Shravan, the fifth month in the Hindu calendar, is an auspicious period dedicated to Lord Shiva. The holy month usually falls during the peak of the monsoon and every state has a region-specific celebration on Shravan Purnima. During this period, people observe extensive fasts. While some fast on the four Mondays of the month, also called Shravan Somwar, others observe a fast for the whole month.
How is Shravan fasting done?
People generally eat only one meal during the day which is eaten after sunset and is called Eka Bhukta Bhojan. It consists of specific fasting foods. Abstinence is also a part of Shravan during which devotees stay away from alcohol, non-vegetarian food and foods that contain salt, garlic or onion.
However, fasting and abstinence during Shravan don’t mean you have to starve yourself. The intention is to learn self-control and detoxify the body. If you want to observe a fast during Shravan, nutritionists suggest that you plan your diet of Shravan foods so that you remain healthy. Keeping in mind the food items that are allowed and not allowed, these tips will help decide what can work as fasting foods.
Planning your meal for Shravan fasting
1. Incorporate dairy products in your Shravan fast
Bengaluru-based Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, chief clinical nutritionist, Apollo Hospitals recommends incorporating milk in the form of sugar-free fruit milkshake or fruit lassi in your Shravan fast. As fasting foods, these will help to keep you energetic throughout the day. Disha Jhaveri, a Mumbai-based clinical nutritionist, adds that a lot of people end up compromising their protein intake with fasting foods. To compensate, you can consume up to 750 ml of milk and include dairy products in your Shravan foods. This ensures that your body gets all the nutrition.
2. Maintain electrolytes with coconut water
"The first rule of fasting is to stay hydrated and maintain one’s electrolytes. Unsweetened buttermilk and coconut water keep you hydrated. These beverages have sodium, potassium and minimal sugar,” says Dr Rohatgi. These drinks make great substitutes for fasting foods.
3. Nutrition boost with dry fruits
Dr Rohatgi also suggests including dried fruits and nuts in your Shravan foods plan. For fasting foods, almonds, walnuts and dates in the diet are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Alternatives to wheat
"Rajgira and singhara (water chestnuts) are better alternatives to starchy potatoes. You can easily make parathas using these ingredients as well as desserts such as sheera and kheer. Try to stick to roasting and boiling instead of deep-frying your Shravan foods. Millet is another nutritious substitute that can be a part of your Shravan meal plan," says Jhaveri. Accompany the usual fasting foods such as sabudana (tapioca) and rajgira (amaranth) with a healthy cooler drink, adds Dr Rohatgi. Make a drink of cucumber, celery, mint and lemon to go with your Shravan foods.
Shravan fasting meal plan
Mumbai-based Dr Siddhant Bhargava, co-founder and nutritionist, Food Darzee offers a fasting foods plan for the entire day:
Dr Bhargava recommends starting your day with a glass of milk and some dry fruits. This will help you retain energy. You can also pair the glass of milk with fruits like chikoo or apple.
Have vegetables and include a source of protein like cottage cheese or soya. Eating vegetables like spinach and kale will provide you with the required minerals for your body. Since you’ll be refraining from grains and pulses, sabudana khichdi, moriya (Indian barnyard millet) ki khichdi, boiled potato chaat and vegetables or singhara chillas are a few healthy alternatives.
"On rainy evenings, none of us can avoid the temptation of fried food so we must look for healthier alternatives. Replace unhealthy foods like fried potato and banana chips with roasted preparations. You can add roasted papad or roasted chivda to your list. Eat raw bananas or potatoes in a limited quantity to avoid stomach discomfort," adds Dr Bhargava. To keep yourself hydrated, he recommends drinking at least eight to ten glasses of water. You can even have green tea in the evening.
Dr Bhargava suggests a meal that includes chapatis made of rajgira flour or singhara flour or moriya ki khichdi. Accompany these with two bowls of vegetables or two bowls of salad with cottage cheese or soya and a homemade dessert. You can also have a cup of skimmed milk and some fruits before going to bed.