Let me start off by saying meal plans are a funny thing – you have the ones that you make in your head at the start of every morning (“I’ll have cereal and fruit for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch, and tacos for dinner!”) but there are also the ones you find online that are geared towards planning out your week well in advance.
That sort of long-term planning comes in handy most of the time but is especially important during Ramadan. Fasting for so many hours of the day means you might not have the energy to prepare intricate meals leading up to iftar (the meal you have when breaking your fast). Coupled with how tired most of us feel at suhoor (the pre-dawn meal that prepares you for fasting) it’s no wonder meal planning has become essential for many families.
Amana Nutrition’s Ramadan Meal Plan aims to help healthy adults plan what meals and snacks they should have at suhoor, iftar, and other times during non-fasting hours. It is by no means a prescription for healthy eating, but instead a guide to help you determine what times it would be best to have food and drink so you can stay fuller for longer during the fast and make sure you’re not missing out on important nutrients along the way 😉. Remember that living with certain conditions such as heart disease and diabetes means you need to make some modifications to your diet, so talk to your doctor and work with a Registered Dietitian (such as myself!) to plan what you should be eating during Ramadan and outside of it.
The meal plan features foods from traditionally Arab, EastAfrican, NorthAmerican, and SouthAsian cuisines to ensure you’re not missing out on staying true to your cultural backgrounds. Better yet, try foods that you might not be familiar with as well and let Ramadan be a time of culinary exploration 🌟.
Have recommendations for foods that you’d like to see on next year’s Ramadan Meal Plan or my Instagram? Shoot me an email and I’ll get working on it 😊.
Beans are one of those things that I didn’t like too much as a child (read: at ALL 😂) but over the years grew to love as an adult. There’s just something wonderful about trying new things and being open-minded about food!
In the midst of these ~corona times~ I keep finding beans and other canned items in my pantry and have been trying to come up with quick and fun recipes to prepare and enjoy. Enter: The Avocado and Black Bean Salad! 💪🏽
This recipe brings you a great combo of protein (from the beans), healthy fats (from the avocado), and Vitamin A, C, and fibre (from the veggies) to help support a balanced diet. A little salad dressing doesn’t hurt either, but reach for a low-fat version and remember to keep everything in moderation 😉.
These difficult times are starting to make me realize that throwing together balanced meals may not be so difficult after all! Are you getting creative in the kitchen during this corona season? Let me know all about it in the comments! 😊
1 can (1.75 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tomato, chopped OR 1/2 cup of grape tomatoes
1⁄2 cup canned corn, drained and rinsed
1 medium avocado, cut into cubes
Optional: parsley and chickpeas for garnish
Instructions: 1. In a large bowl, mix together your black beans, tomato, corn and avocado cubes. 2. Top with homemade or store bought low-fat dressing then mix well and serve!
Nutritional Information (per serving): 275 kcal / 14g protein / 40g carbs (with 12g of fibre) / 6g healthy fats
A great way to start your day is with a parfait. It’s sweet, fulfilling, has protein and fibre! This recipe makes extra granola so you can use it in other recipes. Make it into a trail mix by adding dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, raisins, figs etc). Or sprinkle it on cereal, oatmeal, smoothie, or salad.
Tip: Make the granola ahead of time, so all that’s left is assembling. Or assemble it all in advance, cover it, and store in the fridge for up to a day.
Trying to get groceries these past few days was difficult, but one ingredient I noticed untouched time and time again was lentils. I have no idea why – lentils (both bagged or canned) not only last long in your pantry but are also tasty and pack a nutritious punch! They bring so much protein, fibre, and iron to any dish you decide to make that it’s definitely something to consider preparing this week 😉.
Mujaddara is a simple but popular Arab dish that takes these lentils and combines them with brown rice and caramelized onions. The new Canada’s Food Guide recommends that you have meals consisting of plant-based protein, whole grains, and lots of veggies/fruits, so I always suggest this dish to clients and ask them to get creative with adding other vegetables too 🙂. Let us know what you’d like to add in the comments!
1 cup canned lentils (any colour), drained and rinsed
1 cup brown rice
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
Optional: cilantro for garnish
Instructions: 1. Add oil to a large pot and set to low heat. 2. Once a minute has gone by and the oil is hot enough, add onions. Increase heat to medium and constantly stir until onions turn a golden brown colour. This means they are caramelized and ready to be put aside in a bowl for now. 3. Using the same heated pot you cooked the onions in, add garlic paste, salt, black pepper and cumin and wait for a minute or so. Keep heat on medium. 4. Add in your vegetable stock and wait until it boils. 5. Now add in your rice and place a lid on top of the pot. Immediately turn down heat to low and allow to cook for 35 minutes. Add in lentils and continue to heat for another 5 minutes. 6. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. 7. Remove lid and stir in caramelized onions. 8. Happily serve!
Nutritional Information (per serving): 400 kcal / 17g protein / 60g carbs (with 15g of fibre) / 7g healthy fats
The classic combo, hummus and pita. Hummus can be quite expensive to buy in stores, but quite inexpensive when prepared at home. Try this easy-to-make, flavourful, and creamy hummus alongside some crunchy whole wheat pita chips. Save the extra hummus to use as a spread on sandwiches (instead of mayonnaise), or as a dip with carrots, cucumber, broccoli, or your favourite veggie. This dip is plant-based, and contains healthy fats, fibre, and iron; nutrients that are important for heart health, gut health, and for carrying oxygen in our blood.
1 (19oz/540ml) can of chickpeas (drained & rinsed), or 1 cups dried chickpeas, boiled
Protein bars are everywhere these days, but have you ever heard of protein energy balls? And did you know that you can make them at home? They’re quick, easy, and if you make enough you can eat them during the week as healthy snacks or even share them with family and friends! Everyone needs protein in their lives to help build and repair muscles, bones, and even skin, so reach for some tasty sources during the day to support a healthy lifestyle 😉
Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients we’ve used in our recipe – with the exception of the protein powder, oats, and oil, you can replace everything else with things that you might like. Not a fan of nut butters? Try using dates instead – they’re sticky too so will help keep everything together. Maybe you can’t stand chia seeds – that’s fine! Think of other nuts and seeds you might like instead, like flax seeds, almonds, or pistachios.
This recipe is ready for you to make it your own, so get to it and let us know how you did in the comments 😊
2 scoops protein powder
1 cup quick oats
¾ cup natural nut butter (such as peanut butter or almond butter)
3 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp honey
Optional: coconut flakes*
Instructions: 1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pay attention to consistency – if it’s too sticky, add more oats or protein powder to help stabilize. If it’s not sticky enough to form into balls, add more nut butter. 2. Once you are happy with how the mixture feels form it into balls and place them in the fridge for an hour. 3. Happily serve 🙂.
*If you decide to add coconut flakes, coat a baking sheet with about 1 cup of flakes and use your hands to lightly roll protein balls on top until they are evenly covered.
Nutritional Information (per serving): 165 kcal / 7g protein / 9g carbs (with 3.5g of fibre) / 9g healthy fats
I’m going to be honest – this is a strange one. I, for one, am not accustomed to adding peanut butter to drinks (I kind of used to side eye those who did, actually) but after becoming a Registered Dietitian and embracing all things food I thought I’d give it a try.
Boy was I wrong! This smoothie is tasty, creamy, and nutritious all rolled up into one. The spinach gives you lots of iron and vitamin A (good for your eyes and skin!) and the banana provides you with potassium (helps your bones and kidneys!) and vitamin B6 (which boosts your immune system). On top of that, spinach and banana are good sources of fibre and therefore help keep you regular.
The peanut butter is of course the icing on the cake: if the sweetness from the banana didn’t convince you to try this, the peanut butter will make you do a double take and question whether this could really be a part of a healthy lifestyle 😉. Before you run off though, know that the spinach has (shockingly) NO taste in this smoothie 🤯. If this drink wasn’t green I honestly wouldn’t have even known there was spinach in there. So give it a go this week and let us know what you think!
2 handfuls of spinach
2 tbsp natural and smooth peanut butter
1 cup cow’s milk or unsweetened almond milk
Optional add-on: 1 scoop of protein powder
Instructions: 1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. 2. Happily serve!
Nutritional Information (per serving): 220 kcal / 7g protein / 32g carbs (with 5g of fibre) / 8g healthy fats
Want a fun dish to try this week? Chicken fajitas can be a wonderful part of a balanced diet! This meal provides a large portion of spiced chicken full of protein and great vegetables like onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers to keep anyone satisfied 😉. Don’t feel shy to switch it up, too – if you’re not the biggest fan of the veggies we’ve chosen, consider others instead. Almost all vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, so you can’t go wrong with mixing it up a bit 🕺🏽. Brown rice and its wonderful whole grain goodness is another great addition too. Let us know what you’ve decided to add to your dish in the comments!
Instructions: 1. Combine 4 tbsp of the oil, juice, garlic paste, and spices in a bowl and stir. Add chicken breast slices and coat meat with the marinade. Cover and place in fridge for an hour. 2. Once chicken has marinated, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat in a large pan. Cook chicken for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through to make sure it is cooked well on both sides. 3. Add onion, tomato, and bell pepper to chicken. Continue to cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables have softened. 4. Take off heat and happily serve over tortillas or pitas ☺ Consider adding some condiments as well to enhance the flavour, as well as brown rice to provide more healthy carbs to this fantastic meal. Nutritional Information (per serving): 309 kcal / 27g protein / 15g carbs (with 2g of fibre) / 13g healthy fat
Here’s a healthy and crunchy snack you can take to work or school. Not only is it easy to make, but it’s high in protein, fibre, and contains complex carbs – elements of a fulfilling snack that can sustain and keep you energized. It also can help you reach your daily nutrient needs of iron (to help carry oxygen in your blood), potassium (to keep your nerves and muscles healthy) and folate (to make red blood cells, keep heart healthy, and lower certain birth defect risks). Try it out!
2 (19oz/540ml) cans of cooked chickpeas (drained & rinsed) or 2 cups dried chickpeas, boiled
3 tbsp canola/corn/vegetable oil
2-3 tbsp spice of your choice (ex. chili powder, cajun, pepper, etc).
Tip: If chickpeas are not completely dry, spread them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes, to remove excess water. (This makes them crispy).
Preheat oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Line a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Season chickpeas with spice and oil. Combine well.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, giving the sheet a shake every 10 minutes to evenly cook chickpeas. Serve once cool.
⚠ Always remember to increase fibre intake slowly and to have more water when you have more fibre to avoid discomfort! Talk to a dietitian to find out if you are having enough.
Nutrition Information (per ¼ cup serving): 150kcal / 6g protein / 17g carbohydrate / 4g fibre / 7g healthy fat
Ever wondered how much protein is enough? What types? And when? Well today we’ll *whey* into this subject!
As mentioned in our first Sports Nutrition Article, protein is important for our health, especially for physical activity. Research is now suggesting that athletes and active individuals need more protein than what most individuals need .
Let’s look at why and what happens to the proteins we eat:
This last scenario is especially concerning for athletes and active individuals since they’re consistently working out and burning calories (energy). In other words, if we’re active but don’t have enough calories or protein, our muscles might become a source of fuel; i.e. our bodies would lose protein and not have enough to build and repair muscle.
So How Much Protein is Enough?
For best health and performance, the amount of protein should meet your specific needs. It depends on many factors: the type of exercise (intensity, duration), your weight, calorie intake, goals, age, etc. Generally the literature suggests between 1.2 – 2.0g of protein per kg of body weight a day . This range is very broad; the higher end may be better suited for athletes training for specialized sports, while the lower end may be for individuals who are recreationally active. Talk to a Registered Dietitian (RD) to find out what your specific protein needs are.
*Note: It’s important to have enough calories especially from carbohydrates, so protein is spared from being used as fuel and can be used to build other proteins (ex. muscle) . You can think of it like this: have protein to build and repair muscles, and carbohydrates to fuel.
We know it’s important to have enough protein, but recent research shows that timing may matterjust as much.
After we exercise, our body produces proteins to repair and rebuild damaged muscle – for 24 hours after exercise. This is when our bodies are more sensitive to the protein we eat . They trigger and supply building blocks to make muscle and proteins .
So When Should I Have Protein?
The key to having a good supply of protein for your body is to have moderate amounts of high-quality protein spread throughout the day and after your workout. More specifically, research recommends to:
Have ~ 15-25g† (or 0.3g per kg of body weight)immediately after or within 2 hours of exercise to best repair and build muscle § .
Examples: 2 oz grilled chicken breast, 4 scrambled egg whites, 3 oz cooked salmon/tuna, 1 cup cooked beans, ¾ cup Greek yogurt, ¾ cup cottage cheese, 2 tbsp peanut butter
Spread protein intake throughout the day (every 3-5 hours) in modest amounts in meals and snacks – since our bodies don’t store protein
Does More Protein = More Gains?
No! Extra protein will not help you build more muscle! Current research has tested this and showed that doses of more than 40g after exercise do not enhance muscle growth in most people. There’s only so much your body can use in that time!
Having excessive protein may also lower kidney function along with other negative health effects, so it’s important not to overdo it !
†Note: This amount is generally for the typical athlete but depends on your weight. Check with an RD.
§Note: Having enough energy (calories) is important to support muscles. If you do not (ex. if your goal is weight loss), then you may need more protein to support muscle growth and maintenance. This changes from person to person. Talk to an RD to find out what your needs are.
Which Protein Sources are the Highest Quality?
We’ve all heard the saying, “quality over quantity”. Well the same applies to the protein we choose to eat. If you’re active, consider high quality proteins because they’re easily used by muscles to promote muscle growth, repair and maintenance .
High-quality proteins are:
✔ Easily digested ✔ Provide essential amino acids that the body can’t make (i.e. must come from food)
Examples of high-quality proteins:
Animal sources: dairy products, egg whites, lean beef, poultry, and fish
Plant sources: soy, quinoa, pea, beans, lentils, and peanuts
Isolated proteins¶: whey, casein, egg white, and soy 
¶Note: Choose protein from food sources over supplements as they provide a natural source of protein with other nutrients to support an active lifestyle.
But there’s one more player involved, and that’s leucine – probably one of the most important amino acids for improving muscle growth after intense exercise . Proteins rich in leucine (such as whey, found in milk), have been shown to be the most effective in improving muscle growth with resistance exercise . Studies point to this branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) as the trigger for the machinery responsible for making more muscle proteins .
Foods Richest in leucine:
Animal sources: dairy products (ex. milk, yogurt, cottage cheese), egg whites, lean beef, poultry, and fish
Plant sources: soybeans, beans (ex. edamame), lentils, and peanuts
Note: there is little benefit of consuming a leucine supplement, rather high-quality proteins that contain leucine and other essential amino acids should be preferred for muscle growth promotion .
Therefore, athletes and active individuals should consider high-quality proteins that are:
Rich in other essential amino acids
Athletes and active individuals require more protein, which depends on many factors
An RD can help determine what your specific protein needs are
Consider high quality proteins, rich in leucine and essential amino acids that digest rapidly to promote muscle growth, repair and maintenance
Spread protein intake throughout the day (every 3-5 hours) in modest amounts in meals and snacks
Have ~15-25g†(or 0.3g per kg of body weight)of high-quality protein immediately after or within 2 hours of exercise to maximize gains
*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ourContact Us page to book your first appointment.
 Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528. Chicago
 Rodriguez, N. R., Vislocky, L. M., & Gaine, P. C. (2007). Dietary protein, endurance exercise, and human skeletal-muscle protein turnover. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 10(1), 40-45.
 Burd, N. A., West, D. W., Moore, D. R., Atherton, P. J., Staples, A. W., Prior, T., … & Phillips, S. M. (2011). Enhanced amino acid sensitivity of myofibrillar protein synthesis persists for up to 24 h after resistance exercise in young men. The Journal of nutrition, 141(4), 568-573.
 Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38.
 Phillips, S. M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108(S2), S158-S167.
 Pennings, B., Boirie, Y., Senden, J. M., Gijsen, A. P., Kuipers, H., & van Loon, L. J. (2011). Whey protein stimulates postprandial muscle protein accretion more effectively than do casein and casein hydrolysate in older men. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(5), 997-1005.