Join the Food Revolution
You don’t have to be a medical expert to notice that among the Muslim community living in Singapore, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol is quite common.
One thing which seriously needs to be tackled in our community is the attention we fail to pay to greatest gift given to us by Allah, our health.[box_light]Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Ask Allah for forgiveness and health, for after being granted certainty, one is given nothing better than health.” [Imam Tirmidhi][/box_light]
Our health is a trust from Allah, one which will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement. Yet most of us fail to appreciate the beauty of this blessing and constantly abuse the rights our bodies have over us. It is vital to remember that good health is not limited to our physical well-being; rather it should be viewed holistically. It is undeniable that good health will increase our spirituality; therefore we must always strive to attain good health.
Islam, being a complete way of life, stresses the importance of this blessing. Diet, nutrition and exercise combined with the remembrance of God and a sincere intention to fulfill our religious obligations is what makes a healthy lifestyle.
“O Believers! Eat of the good and pure things that We have provided you with and be grateful to Allah, if you truly worship Him.” [Surah Baqarah: 172]
The importance of ensuring that we eat only what is lawful and pure cannot be stressed enough.
Purity with regards to sustenance encompasses not only the Halal logo on our food packages but goes right back to the very source of our income, whether our earnings themselves are Halal and Riba’ free, as well as how our food was prepared, whether we remembered Allah in its preparation or were busy committing sins, either with our limbs or our tongues.
As with all aspects of life, Islam teaches us that moderation is key to a healthy diet. “And eat and drink, but waste not in extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste in extravagance.”[Surah Al-A’raf:31]
5 obstacles affecting healthy eating habits:
1. Not enough time to prepare healthy meals. Who will deny that we are not busier than ever? Many people are opting for convenience, packaged foods. These foods are often full of salt, sugar and preservatives.
2. Too many ‘cheap’ options at the grocery store. Many inexpensive food choices are offered cheaply in abundance, adding to the ease of purchasing these over higher quality foods.
3. Food labels are difficult to understand. It is so easy to detect the Halal logo on packaged food items but no one has really taught us how to read food labels. Most food labels contain ingredients that we do not understand. Foods that are certified Halal are often seen as ‘perfect’, so the actual ingredients are often ignored altogether. In doing so, one also ignores preservatives, added artificial sweeteners and MSG in products.
4. Removing children from the kitchen. Parents have the best of intentions for their children, and this often means expecting that children’s duty is only to study. Cooking is one crucial life skill, not only for the girls but also for the boys. Children’s involvement in the kitchen will strengthen communication and bonding in the family.
5. Lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. Our community events are often centered around food, which is something we all enjoy. However, there is a lack of variety in fresh vegetables in the form of salads. We tend to fill our plates with white rice and meat instead.
As an ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, part of the mission of the ambassadors around the globe is to help people change their mind set and make healthy, real food a delicious and fun journey. Changing mindset is what changes lives – not just regarding food, but general awesomeness of quality of life and outlook.
As Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution does not focus on the Muslim population at large, I am proposing one for us, Muslims. We need a food revolution to have a health revolution among us.
Below are some of the ways I believe we can start.
1. Check the Oils We Cook With. Be sure to incorporate some of these healthy oils into our diet.
2. Check Our Cooking Methods
• Lightly stir-fry vegetables or drizzle with olive oil after steaming
• Keep frying to a minimum
• Steam vegetables whenever possible
• Eat fresh fruits and even make juices/ smoothies with them
3. Use Healthy Sweeteners
• Pure raw honey
• Stevia (Natural Sweetener)
4. Reduce the White Stuff
White flour, rice, sugar and salt are mostly bleached, over-processed and stripped of nutrients. Instead, try:
• Brown rice
• Wheat bread
• Whole grain bread
• Multi-grain bread
• Wholemeal pasta
• Chappati and Naan made from wheat flour
5. Study the hidden meanings in food labels, even if the product is Halal-certified. This can be quite a challenge, but the internet is a wonderful resource for this type of investigation.
6. Pay close attention to what our children are eating. Educate children on the effects of fast food and carbonated drinks. Childhood obesity is on the rise. It is also quite common to see youngsters dining in at food joints that serve ‘No Pork, No Lard’. We must also tell our children the rationale behind eating only Halal and healthy food. Constantly remind each other that the food we consume will eventually be part of our body, so we must be very careful.
7. Drink more water. Water not only hydrates the human body, it also flushes out toxins and waste. Drinking more water also allows us to feel less hungry or crave foods that are part of an unhealthy diet.
8. Be aware of portion size. Overeating is rampant especially at wedding buffets. We also tend to overeat in order not to waste food. Before loading our plates with food, we should think first if we can finish the food.
9. Give variety to our food. Get excited about trying new things and incorporating a variety of healthy recipes into our diet. Instead of cooking typical Malay food all the time, explore Mediterranean, Thai, Vietnam, Italian recipes.
We need to go beyond whether or not our food has pork, lard and alcohol. Many packaged foods and drinks are full of chemicals, which seem to be a great Halal alternative, but are not necessarily natural and healthy.
Let’s try our best to pick Halal and healthy.
Siti Teeya was a fast food addict who is now a Wellness Coach. She is the founder of Facebook pages – ‘How to Eat to Lose Weight’ and ‘Passionate Parenting’. She is an acclaimed Nutrition Educator – a Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Ambassador in Singapore – and one of the nominees for a Health Activist Award organized by WEGO Health Network, USA.