Posted by Fahad AlYehya | Core Fitness – Kuwait

The first day of Ramadan was a total bust. True epic failure. You guys would’ve been disappointed at the horrors that took place at my family’s futoor table.

Yet, like the phoenix, I rise again and avail in favor of sticking to my plan like every other dedicated fitness enthusiast, which lasted a few seconds right after the kanafa, atayef and cheese cake arrived, where I yet again continued to disgrace my will and testament in keeping my mouth shut and saving dessert for later.

Of course a few cups of sage, thyme, ginger, white tea, gymnema sylvestre and peppermint post pig-out should minimize the gut-damage, at least in accordance to my mother.  On a side note, I’ll be discussing more about those 6 herbs and how they can benefit you when indulging in belt-widening carby and fatty mixtures from hell.

This Post’s About Dessert BTW

I guide you how to eat dessert responsibly, I throw in a few jokes, then you follow my advice by eating dessert responsibly and we all live happily every after. The usual Q&A is available for any necessary inquiries in regards to the subject or any other relevant areas in fitness, health and nutrition.

Snacking Rules:

*Dessert should never go above 300 calories.

*Each snack should contain all macro nutrients, including junk-nutrients such as sugar and fat. Inclusion of all macros balance out the snack, providing a more subtle release of blood sugar.

*This is bullet point #3 and isn’t remotely relevant to the subject at hand.

*Snacks are to be consumed 2.5-3 hours after a meal or before a meal.

Serious Offenders

1) Atayef or Qatayef: These suckers are like  miniature crepes with an assorted selection of fillings, ranging from whipped cream, cheese, melted chocolate, syrup, fruit and any other stuffing our hearts desire.

Problem: Aside from being carb grenades, these things need to be fried in order to be enjoyed. After receiving the fry treatment, atayef’s are served with a side bowl of syrup, increasing your chances of obesity and making your inevitable fatness that much greater. Try eating only a few. Each piece pulls in another, and since these suckers are devoid of fiber, you’ll still feel light after consuming 10.

Caloric Damage: 1 piece contains 140 calories, 12g of fat, 8g of carbs and 0.3g of protein.

Solution: Mix whole wheat flour w/ all purpose flour. Use fat-free & sugar-free fillings. Bake the atayef’s instead of frying them, applying a spray or two of non-stick fat-free cooking spray on the baking pan and on top of them. If baking is not your thing, use canola oil and lightly fry. Feel free to dip them in sugar-free syrup for added taste.

Preferred Portion: With or without my proposed solution, consumption should be limited to no more than 3 atayef’s per snack, accompanied with one of the drinks prescribed at the end of this post.

2) Kanafa, Kunafa, Kenafa: If kanafa was blasphemous to eat, then I’d be lying in hell right now. I try my best to avoid this dessert as much as I can; one bite can determine whether or not I’ll be maintaining my abs for the summer. Composed of sugar, cheese or cream, kanafa pastry, sugar, walnuts, more sugar, sometimes lemon, extra sugar, more cheese or cream, butter, shredded wheat, and some more sugar, these ingredients pretty much define what will happen to your stomach and physique once you ingest copious amounts.

Problem: Read the ingredients above again. They taste so good and people are often mistaken by what the correct amount to eat.

Caloric Damage: Kanafa outlets sell by the kilo, so 1/4 kg would get you 500 calories, 26g of fat, 60g of carbs, and 12g of protein.

Solution: “Kanafani” and other kanafa shops started serving supposedly low-sugar & low-fat kanafa’s. I haven’t personally tasted them, but I’m sure they’re worth a try if you happen to love your love-handle-free physique.

Preferred Portion: Buy a 1/4 kg and split it in two, accompanied of course with the prescribed drinks below. Serving size should be no larger than four of your fingers closed (from index to pinky, excluding your palm).

3) Ice Cream: Nothing soothes a trainer’s high metabolic rate and body heat more than ice cream. Since we’re in the midst of hot weather and agonizing humidity, ice cream would be the dessert of choice; or at least for me.

Problem: I’m sure all of you are well aware of the ingredients used to make ice cream, which include and aren’t limited to milk, cream, sugar, butter and flavoring. Let’s face it, who orders a scoop of ice cream without toppings and just leaves?

Caloric Damage: Again, this highly depends on how many scoops and toppings of preference. A scoop ranges from 90-120 calories, 1-10g of fat, 10-30g of carbs and 1-15g of protein. Out of all the desserts and sweets, ice cream should make you feel less guilty when consumed. However, if you plan on adding cake batter, Snickers, M&M’s, and whatever items Cold Stone Creamery and Marble Slab Creamery have to offer, then stick to 1 item per scoop.

Solution: The majority of fat-free & sugar-free versions out there all infused with artificial chemicals and ingredients that make my stomach bloat and churn more than consuming KFC for 2 straight hours. Go for all-natural or all-organic ice cream and enjoy what nature has so dearly blessed us with.

Preferred Portion: Opt for 1-2 scoops (remember, no more than 300 calories per snack) of any flavor plus 1 topping (liquid toppings equivalent to 1 tablespoon).

4) Sab El Gafsha: No idea what people call these, but in Kuwait we call them “Sab el Gafsha” or to put the image of the dessert in a more literal term, “big dough balls”.

Problem: To give some of our expat readers a clear image of what this Kuwaiti dessert is, sab el gafsha or these balls of dough are composed of dough (all-purpose flour w/ liquid, water or milk) and fillings similar to qatayef’s, hence fried and dipped in syrup before serving. Problem? Fried dough balls filled with cream and dipped in syrup. Don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty offensive to me.

Caloric Damage: Each piece has around 300 calories, 40g of carbs, 12-15g of fat and negligible protein. Fat grams actually surpass 15g since the dough does a great job at sponging in copious amounts of frying oil.

Solution: Opt for “lgaimat” or “little dough balls” which contain around 40 calories per pop. Basically, lgaimat are smaller versions of Sab el gafsha and less offensive to eat.

Preferred Portion: Limit consumption to 3 lgaimat and save yourself the hassle of extra 30 minutes on the treadmill. Follow the instructions in #1 (Qatayef) for healthier ingredient substitutions.

5) Girs E’gaili: A huge cupcake/pound-cake cut into multiple slices, with ingredients including cake mix, zafraan, cardamom powder, eggs, butter or oil, and cream. This stuff can fill your appetite in a heart beat and the ingredients can be easily replaceable into healthier alternatives.

Problem: If qatayef’s a carb grenade, then this cupcake’s a carb nuclear bomb. Majority of calories are not as equal as the other desserts presented above, so be wise with your portions.

Caloric Damage: 1 moderate slice would come around to 230 calories, 15g of fat, 34g of carbs and around 4g of protein.

Solution: Look for a more healthier cake mix and replace the butter with a less fattier spread (found at Sultan Center and Lulu Hyper Market), replace the cream with a low-fat or fat-free version and add in a few egg whites to boost protein consumption and thickness of each slice.

Preferred Portion: Limit yourself to 1 thick slice without any additional toppings.

6) Um Ali: A delicious Egyptian dessert that doesn’t look the part, but most certainly tastes like heaven on a plate. This Egyptian bread pudding contains ingredients that will clog your arteries upon consumption, including A LOT of sugar, A LOT of full cream milk, A LOT of full fat whipped cream, A LOT of cinnamon, A LOT of nuts (almonds or walnuts), A LOT of sultanas and a ridiculous amount of puff pastry just to even out the pathetically large list of ingredients.

Problem: This is what you order for your last meal whenever you’re sentenced to death, because 1) you won’t have to worry about exerting that much energy to burn it off and 2) you’ll die of a heart attack anyways. On a serious note, this volcanic pudding contains everything bad for you, but in very large portions.

Caloric Damage: Around 200g (a large serving spoon) would set you back with roughly 500 calories, 30g of fat, 60g of carbs and 8g of protein.

Solutions: Artificial low-cal sweetener, non or low-fat milk, non or low-fat cream, and raw nuts. The rest of the ingredients stay the same since the majority of the damage lies in the refined sugar and full-fat dairy products.

Preferred Portion: Um Ali’s usually served in small bowls with teaspoons. Stick to one small bowl and savor it with a teaspoon slowly. If you happen to reach for seconds then do yourself a favor and knock yourself out.

The Usual Suspects

Short bursts on everyday desserts/sweets/snacks and their preferred portions:

1) Chocolate Bars: 1 bar of any kind per snack. The more ingredients the higher the caloric value. For example, the nuts and caramel loaded Snickers bar has 300 calories, while a chocolate wafer KitKat bar has around 100-150. Choose the former if you’re too hungry.

2) Cookies: 1-3 cookies depending on how big or small they come. A large portion is similar to a Fudd’s or Hardees cookie, while a moderate portion is exactly the size of Choowy Goowy’s delicious, soft and organic version. Eat the latter for taste and purity.

3) Cupcakes: 1 large cupcake or 2 small ones. The calories are usually packed in the topping, including fat & carb heavy pudding or whipped cream. You pretty much know something is bad for you when half of the Kuwaiti female population consider cupcakes one of the four major food groups.

4) Potato/Nacho/Bagged Chips: An example of a perfect serving size is the small Lay’s chips served at Subway. Most potato or chips of any variety are moderate in calories, ranging from 100-200 per small bag. As such, getting away with 2 small bags per snack wouldn’t hurt too much.

5) Juice: People often make the mistake of thinking that freshly squeezed juice has the exact same benefits as whole fruit. That pile of pulp and fruit surface you threw right after “juicing” contains all the essential ingredients to a healthier lifestyle, including much needed pectin, a fiber that absorbs fat cells and tip toes them out of your body. If juice is what your heart desires then by all means indulge in freshly squeezed juices and not supermarket sold concentrates and sugar-added varieties. (p.s. Apple juice is the worst offender, even when served fresh. Drinking it wouldn’t differentiate its effects to a can of sugar-packed soda).

6) Local Coffee Shop: Frappe’s and latte’s are all fine, as long as you stick to a “Tall” [size], accompanied with “Skinny” ingredients, including skimmed milk and sugar-free syrup. Every coffee shop in Kuwait serves sugar-free and fat-free varieties, so why take the risk with their calorie-loaded counterparts?

Damage Control

Well, you can’t completely undo any super-high-calorie-load-induced damage, but you can sure as hell minimize it. Sip on one (or a mix of all) of the drinks below for benefits that far exceed damage control:

1) Green Tea or White Tea: Reduces the risk of cancer by cutting cellular damage by 25%, reduces cavities, and enhances weight-loss.

  • Serving Size: 4 cups a day.
  • 2) Sage (“Marameya”): Manages mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and may also reduce agitation, reduces secretions of the sweat glands, helps in digestive disorders, and has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, used for almost any type of infection or inflammation.

  • Serving Size: 10 leaves in a container of hot water and drink throughout the day.
  • 3) Thyme (“Za’tar”): Treats sore throats or infected gums, helps ease rheumatic pain, cuts down on flatulence, reduces headaches, beneficial in treating coughs related to colds and flu, used to treat anemia, bronchial ailments, and intestinal problems.

  • Serving Size: 1 teaspoon per cup, 2-3 times a day
  • 4) Ginger Tea: Improves circulation and blood flow, relieves cold and flu symptoms, eases stomach cramps, improves digestion and relieves nausea, reduces menstrual cramping, helps regulate blood sugar, and boosts the immune system.

  • Serving Size: 2 inches of ginger, sliced thinly, boiled in 4 cups of water.
  • 5) Peppermint Tea: Has the ability to treat indigestion, respiratory problems, headache, nausea, fever, and stomach and bowel spasm, improves blood circulation, urinary tract infections, and reduces stress, depression and mental exhaustion.

  • Serving Size: 1 teabag per cup
  • 6) Gymnema Sylvestre: contains substances that decrease the absorption of sugar from the intestine and may also increase the amount of insulin in the body.

  • Serving Size: 1 teabag 15-20 minutes after the consumption of a carby snack or meal.
  • All of the above can be found at any Sultan Center. You can pick one of the drinks or mix them altogether for a banging beneficial herbal orgy.

    Having said all that, I know them sweets are sometimes too good to pass up. I implore you to abstain from partaking in too much sweetness. Remember, when Ramadan is done, it’ll still be relatively hot, and I don’t think you want to parade around shirtless in Sharm or Dubai with a gut from loving Um Ali a little too much.

    Posted by Fahad AlYehya | Core Fitness – Kuwait