A Hijabi's Guide to Eating Healthy & Melanie's Secrets to Staying Trim

Posted on Apr 22, 2015
Melanie Elturk


Being healthy is all anyone talks about these days - the latest things to eat, not to eat, to do or not do - much like fashion, I try to stay away from trends and stick to the basics. I fully realize that I do have to attribute much of my being able to stay trim to my genes - both my mom and dad are very thin and I do have a healthy metabolism (don't hate me lol). That being said, here are my tips to eating healthy and staying trim!

1) Don't bring junk food into your house

If you looked in my fridge or pantry at home - you'd find... well nothing fun. I'm very careful about the things I bring into my house, because if it's there, I'll eat it. And by junk food I pretty much mean anything that's processed. No pop, chips, cookies, not even cereal. It's not that I don't ever eat those things - but if I do, it's not in the house. That being said, in order to eat at home I really have to cook, which is good because it forces me to be healthy as most of the foods I cook (Lebanese and Filipino cuisine) are pretty healthy to begin with.

When you get your body used to eating fresh, healthy foods and refrain from eating processed foods, your body eventually stops craving the unhealthy foods and if you do go back and eat them, you don't enjoy it as much as you used to (I even get headaches when I eat some processed foods).

As far as snacking goes (which is why I stopped bringing processed foods in my house to begin with because when I was hungry and too lazy to put something together I'd reach for unhealthy foods because it was convenient) I make sure I'm always stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies, lots of cheeses and nuts. As Allah (S) said in Surah Baqarah, “Eat of the good things which We have provided for you” (2:172). Some of my favorite snacks is cottage cheese and fresh berries or a labne (Lebanese cheese spread) and cucumber sandwich with some olive oil and a sprinkling of dried mint! 

2) Don't deprive yourself - but listen to your body

Keeping #1 in mind - I don't deprive myself! If I feel like eating a huge slice of cheesecake - I don't hesitate! If I'm craving Burger King, I  get my Whopper on! I really do love food and if I want something - I eat it! The key is moderation. The Prophet Muhammad (S) said, "When filled with food, the belly becomes the worst container for the son of Adam. It is sufficient for a human being to have a few bites to keep himself fit. If one must eat, then let him use one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for breathing."

This hadith tells me two things: that I only need a little bit of food to stay fit (i.e. portion-control - I learn this every year in Ramadan) and that everything I eat should be in moderation.

The second part of not depriving yourself is knowing your body. There are times when I'm craving carbs, craving protein or even craving sugar. I give my body what it wants. It took me a long time to get to a place where I could really understand what my body wanted, and the first step to getting there was cutting out processed foods.

3) Incorporate physical activity into your normal routine

I have to say that I don't work out as much as I used to - I love running, but it's hard here in Dubai with it being so hot all the time and I hate going to the gym. I do Pilates at home a couple times a week and definitely get some cardio in when I dance alone in my room in front of the mirror (LOL) but that and my morning stretches are about it.

So, I try to go out of my way to incorporate physical activity into my normal routine like parking my car further away from the entrance (when it's not 110 degrees out!), taking stairs or walking escalators instead of elevators, and taking frequent walks.

4) Juice Cleansing

Ok before you cast me as one of those vegan, superfood clean eating people - calm down. I'm not, and in fact, those people annoy me - but I do love to juice! Ahmed and I first got into juicing after we watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. We immediately went out and bought a juicer and did a three-day fast. It was amazing. My skin never looked better and my chronic pain issues were completely at bay. While we don't regularly do juice fasts, we do juice when we've been eating out a lot and feel kind-of gross (this always happens after we have visitors for long periods of time), sporadically as a dinner-substitute or when we've got too many fruits or vegetables that are at risk of going bad. For some awesome juice recipes - check these out!

5) Supplements

There are certain things I eat or drink daily as supplements to my diet. One of those things is green tea with honey. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that have powerful effects on the body. This includes improved brain function, fat loss and many other incredible benefits. On honey, Allah (S) has said all we need to know when He revealed, "Your Lord revealed to the bees: 'Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. Then eat from every kind of fruit and travel the paths of your Lord, which have been made easy for you to follow.' From inside them comes a drink of varying colors, containing healing for mankind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect" (Qur'an, 16:68-69). Read more on the healing benefits of honey.

I also take a multi-vitamin, calcium, vitamin-B complex and fish oil daily. (Oh and I recently started taking a Vitamin D supplement because I'm deficient in Vit-D, thanks Dubai...)

Lastly, I drink a lot of water - and I have to say it can be a total bummer not being able to hold my wudu' at times, but it's worth it. Drinking loads of water helps me from over-eating at meals and keeps my skin looking good!

At the end of the day, Allah (S) gave us these bodies as an amana or trust to Him and we have a duty to respect it and treat it in the way He prescribed. And with all the bounties He has given us, it should be simple! Allah (S) says in Surah Al An'am, "He sends down water from the sky from which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth the green shoots and from them We bring forth close packed seeds, and, from that spathes of the date-palm, date clusters hanging down, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar. Look at their fruits as they bear fruit and ripen. There are signs in that for people who believe”  (6:99).

Have any other tip or tricks to eating healthy? Share them below!