Halal and Healthy on the Go
Most people will agree that having a tasty meal or snack is something we all look forward to. The great news is that good food doesn’t have to be packed with unnecessary calories or hard to come upon. Now, with the back to school scurry in full swing, it is also important to remember that we need to start the day off with a wholesome breakfast and provide energizing snacks for our children, as well as for ourselves, to maintain drive and focus for the full days ahead. It is no secret that those who start their day off with a nutritious meal tend to perform better. Snack time should also be a time to replenish and refuel throughout the day. A hearty breakfast and nutritious snacks don’t have to take a long time to prepare or to consume. It could be as simple as a few dates with a glass of milk, or a cup of yogurt with a handful of mixed nuts and grains.
In the Quran, God mentions the palm trees and their nutritious crop of dates several times. In one instance He says, “And it is He who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby the growth of all things. We produce from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from the palm trees – of its emerging fruit are clusters hanging low. And [We produce] gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied. Look at [each of] its fruit when it yields and [at] its ripening. Indeed in that are signs for a people who believe” (6:99).
Since ancient times, dates are known to instantly replenish energy and revitalize the whole body. For this reason, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him [PBUH]) advised those breaking their fasts to do so by eating dates. In the same sense, dates are an optimal morning breakfast food and midday snack. They are also easy to grab and transport and are readily available in many grocery stores under the IFANCA halal-certified labels of SunDates and Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool Dates. According to nutritionist YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad, “Medjool dates are a great source of fiber and natural sugar and are heart healthy and approved by the American Heart Association.”
Indeed, there are innumerable health benefits to consuming dates on a daily basis, and science continues to uncover them to this day, including comforting upset stomachs, treating constipation, facilitating birth, reducing hunger pangs, and flushing the body from accumulated toxins. In addition to consuming dates as they are in their natural state, dates are also a versatile food that can be used in baked goods. In fact, Eid celebrations in many parts of the world include the tradition of baking and enjoying date cookies.
A second group of foods that are commonly available for people around the globe are nuts and grains. There are many varieties of nuts and grains, each one providing essential vitamins, fats, proteins, and minerals that every body can benefit from to maintain health and strength. From almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, barley, wheat, bulgur, freekeh, and rice, we can find unlimited varieties to enjoy at home—some in their raw form and others with only some basic cooking. Under the IFANCA halal-certified labels, we can enjoy the Wonderful brand for pistachios and almonds.
In the Quran, God says, “And a sign for them is the dead earth. We have brought it to life and brought forth from it grain, and from it they eat” (36:33). For those who don’t have the time to cook, a quick option is to grab a single KIND bar of the Fruit & Nut Delight, Nut Delight, and Almond & Apricot variety—these are certified by IFANCA as halal. Some ZonePerfect and Nutrilite bars are also certified and are a great option for the health conscious Muslim on the go. These bars are also famous for using natural ingredients with minimal processing or added preservatives.
Another tasty, healthy, and versatile food is yogurt. These days, yogurt comes in endless flavors to please even the pickiest eaters. Flavors include anywhere from plain vanilla to indulgent raspberry cheesecake. Because flavored yogurts sometimes have added sugar and gelatin, be aware of the ingredients on the label. Cabot halal-certified non-fat Greek style yogurt offers the health benefits with great taste and is certified by IFANCA. Similar to dates and nuts, yogurt is a delight since ancient times and is packed with nutrients and health benefits. According to an article in Health Magazine, special proteins in dairy products help regulate blood pressure and high levels of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Another tip in the article is to look for yogurt that contains probiotics, which help balance the microflora in the stomach and aid with digestion. As an added benefit, yogurt comes in convenient packs especially made for those who are in a rush. Single-serve yogurt breakfast drinks are also a healthy way to wake up your body functions.
A recent report published by DSM as part of its Dairy Global Insight Series reveals, “For health conscious consumers with busy lives, yogurt offers a convenient ‘stop gap’ food that can be enjoyed without sacrificing healthy eating principles.” Indeed, as Muslims, we are always on the lookout for foods that are readily available to conform to our busy lives, and yet do not sacrifice our Islamic principles for maintaining a halal lifestyle. Nutritionist Maryam Funmilayo reminds us to maintain a balance between what we desire from food and what is Islamically ethical. She says, “I know sometimes we crave foods and snacks that are fast to prepare and are also healthy; however, we should bear in mind that foods are not just to fill us up and be forgotten about. They need to be tasted, relished, and enjoyed. As Muslims, we should remember that not only are we feeding our bodies, but also our minds and souls.”
Despite the overwhelming amount of unhealthy foods out there that accommodate the busy lifestyle, it is important to keep in mind that we still have many quick and healthy options available to us that are also delicious and satisfying. God provides sustenance for us in many forms; it is our duty to make the right choices that will benefit us in this life and the hereafter. God says in the Quran, “Say, ‘Who provides for you from the heavens and earth?’ Say, ‘Allah [God]. And indeed, we or you are either upon guidance or in clear error’” (34:24).
Saffron Road products (crunchy chickpeas, handhelds)
ZonePerfect Nutrition Bars
Nutrilite Snack Bars
KIND Fruit & Nut Bars
Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool Dates
Bard Valley Natural Delights Almond/Coconut/Pistachio Medjool Date Rolls
Mariani dried fruits
Cabot Non-fat/Greek Style Yogurt
*Not all of the company products are halal-certified. Look for the Crescent-M logo on the product label or verify the certification using the Certified Products listing on the IFANCA website (www.ifanca.org).
Turn to the Halal-Certified Product Locator on page 34 to see where you can find these products.
Asma Jarad is a freelance writer from the Chicagoland area. Asma has a bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies from the University of Illinois, and a master of arts degree in English from National University.