The holy month of Ramadan is a time when families gather together to enjoy a rich and heavy meal, particularly during Iftaar. One must keep in mind that during Ramadan, the diet of an individual who is fasting is completely altered and completely depends on the meals consumed during Suhoor and Iftar. It is crucial to decide and consume the right kind and amount of food because these meals help an individual sustain their fast for the entire day.
Suhoor (early morning meal) needs to be wholesome in order to provide the required nutrients and energy to last until the next meal at Iftar. An ideal Suhoor meal should contain foods rich in fiber, protein, calcium, and vitamins. Cereals like oats with nuts and dry fruits, wholemeal bread, green leafy vegetables, brown bread with yogurt and fruits are ideal meal options for Suhoor. Eggs are rich in protein and nutrients and help stay fuller. Dairy products are also a great source of nutrition that helps stay hydrated throughout the day. Dry fruit milkshakes, watery fruits like cucumber and tomato are great sources to keep the body hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is key during the non-fasting hours in Ramadan to keep the body hydrated throughout.
An Iftar meal should also be rich in nutrients to replenish the body’s energy. A key factor to keep in mind is to avoid fried, oily and fatty food. Breaking the fast with dates is an excellent choice because dates are very rich in nutrients and give instant energy. Consuming water and fruit juices between the duration of Iftaar and bedtime is essential to stay hydrated. Vegetables like lettuce, cucumber, celery help keep the body cool and also helps avoid constipation. It is normal tendency to crave fatty food after long hours of fasting. Nuts like almonds contain good fat but need to be consumed in moderation. Lean meat, eggs, fish and low-fat dairy products should be included in an Iftaar meal. Substitute rice with brown/red rice and wholemeal bread which provides energy to last long hours.
Avoid intake of carbonated sugary drinks, desserts and sweet bakes. Limit the usage of oil and adopt methods like steaming, grilling, air frying and baking to avoid consuming fried food. This practice should be followed not just during Ramadan but even otherwise.
Hours of fasting often results in people binge eating given their inability to control their cravings. Following a healthy fasting, the practice can help improve an individual’s health. However, binge eating unhealthy food during within a short span of time during the nonfasting hours can adversely affect the health of a person including issues like gastritis, bloating, heartburn and lethargy.
In order to avoid overeating and unhealthy weight gain during the month of Ramadan is to always plan ahead and decide on what you are going to cook/eat. Eat a healthy and light Iftaar including consumption of more fruits and vegetables. Reducing the intake of fried and oily food, sugary/carbonated drinks. Always make sure to eat slowly and chew the food well before swallowing to avoid indigestion.
Begin your meal with a bowl of soup or a plate of salad which is low in calories and helps feel fuller. Choose low-fat dairy products and lean meat, consumption of red meat should be restricted. Avoid added sugar in any form, including juices and sweets by supplementing packed juices with fresh fruit juices and fruits instead of sweets. Also, consume a wholesome meal during Iftaar to avoid repeated eating between Iftaar and Suhoor.
Light forms of physical activity is essential to stay healthy even during Ramadan, walking for half an hour after Iftaar is a good practice.
As per dietary trends now, consuming a high protein diet and cutting down on carbohydrates is essential in weight loss. It is crucial to understand that each individual has a different body type and one needs to consult with a dietitian to jointly decide on a healthy meal plan depending on the needs.
Protein is essential for strong muscles and bones, however, lack of carbohydrates in the diet can be detrimental to a person’s health. Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy, too much protein can also harm the body. Moderation is key in any diet. Carbohydrates like wholegrain bread, brown rice, pasta and vegetables/fruits are
essential and healthy versions of carbohydrates. In case of proteins, opt for lean meat (protein) like chicken (without skin) and fish. Include low fat dairy products also in your diet.
A healthy balanced diet will provide the body with all the essential nutrients required and will help avoid gaining any additional calories. Make sure to include essential items from all categories of food and control your portions to accommodate different varieties of food.
Half your meal should include salads and vegetables and the other half should be a combination of carbohydrates and protein. Salads are rich with nutritional benefits and consuming a bigger portion of salad will help you feel fuller. The main course including meat/fish should be consumed in moderate quantities. Dessert should be consumed in extreme moderation. Starters and sweets are both foods that should have limited intake.
Ramadan falls during the summer, making it extremely important to consume lots of water and fluids during the non-fasting hours to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Water is the most important drink to consume during Ramadan, it helps in removing the toxins and reduces the feeling of hunger. Ensure to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water during the nonfasting hours. Avoid drinking water during a meal or too much water at a stretch, drink water in between meals. Avoid sugary drinks or aerated drinks and substitute them with fresh fruit juices. Fruit juices should also only be consumed in moderation because fruits also consent sugar.
Sugar is empty calories with absolutely no nutritional benefits. Everything is good when consumed in moderation. Indulging in a portion of Gulab Jamun or Kunafa once a week is acceptable.
Avoiding sugar may not be possible, however limiting the intake of sugar is crucial. Consume fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth.
It is very common for people to overeat during buffets at social gatherings. Make sure to be picky about what you put on your plate. Opt for healthy options and avoid fried and fatty foods. Also skip dessert as much as possible and have a bowl of fruits of low-fat yogurt instead of sugary sweets.
Ms. Lubna Dhalani
Aster Clinic, Bur Dubai (AJMC)