes for our community and to encourage healthy eating and buying locally-grown produce.

So for our first recipe, we made a delicious curried butternut squash soup.

I’ll be honest, when I found out that this was our first recipe that we were going to make, I was a bit hesitant. The butternut squash, to me,  was a seemingly difficult item to work with (though I soon found out that this was not the case!) and I had never made a soup from scratch before. However, with the proper techniques (such as peeling the squash before cutting into it) and by following the directions step-by-step, it was a very simple, easy, and absolutely delicious soup to make!

This hearty soup is perfect for a cold or rainy evening. Gluten-free and only has around 100 calories per serving,
It is creamy and smooth and seasoned to perfection, using an assortment of spices, that contain even more disease-fighting antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables, as well as anti-inflammatory and metabolism-boosting effects.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients 

1 small butternut squash (or 2 1/2 cups), peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
3 Cups broth (vegetable or meat-based)
1/2 Small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8  tsp cumin
1/2  tsp curry
4 oz cream cheese

Directions 

  1. Peel the squash (to make it easier to cut through), remove the seeds, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Chop up the onion and then mince the garlic (by squeezing the clove out of its skin and then simply slicing the clove)
  2. Add all the ingredients but the cream cheese to a stockpot and bring to a boil
  3. Reduce heat slightly and simmer till the squash is tender, about 30 minutes (fork can easily piece the flesh)
  4. Transfer content to blender in batches and add cream cheese, blend till pureed
  5. Transfer back to stockpot and heat to warm and further season if necessary

Total Time:  45 minutes

Prep:  15 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

I hope you guys try this one out. Enjoy!!

Banana-Almond Milk Smoothie (With Cocoa and Maca Powder)

HealthđŸ’ȘWellness

This may just be the best thing that I have ever come up with. Ever.

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I have no idea how I came up with this recipe.
It’s a combination between a frothy, refreshing milkshake and an energizing latte. Low in calories, fat, and sugar (sweetened with natural ingredients) and chock-full of nutrients that your body needs, making it a much, much healthier and more beneficial drink than most.

Whatever it is, it’s a great alternative to high-calorie milkshakes and to overpriced Starbucks drinks.
Quite reminiscent of a chocolate-banana milkshake
.

. creamy, smooth, refreshing, delicious, chocolatey, sweet.

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In other words


Yum.

The ingredients are very simple: almond milk, bananas, sweetener, coffee (optional), cocoa powder, and maca powder. That’s it. (Unless you count ice as being an ingredient)

I like to drink this before working out as it gives me the energy that I need without weighing me down. Or I’ll drink this when I need something sweet and chocolatey (yes, that is an adjective) as an afternoon pick-me-up or as a dessert without going overboard on the sugar.

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Warning: Nutrition lecture ahead 😉

In this recipe, I use almond milk in place of conventional, dairy milk. I am a huge fan of almond milk and have been for quite a while now. Almond milk is a great substitute for those who are lactose intolerant, have dairy or gluten-related allergies, or are simply looking for a lower-calorie source of milk.

Yes, it takes some getting used to, but once it becomes an acquired taste, the texture of almond milk is much more pleasing (at least to me) than regular milk due to the creaminess and the subtle hint of the nutty and sweet flavor. But you can’t even taste the almond milk in this recipe!

Comparatively, almond milk has a lot less calories than cow’s milk and no saturated fat or cholesterol. It also provides plenty of  vitamins and minerals (such as calcium, potassium, vitamins A, E, D) and is heart-friendly. Though the downsides are that it has much less protein and B vitamins than cow’s milk and most importantly, store-bought almond milk is usually watered down and synthesized with food additives (carrageenan, “natural flavor”, etc), so make sure to read the label before buying!

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The next ingredient is the banana.
Bananas are a great source of complex carbohydrates, which makes them a great addition to this smoothie (plus, bananas are just delicious). I use 2 ripe bananas, for a sweeter, creamier consistency. Make sure they are ripe with dark patches, trust me. It’s better for your taste buds and for your immune system.

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Just in case the ripe bananas aren’t sweet enough, I usually add some sort of sweetener. In this case, I used raw, unfiltered honey (compared to commercial honey, raw honey still retains the naturally-occurring enzymes and phytonutrients that are destroyed in the processed version).
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As for the superfood ingredients (though bananas and honey do qualify as superfoods), I added maca powder and cocoa powder to further boost the nutritional content of this smoothie.
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Maca powder, which is derived from the maca root that grows in the Andes mountains and has been used for centuries by Peruvians, has definitely been gaining prominence in the health world due to the many benefits that it naturally provides:

  •  known to boost stamina and provide energy with the negative side effects of caffeine
  • great source of many vitamins, minerals, and enzymes while also providing all of the essential amino acids
  • most notably, maca helps to balance our hormones by regulating excess or inadequate amounts in the body
    [Source]

Taste-wise, it’s not very strong, I think it has a slight malty/sweet flavor, making a teaspoon of this stuff a great nutritional addition to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, etc.

Maca is amazing. I need to do a post solely to praise this stuff
 In fact, it is such a great energy booster, that you may as well omit coffee from your life altogether (
this hypocrite is addicted, so I’ll keep adding mine) 😉

The other superfood would be cocoa powder. No, not hot cocoa, nor dutch-processed (which are both processed versions of the real stuff), but naturally unsweetened cocoa powder, which is rich in antioxidants (quite specifically, of the flavanol family), while also providing plenty of minerals such as copper and magnesium.

But the best part about this stuff? It’s chocolate. The end.

These two ingredients completely transform this smoothie; it becomes an indulgent, satisfying drink while also packing a nutritional punch. Usually I do use Hershey’s Cocoa Natural Unsweetened, but I only had the dutch-processed version at home (whoops).

I also add a teaspoon of instant coffee granules, though this is completely option and NOT necessary at all because of the already stimulating and energizing effects of the bananas, maca powder and cocoa powder (but I’m just a coffee addict
 sorry).

Alright, enough of my blabber, let’s get started on the smoothie making, shall we??

Ingredients that I use to make this smoothie

Banana-Almond Milk Smoothie (With Cocoa and Maca Powder)

Ingredients:
2 cups almond milk
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp maca powder
2-3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
espresso/ instant coffee granules (optional)
sweetener of choice (honey, stevia, agave nectar, etc)
handful of ice (approximately 1/3 cup)

Directions:
Simply place all ingredients into a blender
Cover and blend until smooth
Add more liquid and/or ice depending on thickness desired
Add more sweetener depending on sweetness of bananas

Yield:
2 Cups (16 oz.)

You guys, TRY this and thank me later. I’m serious!

Till next time!

-Amna ❀

January 1, 2015. 16 Days Later…..

Deen â˜Ș Dunya

Hi everyone,
so today, I was supposed to post the next part of my Paris/Nutrition series, however, I will instead dedicate this post to the recent tragedy of Peshawar, Pakistan. This is too pertinent of a subject for me not to talk about.

As a warning, this is a very heavy topic but I hope that you will all read this with an open mind and an open heart. I may not have much knowledge about or expertise regarding this horrible event, but I would hope that all of us, as human beings, may be able to understand, relate to, and learn from this information.

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It is now the start of a new year.

The past one has been a very difficult one, indeed. The world has been afflicted with many calamities, most of which may be attributable to the hatred and indifference begotten from ignorance and unawareness; whether it be from the unjust deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the ongoing genocides occurring in Gaza, Palestine or the ones in Myanmar or the Central African Republic, there is a lot that this world needs to learn about, from the tragedies of 2014.
I do, however, want to focus on one that occurred not too long ago, a tragedy that I have been struggling to understand for a while now.

So, as the world may or may not know, on the morning of Tuesday, December 16th, 2014, the Taliban, armed with rifles and detonated explosives, brutally massacred more than 140 people in the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, at least 132 of the victims were children. Most of these individuals were congregated in the main hall for a lecture/talk when the Taliban broke into the school and began shooting and bombing right away. There are photographs and videos depicting the remnants of this horrific event; pools of blood on the ground, tiny shoes with bloodstains spattered all around the hallways, classrooms that show signs of struggle and defeat


What reason can be used to speak for this heinous act??

No, the reason cannot be spoken for by religion, at all. There are no rational teachings, no acceptable way-of-life, no religion that would ever allow for this to occur.

No, the reason is not anti-education. Those children and their brave teachers who stood as shields to protect their students were not brutally murdered, simply for “going to school”. Nor is Malala Yousafzai’s survival and worldly impact a target for this.

Perhaps there is no reason to give at all.

I am not writing this to explain the etiology of this massacre (I do not have enough knowledge to be able to do so, anyways).

I am not writing this to give my condolences (because the victims and their families do not want nor need my sympathy).

I am writing this simply because it hurts.

As a Pakistani, this hurts me because my people are broken. The spirit of Pakistan has been crushed; the most innocent of human beings have been brutally and wrongfully taken away from this world. Their families and communities are now left to bear the heavy burden of this grief for the rest of their lives. Both, Pakistan and the world have lost an entire generation of benevolent leaders, motivators, and thinkers. The world is at a loss.

As an older sister to an 8-year old, this pains me because those mothers/sisters/grandmothers will never be able to hug and kiss and comfort their children ever again. A parent’s ultimate goal in life is to protect his/her children, to ensure that not even a hint of pain touches their little ones. Those parents never once imagined that they would be holding the bloody, lifeless bodies (some horribly and gruesomely murdered) of their little babies.
“Some of the 1,100 students at the school were lined up and slaughtered with shots to the head. Others were gunned down as they cowered under their desks, or forced to watch as their teachers were riddled with bullets.” (Source).
How do mothers feel to as they read this statement? How do those mothers in Peshawar feel to actually be living this statement? We could never imagine. Though it’s no fault of the parents, they will forever be drowning in their own regret, wishing that they hadn’t sent their children to school that day, that they could intercede during the event, wishing that they could take the bullets, in place of their children
.

As a human being, this tears at my heart, because there is not enough room in there to bear the pain of this reality.

I fail to grasp, how can a fellow human life, especially of the most innocent of beings, be so wrongfully taken away? How can someone look directly into the fearful eyes of a little one and then shoot him, straight to the head? No human being could have committed this. No animal, either. Animals, at the very least, kill for the purpose of self-defense or to satiate their hunger. This could only be at the hands of monsters, creatures without an ounce of reason, sense, or humanity.

Children, killed in the midst of their classrooms, previously absorbing information, learning, contributing, will never be able to do so again. Over a hundred futures, ended. Over a hundred dreams, destroyed. An entire generation of bright, benevolent contributors, taken away from this world. After a monstrosity such as this, it becomes so easy to view the world in such a negative, hopeless light.

But perhaps it takes the most evil of acts to initiate the most benevolent of change.

So what can we do about this?

We need to, first of all, understand that Islam is not at fault for this atrocity. No religion is. However, the sad truth is, over 140 children and their teachers were killed by terrorists in Pakistan and yet, the world remained silent. At the same time, Israeli terrorists are committing genocide in Gaza, Palestine, the world says nothing. Why has there been so much silence, especially in the western world? Why aren’t we willing to talk about this? These lives are no less important than those involved in the similarly horrifying Sandy Hook and Columbine massacres, so do the Pakistani lives not deserve the same respect and honor as the American ones?

It seems that history is repeating itself. During the Holocaust, global media stayed quiet throughout the mass killings by Germany. Even though the tragedies going on now in Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, and elsewhere should not be about religion, and instead about compassion and humanity, the media’s misconstrued depiction of Islam has led the world to feel utter disdain and disinterest to the sufferings in Muslim countries. Too many lives are being perished to allow for this depiction to continue. Education, thus, is the necessary tool for unity and change.

Islam is being horribly misconstrued. Both, by the media and by uneducated Muslims, who have never read the Qur’an nor have understood a single Hadith (these are the only two sources of Islamic teachings for Muslims). Ironically, both of these sources are being used to justify the deluded actions/desires of so-called “religious” groups. Just like the Pakistani Taliban, who committed the heinous acts, most of these terrorists are simply young, uneducated individuals who are brainwashed and promised of ‘paradise’ by manipulative, evil figures with personal/economical/social agendas.

But it takes a little bit of research into Islam to find out that the actions of these terrorists and the depictions portrayed by the media, do not match the tenets of Islam.

Let’s begin with terms.

The root word of Islam itself means peace. The true essence of Islam is simply about the direct relationship that a person has with their Creator; submitting to the will of Allah (Islamic term for God), while understanding that the one God is the most Compassionate, the most Forgiving, and the ultimate Source of comfort and solace.
The duties of a Muslim (one who submits his/her will to Allah and thus, attains peace within themselves and within their surroundings, a similar concept to Nirvana in Buddhism) include being a good human being, one who is merciful, kind, and respectful to all: to animals, children, adults, elders, Muslims, and non-Muslims. It is required of every Muslim to treat non-Muslims with gentleness and compassion, and to never belittle the beliefs of another nor the deities that they worship.
Islam, the religion, has nothing to do with the people that use it to justify their own motives, whether psycho-cultural, political, economical. Those people, the religious fanatics, should be referred to as Extremists, not Muslim Extremists. And as Terrorists, not Islamic Terrorists. These terms, otherwise are oxymorons and should not be used together.

So, in a faith where even animals deserve the best of treatment, how could the slaughter of humans be a justifiable creed of Islam? In a religion where women are regarded as queens, how could the wrongful treatment of women be a tenet of this religion? A belief system, that was originally spread far and wide through compassion, morality, fairness, and choice, why then are the savage terrorists, who force their way of life upon others, associated with this same religion?

This seems to be basic knowledge that everyone should understand by now, as there are millions of Muslims living in America. But as mirrors of this kind and beautiful faith, what are we, the Muslims, doing to change the perspective that the world has upon Islam and for those suffering all over the globe? With our many voices, why do we remain soundless?

As Muslims in America, we have more power, freedom, and influence than most Muslims have around the world. We have the liberty to practice our religion freely, we have the education and perspicacity to expose and correct the errors of the global media while placing our own voices into the public sphere.

Despite these powerful tools, Muslim Americans remain silent. Perhaps, we too become too complacent and absorbed in our own lives to attempt to do anything about this. Perhaps, Islamophobia in the West silences us due to the discrimination and hatred that we face for speaking up.

But isn’t it our duty as Muslims to bring about truth, peace, and to help those suffering in this world?
And is it not our duty as Patriotic Americans to stand up for justice and strive for equality?

We must overcome our own barriers, and most of all, us Muslims must learn to practice Islam in it’s true sense, simply by being the most giving of neighbors, the most trustworthy of co-workers, the most compassionate of friends, and the most benevolent of humanity.

Perhaps, then, will Muslims be regarded as fellow Americans. Perhaps, then, will the plights of those suffering in Muslim countries be more relevant to us all. And perhaps, if we all work together in harmony, the governments and economies of Islamic countries will one day change for the better and the young, uneducated civilians won’t have to find solace in ruthless fanatics as their educators and role models.

These are just a few words of an individual, who is, not trying to make sense of this world (because this world is not meant to be understood) but rather, attempting to find some sort of comfort in knowing that there will be justice for the wrongs of this world and that unity, compassion, and love can be found amidst even the most different of people.

Perhaps an applicable resolution for us all would be to try to understand, educate, and learn from each other; a small, albeit powerful step into creating a more humane, peaceful, and secure world.

With all of this being said
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Happy New Year, everyone. I hope and pray that this year brings happiness, peace, and prosperity to us all.

-Amna ❀

Ten Ways to Establish Healthier Eating and Lifestyle Habits During Ramadan

Deen â˜Ș Dunya, Health and Wellness, HealthđŸ’ȘWellness

“Do not make your stomach a graveyard for animals.” -Hazrat Ali AS

Picture this: it is the month of Ramadan, your stomach is growling, and you’ve been fasting for the past 16 hours. The sun is setting so it is finally time to break your fast at the Iftar meal. And since you are so hungry and overwhelmed by the spread of samosas, bread, fried chicken, and the large display of sweets in front of you, you cannot help but to overindulge in it all. “After all, I do have to fast for 30 entire days
” you reassure yourself.   But by the time Isha (night prayer) andTaraweeh (extra, voluntary prayers) roll around, you’re too full and lethargic to properly focus on the prayers, leading to guilt, anger, and disappointment in yourself for your unhealthy eating choices and bad habits, which, regrettably, manifest into your Ramadan routine, year after year after year
.

Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, the Exalted) states in the Holy Qur’an “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” (Qur’an 2/183).

The month of Ramadan is not a cyclical antithesis between starvation all day and binge eating all night. Instead, Muslims are given this month as an opportunity to change for the better, not only for one month but, for the rest of our lives. This is a Muslim’s ‘New Year’s Resolution’ to replace the bad with the good: to learn to control our tempers, our tongues, our desires, and to instead focus on becoming more tolerant, patient, and benevolent human beings. Ramadan is a training process that teaches us humility, as we face the same hunger and thirst as our fellow human beings in poverty-filled conditions. Ramadan enables us to become spiritually stronger and more disciplined, as we fast, not only with our stomachs, but also with our tongues, hearts, and minds, ridding ourselves of ill feelings, desires, and thoughts.

Fasting thus, as the cardinal tool of Ramadan, allows for a healing process to occur, a detoxification of mind, body, and soul.   Our dietary habits should also reflect this: we should be able to exercise self-control against unhealthy eating and living habits which otherwise only hurt the progress that we could be making this month and onwards. We should establish healthy eating habits that will allow for us to become stronger, healthier, and more active human beings and Muslims. Habits that will help us to partake in the voluntary prayers during Ramadan and otherwise,  to volunteer our precious time in helping others (whether our family members, friends, or people in need of our volunteer services), and to live, study, and teach the true essence of Islam, every single day.

I have compiled a list of a few tips which I hope will be beneficial for you on your journey towards better health, during Ramadan and beyond, InshaAllah (God willing).

Ten Ways to Establish Healthier Eating and Lifestyle Habits During Ramadan‹

1. Prepare for the month of Ramadan
One cannot simply jump into the disciplined routine of Ramadan without being prepared for it first. For example, it was the Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to fast often during Shabaan (the month preceding Ramadan). In fact, he would fast more so during Shabaan than any other month (save for Ramadan itself).  Fasting during the month prior to Ramadan will also allow one to be physically and mentally prepared for the obligatory fasts of Ramadan and allow one to have established a healthy routine by the time these obligatory fasts do come around. After all, just as the student studies to prepare for an exam, Muslims that prepare for Ramadan during Shabaan will also benefit greatly.

2. Do not skip the suhoor (pre-dawn) meal
Another Sunnah of the Prophet, he always made sure to eat something during suhoor, even if it was simply a glass of water and a few dates. He is stated to have said “Have suhoor, for in it there is blessing (barakah).” (Al Bukhaari, 4/139). Do not sleep through it, ensure that you wake up on time to eat this meal, otherwise you will be doing your mind and body a disfavor (due to an inability to focus on daily activities because of the hunger pangs, thirst, and exhaustion that missing suhoor inevitably causes).   An easy and portable option is a smoothie,which can even be prepared before bedtime. Simply fill your blender with a liquid base (coconut water, milk, etc) and add a banana, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, half a cup of oats, a few dates, and honey to sweeten. Not only does this smoothie include many of the foods mentioned in the Qur’an and in Hadith (sayings and teachings of the Prophet), but this complex carbs, protein, and fiber-rich meal option will provide you with long-lasting energy to sustain you throughout the day.Other suhoor meal ideas include omelets (filled with vegetables and a side of fruit) and oatmeal (filled with grains, seeds, nuts, fruit, and greek yogurt).

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3. Meal Prep
Prepare your meals ahead of time, make more than you require, and store the extra meals in the freezer. Then, simply thaw and reheat as needed. Also, one day during the week, cut up all of the necessary ingredients and store them away as well till needed. This will drastically reduce time spent in the kitchen and give the chef of the house the opportunity to fast normally with everyone else without having to slave away in the kitchen all day. It will also give you control over the food consumed by you and your loved ones, by eating homemade and healthy meals rather than resorting to the convenience and ease of fast food.

4. Eat more fruits and vegetables and stay hydrated
During the long, hot month of Ramadan, there is nothing more hydrating and refreshing than consuming (nutrient and water-rich) fruit and vegetables. It is as simple as throwing frozen fruit, leafy greens, and a protein source (such as nut butters, seeds, or greek yogurt) into a blender along with a liquid base, to create an energizing smoothie for suhoor. For iftar, break your fast with a salad made of hydrating ingredients (cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, spinach) or a bowl of fresh melons and berries. Drink plenty of water alongside these meals to prevent thirst and dehydration.

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5. Substitute healthier ingredients of traditional Ramadan dishes
For example, use olive oil instead of butter, Greek yogurt for cream and mayonnaise, herbs and spices in place of salt. Bake, grill, or broil your favorite dishes instead of frying them. And reduce the amount of the unhealthy ingredients (perhaps a tablespoon or two of oil, if a recipe calls for 1/2 a cup). There are plenty of recipes floating around the Internet and this is also a great opportunity to be creative and play around with your favorite recipes!

6. Practice mindful eating
It is important not to overfill the stomach during the month. As is the case with everything, including Ramadan, maintain moderation! It is easy to feel that we need to laden our bodies with tons of food (during the suhoor and iftar meals) in order to function throughout the day. However, eating this way leads to lethargy, fatigue, and laziness instead of allowing us to remain strong and energized. As one learns throughout this month, we don’t need to overeat to feel satisfied, full, and content. Following the way of the Prophet, try to “fill the stomach with 1/3 food, 1/3 water and to leave 1/3 empty”. However, if you still feel hunger after you’ve eaten your meal, wait 15-20 minutes to see if the hunger persists, since it takes about that time span for the brain to process fullness and satiety.

7. Stay active (spiritually, mentally, and physically)
Do not use this month as an excuse to lounge around all day. Remember, this month is about self-discipline, changing your bad habits into good ones, and renewing your spirit. So use this month to volunteer more during your free time, as charity is highly encouraged, even more so during this month. Exercise more, even light exercise can help to maintain energy levels and keep your spirit up, especially since you are not consuming food during the day. And most importantly, be sure to engage in short but consistent Islamic practices everyday. Read a little bit of Qur’an daily. Listen/watch Islamic lectures online. Consistency is essential for establishing long-term habits, not just changes that end when Ramadan does.

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8. Bring the healthy dish to social gatherings
There will be an abundance of iftaar parties/potlucks, offer to bring a healthy dish (perhaps a salad, mixed fruit, baked fish/chicken) so that you won’t be tempted to overindulge in the many unhealthy options there. Plus, it will be more socially-acceptable and polite than bringing and eating a container of fruit and vegetables all by yourself (guilty).

9. Have a participating support system
Make these healthy changes together, not just by yourself. Transitions are easier to make if a person has a support system of family and/or friends that will actively participate in the changes as well. Together, you can create healthy dishes, go on walks, participate in volunteer efforts, and have invigorating conversations.

Sadly, for a lot of new Muslims, Ramadan is an especially difficult period. Since their family members tend to be of non-Islamic faith, new Muslims spend the month alone, eating alone and praying alone. It is up to the Muslim community to welcome their new brothers and sisters in with open arms and to include them in events and activities. Support groups can also be found in many communities that will give new Muslims the guidance and support they need (Here is one such group: http://www.newmuslimcare.org/).

10. Practice Sadaqa, the essence of Ramadan
“Ramadan is a blessed month of reflection, prayer and fasting for Muslims. During the month, observers gain a better understanding of and appreciation for the suffering of impoverished and hungry people around the world. Ramadan also serves to remind Muslims of the importance of charity, and their obligation to be charitable during the month and all throughout the year.”

-Islamic Relief USA (http://www.irusa.org/campaigns/ramadan/)

Unfortunately and ironically, there is also a lot of waste and extravagance during Ramadan, especially in the West, where there is an insatiable need for throwing opulent Iftar parties filled with an abundance of food that gets thrown away.  In the true spirit of Ramadan,  offer to take leftovers to donate to food drives in the community.  Or better yet, start one yourself! Keep food baskets in the masjid. Donate to local food banks or to homeless shelters in the community. Encourage your family members to be involved in these efforts, especially children and have them volunteer at soup kitchens and food banks to teach them the value of food and the spirit of Ramadan. All of this will count as Sadaqa (voluntary charity), InshaAllah.

Through establishing and maintaining these healthy dietary and lifestyle changes, we ask Allah to accept our efforts and guide us in living healthier, longer, and more productive lives, as Muslims and as human beings, InshaAllah.

-Amna ❀

Helping Humanity Through Art

Deen â˜Ș Dunya

“More than nine million Syrians have now lost their homes or fled Syria, over two thirds of them mothers and children. We are always working on or sending out containers full of humanitarian supplies and efforts. Helping us both with financial and physical donations ensures that we’ll be able to send out supplies when they’re needed, where they’re requested. Safe shelters for women with no male breadwinners and their families are ongoing efforts in bordering countries, literally ensuring Syria’s future” (NuDay Syria).

Digital high-resolution copies of each of my photographs (‘Celestial Ascension’ and ‘The Wound is the Place Where the Light Enters the Heart’) can be purchased for $10.

100% of the proceeds from these two photographs will be donated directly to NuDay Syria and help to support their humanitarian efforts. If interested in purchasing my (or any of the other participating artist’s) artwork, please give your donation through the PayPal link on the Art for Syria website. Once you pay for your copy, email me at ahaq7@uic.edu to receive your copy.

May our sincere efforts improve the lives of these human beings who are going through the most unimaginable of circumstances. They need all the help that they can get from us.

Thank you for your participation and most of all, for your help.

Notes:
The quality will be optimal when printed on photographic paper (matte or glossy) and with inks of high quality. Dimensions when printed are approximately 8″ x 10″

These are the original photographs. The printable ones are slightly altered (for printing purposes)

The honor system is in usage!! I won’t know whether you donated or not… please do it for the sake of our fellow brothers and sisters in need of our donations!

Thank you!!

2015-09-17 14.49.58

The Wound is the Place Where the Light Enters the Heart (Rumi)

Celestial Ascension