Traditions and Family: The Meaningful Ways This Food Blogger Observes Ramadan

Yumna Jawad, the founder of Feel Good Foodie, shares her favorite family recipes for celebrating the holy month at home.

Every year, well actually, every lunar calendar to be precise (which is about 354 days), Muslims around the world observe the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a holy month where all Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and abstain from eating and drinking. It's a spiritual month meant for prayer, reflection, and connection with God and one's community.

Because the Islamic calendar follows a lunar calendar, Ramadan falls at a different time of year, every year. In the United States, Ramadan begins around April 2, 2022, and ends on May 2, 2022. Because of this, Muslims around the world can observe throughout different parts of the year—whether it's the longest summer days or the shortest winter days.

women sitting at counter
The author, Yumna Jawad, Founder and CEO of Feel Good Foodie. Yumna Jawad

I grew up in a Muslim home in a small town in Sierra Leone, Africa, near the mosque. I loved hearing the call to prayer every night when it was time to break the fast. It was an acknowledgment of the end of a long, tiring day when everyone gathered together for iftar (the sunset meal eaten at the end of the fast) with their family.

There are many reasons why Muslims fast. It's a chance to reset our body, but also reset our mind and soul. It teaches self-discipline by abstaining from food and drink for a long duration of time. It opens our heart to empathize with others and encourage acts of generosity in one's community. Like a fast of any kind, the end result is a stronger will and deeper patience.

While we observe the month of Ramadan by fasting, food plays a big part through three key moments: Suhoor (suhur), Iftar (if-tar), and Eid Al Fitr (eid-ul-fitr). My website, Feel Good Foodie, has many resources including this guide to celebrating Ramadan along with some trusted family recipes traditionally enjoyed during the month. Here is a breakdown of the three meals.

plate of Manakeesh
Jawad likes to begin her day with homemade Zaatar Manakeesh. Yumna Jawad

Suhoor

This is the meal eaten before the start of the fast to prepare our bodies for the day ahead without food or drink. While it's difficult getting up before the sun rises, this meal nourishes our bodies to give us the strength and endurance to fast until the sun sets. Here are three staple recipes I love for suhoor.

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Overnight Oats

Preparing oatmeal the night before is such a timesaver in the morning when I'm too tired or busy to prepare a nourishing meal. In addition to oats and milk, I add chia seeds to mine for extra protein, nut butter for good fats, and fresh fruits for fiber and high water content.

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Baked Oatmeal

Another recipe I make in batches is baked oatmeal that I customize with different add-ins and toppings. My favorite is banana and peanut butter baked oatmeal–full of protein, healthy fats, and fiber!

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Manakeesh

Zaatar Manakeesh is a Mediterranean flatbread that's made with pizza dough, zaatar spice, and olive oil. I like to bake some over the weekend and warm it up in the morning to enjoy with eggs and yogurt cheese (labneh).

Related: What Is Labneh? This Creamy Spread Is Mediterranean Cuisine's Best-Kept Secret

bowl of lentil soup
Crushed lentil soup is a popular Ramadan recipe. Yumna Jawad

Iftar

This is the meal eaten to break the fast. Usually, throughout the day I crave so many different foods. I try to plan ahead to have a well-balanced meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Here is what a typical iftar looks like for me.

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Dates and Water

It's traditional to break our fast with dates and a cup of water.One date has 18 grams of carbs, which sends sugar to our bodies immediately to help replenish energy after a day of fasting.

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Soup and Salad

Crushed Lentil Soup is the most popular soup recipe during Ramadan and it's tradition to start our meal with a bowl made with red lentils, rice, onions, carrots, and cumin. Along with Tabbouleh, a green Fattoush Salad is a common dish to serve for iftar. It is made with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, toasted pita bread and tossed in a lemony vinaigrette.

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Appetizers

While I don't always have an appetizer when I break my fast with my immediate family, it's common to include appetizers for larger iftar gatherings. Popular ones include Sambousek, Stuffed Grape Leaves, and Fried Kibbeh Balls.

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Main Course

For the main meal, it's important to get enough protein to replenish our bodies after a long day without food. I love making Falafel, Beef Kafta, and Chicken Kabobs, along with Stuffed Squash, Stuffed Eggplant, and traditional Arabic stews like Pea and Carrot Stew.

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Dessert

After dinner, I personally like to just enjoy some fruits, but if I'm having a gathering, I like serving Middle Eastern sweets like Baklava, Kanafa, or Sfouf.

plate of chicken kafta
Chicken Kafta is a common main course for Ramadan. Yumna Jawad

Eid

At the end of the 30-day fast, Muslims have a huge celebration known as Eid Al Fitr, which translates to the Festival of Breaking the Fast. This is a time for visiting the Mosque for a special holiday prayer, wearing new outfits, gifting loved ones, and feasting with friends and family. There's lots of food involved in celebrating any and all kinds of dishes including plenty of desserts!

The rituals of Ramadan create a routine for me that brings a sense of peace, order, and fulfillment to my day. The traditions remind me that I'm part of a greater community and world.

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